Corruption, the abuse of entrusted power for private gain, is the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development in South Africa today, it distorts markets, stifles economic growth, debases democracy and undermines the rule of law. Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power by political leaders
or bureaucracy for personal gain or specific group interests.
Our leaders at all levels serve as role models, when our leaders at the highest levels partake in bribery and corruption, then it allows the entire country to follow, in fact it becomes a way of life because we condone it, sadly, it has become a national pastime by a small group of unscrupulous individuals.
Whenever an individual or group makes unfair material gains in a company or government then there is a price to pay, it means that they are enriching themselves at the expense of others, who are the others? the others are the entire nation, we have to pay for it via higher taxes in the case of corruption
at the government level or higher prices when it happens at the corporate level, but most important is that when money is stolen at the government level, then the entire nation has to pay in the lack of services or failure of service delivery, what does this mean? it means that the new school that was planned
for your area, or the new hospital that was planned to be built in your town or the new university that was supposed to be built in your state will not materialize because selfish individuals have decided to enrich themselves to the detriment of the community.
In South Africa, bribery and corruption does not only occur at all levels of government but has infiltrated private sectors of business as well, so the ‘epidemic’ has reached catastrophic levels, corruption not only attacks the moral fibre of our society and the integrity of our markets, but it also conflicts with the core principles on which our nation is based. Corruption is not only limited to economic or financial matters; rather, it has permeated all spheres of life, be it legal, social, moral or other.
For every corrupt ‘transaction’ that takes place, the nation has to pay for it directly or indirectly, but the poor and disadvantaged have to pay for it disproportionately because it hinders them from accessing scarce services that they really need. So, have does it affect us in our daily lives, here is a short list:
1. the entire country has to pay for corrupt practices
2. it causes inflation because companies have to recover these ‘costs’ by increasing prices on good and services
3. unfair business practices makes it difficult for honest people to survive in a immoral environment
4. it sets a bad example for the nation, and encourages bad behaviour and illegal activities
5. the entire nation loses out, corruption is like cancer, it sickens the entire nation
6. it becomes an acceptable way of life.
7. if unchecked and unstopped, it encourages further corruption, the first time offender will become habitual, and soon we will have a new breed of citizen
who commits these crimes knowing that he will never get punished i.e. a habitual criminal or repeat offender.
What are the consequences of corruption?
Corruption is among the greatest obstacles to economic and social development, there’s no doubt that corruption, endemic in South Africa, throws economic development into chaos. It affects decisions made by bureaucrats, degrades the quality of those in power, and discourages foreign investment. The harmful
effects of corruption are especially severe on the poor, who are hardest hit by economic decline, most reliant on the provision of public services, and least capable of paying the extra costs associated with bribery, fraud, and the misappropriation of economic privileges. Corruption also represents a significant additional cost of doing business. It undermines development by distorting the rule of law and weakening the institutional foundation upon which economic growth depends.
Corruption also drastically affects economic development by causing a misallocation of resources. Yes, South Africa is littered with unnecessary roads and bridges instead of hospitals because of the misallocation of funds due to bribes, but more damaging is the fact that in endemically corrupt systems, regular people are not getting served by the government; they don’t trust the government so they don’t interact with the government, a classic example is the newly implemented Road Toll system in Gauteng, what a farce, it’s bound for the scrap heap from the onset, a totally unfeasible project that is bound for failure because of economic reasons, one wonders who and how much ‘grease’ was used to make it happen, another example is the relatively low cost of buying a South African citizenship, the current rate is ‘set’ at a lowly twenty five thousand rand or the ‘spot fines’ that traffic police accept countrywide for traffic infringements, only to be pocketed for their personal enrichment.
Corruption damages policies and programs that aim to reduce poverty. The harmful effects of corruption are especially severe on the poor, who are hardest hit by economic decline, are most reliant on the provision of public services, and are least capable of paying the extra costs associated with bribery, fraud, and the misappropriation of economic privileges. The stakes are high, not only is corruption a barrier to development, but to innovation and business growth as well. Corruption lowers productivity, reduces the effectiveness of industrial policies, and encourages businesses to operate in the unofficial sector in violation of tax and regulatory laws.
So, what are the signs of corruption and how are the perpetrators benefiting? a small, select group of the population, mostly people in power or having the ‘right’ connections are wallowing in untold luxury in a disproportionate ratio to their legal income, by buying luxury houses, cars, extravagant holidays, fancy clothes etc.
Why is bribery and corruption not good? because it is immoral, unethical and unlawful, because perpetrators enrich themselves at the expense of others, because it sets a precedent for the entire country to engage in unlawful and illegal activities, it makes poorer people more poor and puts them in an unfair position of poverty by exploitation, thus setting them up for failure, that’s why, we have to stamp out bribery and corruption at all levels, it’s a national priority that threatens our very future.
How do we stop Bribery and Corruption?
Firstly, there should be check and balances in place to ensure that these crimes are not committed, if people are caught doing these acts then they should be punished by the law and their acts should be exposed to the public and in newspapers. The entire nation should unite and expose these people because it’s a national cancer that has to be removed. Policies should include to good governance, establish rule of law, strengthen institutions of participation and accountability, and limit government interventions to focus on it’s core mandate, increasing political accountability, strengthening civil society participation, creating a competitive private sector, placing institutional restraints on power, and improving public sector management.
We should set up an anonymous hotline and a website to expose bribery and corruption; reward people who report these wrongdoings and discuss the problem with our neighbours, colleagues, friends, elected officials and members of parliament and write to the newspapers to highlight and expose the problem.