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Is the only honest South African politician about to die?

As the much revered Nelson Mandela goes back into hospital, many South Africans must fear for their future. There is no danger of the country descending into the kind of civil war so beloved of most African countries. The danger to South Africa is widespread corruption practised by the political and bureaucratic classes. This corruption ensures that the rich get richer while the vast majority of South Africans live in grinding poverty in shacks without running water or electricity.

A new report called The Real State of the Nation published this year concluded that South Africa is fighting a losing battle against corruption. “Corruption is rampant,” the author of the report said, “It’s out of control … And the dedicated units that have been created to fight financial misconduct are in essence fighting a losing battle.”

A former managing director of the World Bank Mamphela Ramphele recently said, “A culture of corruption and impunity is seeping through every level of government, corroding our entire society. It is estimated that corruption robs us of more than R30 billion ($3.34 billion) from our government’s budget every year.” Substantiating her point, Ramphele queried where the country could be if R30 billion a year was spent on schools, bridges and roads, rather than being lost to corrupt practices.

One of the most newsworthy possible scandals was 206 million rand ($22.98 million) of state funds used on President Jacob Suma’s private compound in his home village of Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal province. Inevitably, a government inquiry found that this money had only been used for security upgrades and related costs at the president’s private compound (not for any home improvements) and that this decision was based on an assessment of threats to Zuma. Well, I guess that the president should feel pretty safe with $22.98 million spent on security for his home – that’s an awful lot of bullet-proof windows, security cameras and burglar alarms.

Fortunately (for the corrupt), thanks to a new media bill passed a month or so ago by an overwhelming majority in the South African parliament, in the future politicians and bureaucrats shouldn’t be embarrassed by so many news stories revealing their venality. The “secrecy bill” will increase the government’s power to restrict access to information and impose hefty fines and jail terms on reporters who publish information the government classifies as secret. Like President Zuma’s home improvements, perhaps? Sorry, I meant security for his home.

Here’s a picture of South Africa’s former president Nelson Mandela:

And here’s one of South Africa’s current president Jacob Zuma:

One of these men is respected around the world for his integrity. The other is said to be very rich. Can you guess which is which?

3 comments to Is the only honest South African politician about to die?

  • right_writes

    Whilst I feel for Mandela and his family, people of his age do tend to be batting on a sticky wicket…

    But as far as integrity goes David, I am not sure that as socialists, either were/are particularly honourable.

  • Paris Claims

    I think Zuma can justify the costs of his palace. The mug British taxpayer forked out the money in the form of aid. And why does everyone forget that Mandela was a terrorist?

  • John Fields

    If we attach the words ‘freedom fighter’ to Nelson Mandela, then what to we
    apply to the Taliban, Viet-Kong, Hezbolah and Hamas. When we had a mandate in
    Palestine the Stern Gang and other Jewish organisations were classed as terrorists,
    yet to the Jewish people they were fighting for a free homeland, Israel.

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