Is it not a sad indictment that a country as resourceful as South Africa is tottering close on the brink of bankruptcy, with public finances increasingly weakening with a budget deficit having increased by R54.7-billion.
A budget deficit running into billions of rands means certain state offerings to communities will be compromised.
Any government, of whatever political ilk, is expected, when elected by the electorate to run the affairs of the government, to be a good and capable steward of all state resources, which is the vineyard of the people on whose fruits the populace depends for subsistence.
The efficient collection of taxes is a function of any government so that social and economic needs, such as housing, education and health services, are provided.
By simple logic and intuition, institutions and government departments entrusted to preside over all state services are expected to be populated by servants of unquestionable ethical disposition, committed to the project of delivering a better life to the citizens through prudence and integrity.
But the phenomena of a mafia state lurks in the shadows, in which its operatives, as we understand it, routinely demand a cut from the construction companies doing business with the government.
For this unseemly practice to thrive, collaboration with governing institutions is required – a practice that purportedly earns its operatives a 30% cut, which is free money not deservedly earned for the so-called construction projects.
How can such practices, propagated by unscrupulous and corrupt political leaders in collaboration with the underworld, be allowed to thrive?
Mafia patterns are a product of a warped “leadership” that is inclined towards gross wrongdoing, compounded by a damaged conscience that knows no morality, honesty and justice.
Extortion is the language of mafia structures whose long tentacles penetrate the inner workings of corruptible government officials, and whose sense of propriety and better judgment are dulled by greed and self-service.
KwaZulu-Natal public works MEC Sipho Nkosi conceded recently the state was losing R3-billion a year due to delays and disruptions caused by mafia bosses who demand a share in every project the provincial government undertakes.
South Africa requires good stewards of the vineyard to put mafia-oriented organisations in their place, which is behind bars, whatever their political affiliations.
The government has a moral duty to ward off these mafia bosses.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana this week warned in his medium-term budget statement that the government will need to tighten its belt and implement budget cuts.
What has brought us to this dark space?
In part, the answer lies in how “comrades” have allowed unscrupulous government officials to hold key state administrative positions for the sole reason of “enabling” corruption to thrive.
The Nelson Mandela ideal for a better country to reverse the injustices of the past, and to give black people a fighting chance in life, has greatly been compromised by corrupt political leaders.
But the country’s misfortunes are self-created: those who run this country must shoulder the blame. They have been inept, a let-down right from the office of the presidency to the smallest municipality in this country, with all political parties in opposition also not covering themselves in any form of glory.
This we also see in coalition governments in which the running of local government institutions is appallingly inadequate, with “comrades” with no skills, and some with jail terms attached to their names, entrusted with the task of running municipalities with big budgets.
Listening to Godongwana addressing the nation on Wednesday as he admonished the government to tighten its belt, I wondered what local municipalities are expected to do, given the huge service delivery backlogs experienced by residents.
The townships and villages are in a mess. The infrastructure has been destroyed either by vandalism, aging or sheer neglect.
Potholes and broken roads are the order of the day, and so are challenges of broken sewerage systems that emit raw sewage into the streets.
In part, the answer to this ineptness is to be found in the Zondo commission reports, which tell a sordid story of corruption and malfeasance and neglect in high places.
As we write, the administration and cabinet of President Cyril Ramaphosa teems with deployees whose names feature prominently in the Zondo’s report – men and women who are implicated in wrongdoing.
- Mdhlela is acting news editor of Sunday World, an Anglican priest and former editor of the SA Human Rights Commission journals