A professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, Paul W Gooch, wrote on the greed of human beings, quoting the saying: “The root of all evil is the love of money.”
In his article, he quoted the Greek philosopher, Plato, who 24 centuries ago argued that human beings are driven by an excess of bodily desire to accumulate stuff well beyond their needs. In an effort to satisfy this basic greed, society becomes complex and stratified, and wealth is unevenly distributed, leading to internal strife and war.
You would swear Gooch had South Africa in mind when he wrote this article, judging by how often greed dominates the news.
This is not an inference to the infamous personal protective equipment (PPE) saga or the so-called Covipreneurs who are mushrooming like parasites to suck the remaining blood of the most vulnerable without any shame.
It’s about how citizens have had to face scavengers who are hell-bent on destroying water infrastructure in order to score big emergency contracts or tenders.
Some communities face structural challenges and service delivery backlogs and they have genuine cause for complaint. But we also know that some #shutdown campaigns are instigated by those who want to be contracted to fix the very shambles they created. This phenomenon in QwaQwa recently is a case in point. This is pure greed and criminality.
The human settlements, water and sanitation department has had to issue stern warnings to service providers who felt entitled to be sole providers of water tanks across the country. At the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent announcement by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu that there would be a roll-out of 40 000 water tanks to water-stressed communities, some providers expected to hit a jackpot.
The minister revealed that her office received information that some business people were sabotaging the delivery of water tanks by the government because they wanted to benefit from the business.
“It is highly regrettable that in Bodibe, Lichtenburg, according to the reports we received, that some business people emptied out new water tankers that were supplied by government to ensure that business is given to them. Since [we] centralised the process of delivering water to communities, we have done exceedingly well. It has become abundantly clear that some people who felt that they should have profited are now sabotaging the process. We call on residents to protect the tanks that have been installed in their communities,” Sisulu said in a statement.
Gooch writes that human beings have a strong desire for what they think is theirs; they want to hang on to it, protect it, increase it, for the sake of their security in the world. He adds that greed has an insatiable quality about it, never satisfied nor satisfiable, and that we can’t find the happiness of a healthy mind and spirit as long as we are dominated by possessiveness.
His point illustrates the extent to which people can go to get what they want. They can put at risk the lives of the majority of people in their community and leave their surroundings in desolation, to enrich themselves. The fact that people can empty litres of water, a scarce resource, from a water tanker in the midst of a pandemic demonstrates how unscrupulous and inhumane some people can be.
To want to monopolise the water sector, however, or any other sector, is immoral and this phenomenon must be defeated at all costs.
“Where a few secure a large share of the available goods, there will be much less for the many others. Greed has no conscience for social justice; it grows fat and bloated but does not share with the needy,” says Gooch.
The water sector is the backbone of this country’s growth and development as it is instrumental to the agricultural, energy, mining sectors among others economic drivers, not to mention its social or human value.
The Government, through the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission, has taken bold steps to invest in infrastructure, and the water sector has been prioritised with the announcement that 10 water projects will be implemented in earnest. Let us hope they will be realised and ensure water security for the country.
Andile Tshona is a communicator at the department of water and sanitation.