An infographic posted on Corruption Watch’s Facebook page and Twitter account last week divided Corruption Watch followers. According to the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, R675-billion has been lost through corruption since 1994.
Institute director Paul Hoffman attributed this figure to the Special Investigating Unit, which reported that the country lost approximately R30-billion a year to corruption. The graphic presented by Corruption Watch showed how those funds could have been used instead.
It sparked a debate on the Corruption Watch Facebook page. Despite the high loss, more people were interested in discussing the year the figures referred to, namely 1994, the year democracy ushered the African National Congress into power, as a starting point for counting the cost of corruption.
Responses to this post were quick. Here is just one example:
It seemed the issue of corruption was turned into a question of history. Some commentators felt that apartheid had nothing to with how the country was been run today, while others felt that the legacy of oppression could not be ignored.
The clouds of apartheid will always loom over the rainbow nation. Speaking in Durban on 6 September, President Jacob Zuma blamed a lack of service delivery and housing on the old regime. The new government was still playing catch-up to the nation’s challenges, he claimed.
However, R30-billion is no small figure and using that money to build hospitals and schools instead of buying designer shoes, could have a significant impact on the population.
In 2011, Gauteng provincial housing spokesman Motsamai Motlhaolwa said that one RDP house cost R54 000 to build, thus R30-billion is equivalent to more than 500 000 homes. The new Natalspruit Hospital being built in Vosloorus cost about R1.5-billion to build and even more to operate over a year; R15-billion is 10 more hospitals, more jobs and a healthier nation.
The question is: can South Africa afford to lose R30-billion a year to corruption? With unemployment at roughly 25 percent, the jobs that should have been created with that money are now non-existent.
Politicians may look to history for excuses, but if they don’t start delivering soon it will be their jobs on line. Dwelling on the past is not going to fix the future.