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Editorial: A letter to our leaders

Dear Government,

Over and over again, we are confronted with stories about corruption in the public sector that leaves people without housing, without water, without electricity, without roads, without toilets.

What people are left with instead are under-resourced schools where children fall to their death in pit latrines, where matric pupils protest the dire shortage of teachers, where there is so much waste in the highest echelons of the system that the most vulnerable South Africans are reduced to being bottom feeders.

Through the work of journalists on these pages and in other venerable publications, we know that this goes beyond corruption and melds with fraud, maladministration, nepotism and downright incompetence.

And all this despite a Cabinet that the finance minister said this week is nearly four times the size it should be.

The fact that so much has been invested in the idea that a larger government may be more efficient with scant results must surely raise a question or two about the ethical considerations of such decisions.

Corruption, however, is not a question of ethics. It is a criminal matter. Especially when people die because infrastructure is not maintained, because hospitals are too full, because they will never reach their full potential.

But it’s also not just the “abuse of entrusted power for private gain”, as Transparency International describes corruption.

What we must now probe is what the underlying causes are. It is about the wilful lack of care government continues to show for the lives of South Africans. Because that is the only deduction that can be made from a systematic abuse of the public purse.

And yes, the private sector is just as dangerous. And equally rampant. This is why we need a rigorous criminal justice system to keep the private sector in check. But what we have right now are institutions that have been brought to their knees.

Surely you would agree that South Africans deserve better.

So, Government, oversized and limping along as you are, please, just do your job — for you, for us.

Yours faithfully,

The South Africans who have risen in dissent against a government that just does not care.

PS: We would post this letter, knowing government’s fondness for the good, old-fashioned way of doing things, but we’re not sure it will reach you by the time South Africa goes to the polls next year — the South African Post Office appears to work only haltingly — and we’re not entirely sure we’ll find you at your current address.

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