The saddest of our realities in South Africa today, is that frequent revelations of billions of Rands plundered from the State Security Agency and other departments (as revealed at the State Capture Commission) no longer shock us. We’ve become numb to the sheer gravity of plundering by state officials and with this, our collective feeling of helplessness, frustration and depression grows. This is a very dangerous situation, because when society slips into a psyche of losing hope, it can signal the beginning of a failed state.
Drilling down to find the main triggers of our woes, almost everything points to a lack of professionalism and underperformance by people appointed to do the work in our government and municipalities. This dire lack of performance and accountability is born from a system of political party patronage. The administrators appointed are instructed or coerced to favour political interests and ideologies, whilst ignoring the cries of communities and civil society.
With that comes an ever-expanding cycle of corruption, getting worse with each passing year. This is underlined by the recent corruption index in Transparency Internationals report for 2020 that scored South Africa poorly yet again. This time we received a poor 44/100, ranking our country 69th amongst 180 countries. We languish behind countries like Namibia, Botswana, Ruanda and Mauritius.
Are we surprised? Well, we should be, but to society at large this is hardly breaking news, and we remain seemingly paralysed to do something about it.
So what is it that drives the apathy and slide into a national state of depression, both economically and emotionally?
A common view is that our inaction and helplessness is driven by the phenomenon of ‘learned apathy’ where people and society give up trying and become passive, submissive and expect less from the state. We’ve become conditioned to stop asking or challenging, because if we do, we realise that it is actually our own inaction making us complicit in the current decay.
“Corruption has always been around and is here to stay”, says the self-proclaimed ‘realist’. Or “it’s too big to address” and “it’s not our business to challenge the public sector”, remarks a corporate executive seizing the easy way out.
As infighting and conflict within political parties intensifies (the result of a failed political system), the concern shared by most South Africans is that critical issues such as tackling corruption, rebuilding the economy, combating crime and boosting service delivery is not being addressed with the urgency required.
Adding to the ‘distraction’ is the fact that this is an election year – we can therefore expect a lot of populist talk and promise, with the little action undertaken in the public service being directed toward party political agendas.
However, it is also in an election year that society has opportunities to turn up the heat and apply pressure on issues like the need for better governance.
We are however excited to see the extent of investigative and legal activity that picked up in 2020, being accelerated into the new year. The pace of NPA-led investigations and high profile prosecutions are starting to pick up, as the noose tightens around the necks of more corrupt government officials and business people.
However, we can’t sit back and wait for the authorities to do their work. It is up to us to drive the change by holding government’s feet to the fire on declining performance.
In this regard, there is so much that can be done within our respective roles in society, from business executives to ordinary citizens. OUTA will be sharing some pointers in this regard in our future communications.
As we entered 2021, we have been moved by the fact that our supporters (businesses and individuals) have stayed with us during these trying times, something we find very encouraging. There is no doubt that our work of holding government to account and seeking transparency and good governance is making a difference to this country.
OUTA hit the new year at a fast pace and our executive team spent some time tweaking aspects of our strategy to ensure we unlock new opportunities, whilst nurturing our resources to remain productive on every project we take on. We continue to develop our investigative and legal capabilities, together with our research, communications and project management methodology, all of which enables OUTA to deliver watertight cases and submissions to the relevant authorities.
While we intend to take on new projects this year, we will tighten the screws on ongoing issues such as AARTO, e-tolls, Dudu Myeni, Transnet and around 50 other open projects. (Click here to see OUTA’s 2020 Corruption Combating Calendar). Whilst doing so, we remind ourselves never to give up on the priorities we have chosen. We will focus on achieving the outcomes we seek, whilst accepting that we can’t get to everything that comes our way, however much we would love to.
COMMUNICATING WITH YOU
• Supporters can follow our news and organisational developments on the newly launched OUTA podcast channel here
• Stay in touch with the latest on e-tolls via our updated e-tolls webpage
Another big year lies ahead, and we hope you stay on board, as we are confident that OUTA’s work makes a difference in our country.
To you and yours, strength and safety, and thank you for enabling our work to release South Africa’s potential.