I don’t know what to call this – stillborn, aborted or suppressed brilliance? I am referring to the Talk of the Nation show on NBC-TV on Monday.
One could not have wished for a better-placed and informed panel, with none other than the Deputy Director of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Advocate Erna van der Merwe, Ombudsman Advocate John Walters and Director of NID and Editor of a recent publication on corruption, Graham Hopwood.
This was a panel made in heaven, one would have thought. However, what they offered on the night was far from divine. They did little, to say the least, to instil the necessary confidence in the public that the two institutions, the ACC and the Office of the Ombudsman, are seriously engaged in the combating of corruption. Despite admitting to sufficient powers, especially the ACC, in carrying out its mandate in curbing the scourge, the position, and laidback as it appeared, of the two principals seemed to be that they are waiting for information from wherever and from whomever?
Corruption on a grand scale is not visible to the naked eye but hidden, sophisticated, institutionalized and masterminded by the powerful or the big fish. This is not the only kind of corruption that must enjoy our attention.
There is also petty corruption committed by the so-called small fish. As to the latter we have seen the ACC already flexing its muscles. It is with regard to the big-fish corruption that we have yet to see the ACC making a start. Can we realistically expect the big fish of our private and public institutions to blow their own cover? This can only happen one day when the grapes become sour for some in the syndicates corrupting these institutions. This is a day that may never come.
Some of the panellists alluded on Monday’s Talk of the Nation to cases of corruption reported in the media as only existing in the figment of the imaginations of such reports. I think both the ACC and the Ombudsman are better advised to look at such reports with some heightened interest. I don’t think the media in this country is so reckless and irresponsible as to put their necks on the guillotine by implicating innocent people in cases of suspected corruption. If anything, these cases are the tip of the iceberg. Those entrusted with leading the fight must not only take keen interest in them but also act. The media can only go as far as it can but our ACC and the Ombudsman must begin to be proactive and not sit on their laurels hoping against hope that one day someone would come to their party with information. Yes, it is not only the business of the ACC and the Ombudsman to fight corruption. However, they have the duty of providing a serious lead in this regard. Hitherto, they haven’t done that and public confidence in these institutions is on the wane. It does not help to appeal to the public’s patience.
Granted the problems associated with these leading institutions in the fight against corruption, the onus is still on them to overcome these hitches and provide leadership and the necessary drive and show that they are more than just soon-to-be ivory towers. Suspected cases of corruption abound and all that one expects from these institutions is to remain alert and to be proactive when the wind is blowing. Possible cases of corruption have been reported in the media even in recent months concerning the resettlement process of the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement. Not only that, but the openness and transparency of this process has for long been suspect. Among the allegations have been officials of the ministry, and their families, helping themselves to resettlement. Not only that but prominent and undeserving people have been resettled at the expense of ordinary people in real need, notwithstanding for the time being the wisdom of resettling people who may not be able to make such resettlement useful.
Rural electrification in some rural areas is said to be diverted from the natural course of the needy to benefit the well-to-do with schools being sidelined in the process. How this came about, if not by some people in influential positions using their influence unduly, seems to remain a big mathematical question to the anti-graft bodies.
One can go on and on. In view of this it becomes difficult by the day not to come to the conclusion, as uninformed as it may appear, that although our anti-graft bodies may as yet not be do-nothings, it may not be long before they become such. The ball is not in the court of the ghost informants the ACC and company are waiting for, but in its own court. Please, ACC rather die investigating than waiting on your ghost informants!