Thoughts on Corruption in South Africa

My first thought on corruption is that it is symptomatic of a parasitical system. Typically a parasitical system is characterized by a one-sided consumption of resources available from a host. This is never sustainable. Normally the host will get rid of the parasite or if the host is too weak, the parasite will kill it. Corruption as a type of social parasitic system that in my mind, originates from a colonialist mentality, inherited from history and comes down to stealing.

My second thought is that corruption is not unique to South Africa. All developing countries go through a phase of corruption. Thabo Mbeki made us aware of this as far back as CODESA (I am not sure if it was addressed or planned for then). Compared to other BRICS countries, we are not doing too badly. According to a 2010 poll by Transparency International[1], South Africa is 54th against Denmark who has the least corruption. Compared to Brasilia (69th), Russia (154th), India (87th) and China (78th), we may think we are fine. But we are not! If we allow the parasite to stay on the host, we will die. And we have survived too much to be brought down by a tic.

Thirdly. Let us find a solution. We know there is corruption, we can study it to understand it[2], and then, we must take the important next step, get rid of it. I know there are various solutions that can be considered. I would like to suggest an option stemming from my back ground of human behavior.

Summarizing the solution as: “Nurturing a culture of adding value.” This includes two focus points: Educating leaders and Educating people.

Allow me to start with a note of clarification. There are two paths – reactive or proactive. In the case of systemic corruption, we probably need to take both: Directly combating corruption that is already present and indirectly prevent corruption from happening. My suggested solution is part of the latter.

The first focus point would be to develop thinking leaders. My father taught me that when a good leader’s job is done, the people say “We did it”. To develop such leaders, we will have to nurture a self-belief in leaders that they are guardians and enablers. Guardians of the trust (that you will look after our well-being) that was given to them and enabling the people to say “We did it”.  For this, leaders must be skilled in systemic thinking and groomed into emotional maturity. Specific intervention programs must be developed and implemented to achieve this.

The second focus point would be to educate the broader population to become a people that resist systemic corruption merely by the fact of their self-image. An image of pride in whom we are as Africans (staying true to our Ubuntu roots which is the direct opposite of a parasitic mind-set).

Furthermore, to cultivate a democracy that is future minded. Making decisions now, that will benefit generations in the future. Making these decisions from a self-pride that comes from the confidence that I as an individual citizen am adding value.  For this to be implement, we can learn from the successes achieved by the AIDS campaigns and transfer it to anti-corruption campaigns (before corruption become a pandemic like aids) and use all media avenues (social and formal) to achieve this education mandate.

In conclusion, if we place corruption and adding value on a normal distribution continuum, we can assume that only about 16% of our population is actively involved in corruption, while 34% leans towards corruption. It is this 34% that we need reach before they are slip into the parasitical system. Therefore my proposal that one of the solutions is to be educating and nurturing people and leaders towards a mentality of adding value.

Still Thinking


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