Journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika warns in his book Nothing Left to Steal that we are approaching a state of affairs in South Africa where corruption will be so endemic that all our resources will be gone. Sometimes, I wonder whether I’m delusional and the only citizen who feels the way I do, or whether others take these matters as much to heart. But occasionally, like Mzilikazi’s, there is a voice that echoes my own inner one.
The resignation of Vas Soni this week left me feeling hopeless. To me, it signals that South Africa is losing the fight against corruption. Soni’s resignation is not an isolated incident, but follows hot on the heels of the inexplicable and unlawful suspension of the head of the Hawks. The minister responsible had no right to suspend someone who heads up such a crucial instrument against crime and corruption. His spokesman’s justification – that it is more important to be seen acting than not to act at all – only added to the insult.
This is the nub of the issue.
As it is, we already have a government that believes its own propaganda. Apparently, this is a culture that is only spreading.
To return to the justice cluster that is sinking: we are yet to be told what has become of the attempted suspension of the head of the National Prosecution Authority. Here is an organ of crime fighting that was once the toast of the town. Now, it is reduced to cowering under a cloud of suspicion and uncertainty.
And in the midst of all this, the Police Commissioner is on a mission to purge her senior team for whatever good reason we are daily fed – a steady stream of internal machinations and suspicious redeployments.
The script of utter collapse has already been written. No matter how you look at it, the country’s criminals must be laughing all the way home. This chaos within the highest echelons of the policing and justice systems occurs within the context of horrific crime statistics – which the government only continues to try to spin positively. (What was that about believing its own propaganda?)
The truth is that murder and other serious crimes have gone up, and it is no cliché that people simply do not feel safe in their homes. They feel this way with reason.
The police continue to be perceived as bungling up case after case, and their reputations as protectors of the public continue to take daily knocks. Just last week, we read shocking news reports of police aiding and abetting looters targeting foreign-owned shops in Soweto.
As the saying goes, a fish rots from the head, and the festering mess at the top of police leadership is clearly spreading to the bottom, where we can read of police threatening three-year-old children with guns, and where bribes and corruption are a daily occurrence.
I am not saying anything that you are not already aware of, dear reader, but the frustration of those of us supporting this government – and the ruling party – is reaching boiling point. How long are those at the helm of our movement going to leave their heads in the sand?
It is so clear that the time is ripe for a major shake-up. If I were Minister of Police, here’s what I would do, as a start.
Because, if I were Minister of Police, I would trust and believe that I were appointed on the grounds of my experience and credentials – and I would set my own objectives and not become any master’s puppet, whatever the cost. DM
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The Hindenburg had a smoking room.