‘We do not want to be him’

In his report to the African National Congress’s conference in December, President Thabo Mbeki implored members of his party to become the front-line “cadres” in the quest to “defeat the networks of corruption” threatening the reconstruction and development of South African society.

Mbeki charged that the corruption being practised by these networks had taken root during the apartheid era, but was now being perpetuated by members of the new breed of civil servants who came into government after 1994.

“… We acknowledge that either new networks have emerged since our liberation, or new actors who were brought into the system by the victory of the democratic revolution have since joined the syndicates. We have to create the situation in which a new social value system emerges, based not on government injunctions but on a definition imposed on our country by the people of South Africa themselves,” Mbeki said.

It was an important intervention in the debate around the origin and the nature of graft in our country. Too often in our discourse on corruption and bad governance, there are attempts to defend unacceptable conduct by our public representatives on the grounds that things were much worse before 1994.

Quite frankly, the Nats and their acolytes should not be the gauge by which those in public life should seek to be measured. The philosophy on which the Nats based their governance practices was evil, and their modus operandi was rooted in corruption and incompetence.

The democratisation of South Africa is about creating a new ethos — one of respect for the basic principles enshrined in our Constitution. In that document is contained the core of the value system that the overwhelming mass of South Africans want to create and entrench.

The bulk of our population wants to live in a decent society and reviles the kind of South African personified by one Trevor Abrahams, the suspended CEO of the Civil Aviation Authority. Over the past three years the Mail & Guardian and other media institutions have reported on Abrahams’s knack for short cuts and scant respect for the regulations and ethics that govern the public service.

Abrahams, like many who share his ethical mores, continues to infect our social fabric because he seems to have a political cushion that shields him from censure.

Societies do not root out corruption and unethical behaviour by merely speaking out against these evils on public platforms. They do so by prosecuting corrupt individuals, exorcising unethical managers from public institutions and pillorying them.

Fortunately, this fate at last seems set to befall Abrahams.

An independent audit investigation has recommended that he face disciplinary action, that criminal charges be pressed against him and that the parasitic network he built around the CEO’s office be dismantled.

In dealing effectively with Abrahams, the authorities have an opportunity to show citizens their resolve to expunge from government those who violate the public trust. We at this newspaper unreservedly back the call for a new system of social values, and will work to ensure that Abrahams has no chance to abuse public resources.

And hopefully future generations will recall him with scorn and declare: “We do not want to be him.”

Boycott won’t end Bob’s innings

The M&G does not believe, as Minister Ngconde Balfour apparently believes, that sport and politics do not mix. As we have consistently emphasised, we are no admirers of Robert Mugabe’s regime. But we see little point in pressing the South African government or local cricket authorities to withdraw support for the World Cup games scheduled for Harare and Bulawayo. By the same token we see no point in South African officials using the controversy as another reason to go to bat for Mugabe.

The boycott call was arbitrary and selective in the first place. No international sports boycott has been called against Zimbabwe, backed by the United Nations or other world bodies. Cricketing nations continue to tour Zimbabwe. Then there is the small fact that South Africa is co-hosting the tournament. How does it turn against its fellow host?

If a boycott could exert beneficial influence, there might be a case for it. But the relocation of at most six cricket games is neither here nor there. Mugabe is in no doubt about what the British and Australian governments think of him.

The World Cup is a red herring. If the isolation tactic is to be used to force change in Zimbabwe, it must be general and coordinated, and involve credible international organisations. Zimbabwe’s Commonwealth suspension is to be revisited in March. If, as seems certain, there has been no progress on the clear conditions set for its readmission — engagement with the opposition, and with the Commonwealth and UN on electoral and land reform — there should be no shrinking from full-blown expulsion.

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