Corruption in the Rainbow Nation

A crowd protests against government corruption outside the parliament of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa, September 30, 2015.A crowd protests against government corruption outside the parliament of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa, September 30, 2015.

By James Raubenheimer

The idealism, optimism, and hope that spurred from post-apartheid South Africa brought the country ahead and away from its recent dark past. Such a trend can be seen across many countries and history such as global idealism following World War I and the Cold War. In recent years, forces of corruption have risen in the ranks of the South African government. The corruption that exists is only a symptom of several underlying problems. The main issues identified are lack of education, widespread economic inequality, and a lack of government infrastructure. The Rainbow Nation has focused on integrating those damaged by the apartheid regime and uniting the country after the racial divide.  However, post-apartheid South Africa has yet to fully develop a new era of governance, and this change needs to happen in order to secure a stable and successful future for South Africa.

South Africa is a fledgling democracy currently ruled by the African National Conference. The party has won all of the post-1994(post-apartheid) elections. The one-party state nature of the South African government and the people’s historical support for the ANC has led to the numerous elections where the ANC nominated candidate cruises to a victory. South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, is infamous for laughing off all questions as seen in the above comic. As President Zuma states “my laughing’s not hurtful, it’s healthy” even when this laughter is in response to serious issues ranging from South Africa’s drought to unemployment to mob murders.  Most notoriously though President Zuma has received 783 payments worth more than 4 million rand from his financial advisor and his associate companies. Zuma’s financial advisor has also been convicted of two corruption charges relating to the cover-up of an investigation into a previous arms deal. Surprisingly, corruption charges have yet to be brought up against Zuma amidst years of an alternating between corruption and cover-up.

The most current political scandal in South African revolves around the wealthy and elite Gupta family. SAP, the German software corporation, has leaked emails showing that the company is involved in paying the Gupta family to gain key business positions. Four executives in the company have been fired as it has launched further investigation into the scandal. The chief executive of Bell Pottinger, a British relations firm, stepped down and four workers were fired amidst an investigation into the firm’s connection with the Gupta family.  The Guptas have been accused of using their ties to Jacob Zuma and the South African government to secure contracts for the Gupta’s mining empire. The Gupta’s business is thriving due to special government assistance, and there exists a great tone of secrecy regarding this issue.

The South African government has a history of addressing complex issues with simple solutions, which inevitably results in many unintended consequences. If people are poor, the government prints more money. If people are not getting educated, the government makes education free.  If the employment rate is low, the government makes government jobs. In some countries, such solutions can be implemented very successfully, but South Africa lacks the infrastructure to ensure such solutions are implemented properly. This leads to a lack of successfully implemented solutions and a government, which refuses to hold accountability for failure. A government, which refuses to hold accountability will inevitability abuse its power and stretch the boundaries of what is considered honest and just. A non-transparent government lacks trust and the South African government lacks transparency.

The African Union is tasked with promoting unity, solidarity, and creating a prosperous Africa. In order to fix the widespread corruption prevalent not only in South Africa but existent in many African states, the leaders of African nations need to be held accountable for their actions. The African Union can serve as a body, which governs and supports the mission in order to help African nations prosper. A government in which officials are not held accountable for their actions cannot possibly prosper even with widespread support and a commitment to succeed.

In a speech in 2013 at a memorial for South African soldiers, President Zuma stated: “The problem in South Africa is that everybody wants to run the country. The government must be given the space to do its work of running the country to implement the policies of the ruling party that was voted into office by millions of our people.” This mindset in governance results in an excess of power given to those government officials ruling the country and an increase in power taken away from the citizens of the country. A cloak is placed over the inner workings of a government, which results in secrecy and allows for the abuse of power. In order for South Africa to reach its full potential, the issue of corruption must be addressed first in order to ensure other solutions to prevalent problems can be implemented.

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