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Politics, Is it nothing more than a fast track to wealth?

Accountability in our country is at an all time low; non-existent even. But how do we change this, asks Terence Pillay. 

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I recently read a report about an investigation into two educational trusts or foundations that had been established by former president Jacob Zuma to provide bursaries to students in need, and who couldn’t afford higher education. The Jacob Zuma RDP Education Trust and the Jacob Zuma Foundation both raised millions of rands during Zuma’s presidency, largely to fund bursaries for poor students.

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From what I gathered from the report, there were a lot of question marks around where the money came from, how it was disbursed, how many bursaries were actually given out, and the fact that the source of the money was largely from the annual presidential golf day, which accounted for about sixty to seventy percent of the funding that they received. But they still managed to spend five million rands on fundraising.

The Jacob Zuma Foundation spent R4.7m on fees for its chairperson, Dudu Myeni, between 2013 and 2017, which is more than twice what she was paid to chair the board of SAA at the time.

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The presidential golf day, as it turns out, is being paid for by some government department so there was actually not cost for them. For me, it feels like a complete scam. The trust said that it had to use some of its own money to do fundraising activities, yet seventy percent of its income came from a source that already paid for it. So what did they do with all that money? Apparently, it was used largely to fund things like transport, allowances for the chair, Dudu Myeni, who we all know has a chequered history in this country. So this whole thing was just another way to enrich people.

So here’s the thing – if fundraising is being done by a state department for an independent education trust, this affects all South Africans. That’s our business and we have the right to know. And if it’s a registered public benefit organisation or Section 18 A Trust, then it’s accountable to SARS, it’s accountable to the Department of Social Development and in turn accountable to the people of South Africa. But there’s no accountability.

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And it’s not like I want to look at things through rose-tinged glasses; there simply has to be accountability everywhere. We’re all accountable but it seems like if you’re in a particular stratum of society, for example if you’re politically connected then it’s become okay to get away with things.

We’re supposed to be a post-revolutionary, social democracy – so built on the principles of socialism and a welfare state, which is supposed to protect the people from the elite and the powerful. This is the basis of our visionary social democracy. Instead what we’ve done is prop up these structures which provide entitlement to people especially in government.

Why, in a modern social democracy, does somebody get to have status, privilege and wealth simply because he happens to have landed a position in government? Has the public service become nothing more than a fast track to wealth? 

We have a culture of corruption in this country; it’s endemic and we all feed it. When you get pulled over by a dodgy policeman for disobeying the law of the road, how many people think, “I don’t want this on my record so let me pay the two hundred rands he’s asking for.” How many actually take on the accountability?

Corruption is always a two-way street – for somebody to pay a bribe there has to be somebody willing to receive it and for somebody to receive a bribe there has to be somebody willing to pay it.

So do we go on like this? The majority of us are all good, resilient, kind, hard working people that just want to get on and have safe neighbourhoods, good schools and a job to go to everyday so that we can earn a salary and pay for food, shelter and clothing.

So not only do you need government accountability, you also need personal and corporate accountability. And we all need to be responsible citizens, not greedy ones!

What is the solution? How do we make people in charge of our country accountable for their actions?

You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and tweet him your thoughts.  

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