Opinion: Ramaphosa vows to end corruption but are SA leaders part of the problem?

Opinion: Ramaphosa vows to end corruption but are SA leaders part of the problem?

Editor's Note: - Corruption in the South African government is likely the country's biggest problem. Government officials are regularly pointed out as corrupt and fraudulent. This includes the private use of public resources, bribery, and favoritism. Many South Africans feel that it is only getting worse and the world seems to agree, so Briefly.co.za took a look at international publication The New York Times' opinion on the matter.

Scandal led to the election of a new president

Besieged by scandals that have hacked away at the A.N.C.’s legitimacy and electoral prospects, the party installed a new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, in February. From the start, he pledged to root out corruption and finally deliver on the promise of a just South Africa for all of its citizens.

But to seal his new post, Mr. Ramaphosa first had to secure the backing of Mr. Mabuza, 57, who built such a formidable political machine that he became kingmaker in the back-room negotiations to choose South Africa’s new president.

David Mabuza stabbed an ally in the back and supported Cyril Ramaphosa

After campaigning for a rival, Mr. Mabuza abruptly switched sides and joined forces with Mr. Ramaphosa, helping the two emerge from a pivotal party conference last December as the country’s undisputed leaders.

READ ALSO: Eastern Cape's R2 billion bill is a death trap for South Africa's economy

Then, to the surprise of many in his province, Mr. Mabuza gave a speech just weeks after being sworn in as deputy president this year, lamenting the poor state of the schools and the “tragedies that take away the innocence of our children.”

He spoke movingly of a kindergartner electrocuted at school. Of a toddler who drowned after falling into a broken pit latrine. And of a 5-year-old boy whose body was discovered by his mother at the bottom of another dilapidated pit, his hand sticking out of a pool of feces.

Such deplorable conditions were all too common, he noted, symbolizing the failure to provide black South Africans with a decent chance at life.

“Where is our care?” Mr. Mabuza said in the speech. “What has gone wrong with our nation?”

Mabuza is accused of neglecting schools and education and lining his own pockets

Yet under Mr. Mabuza’s leadership, millions of dollars for schools in his province have been misspent year after year, according to the national government. His province routinely spent less on poor students than required, and school construction projects have been riddled with inflated costs, government records show.

Nearly a quarter of the primary schools in Mr. Mabuza’s province still have only dilapidated pit toilets, despite ample government funds to fix them. And during his tenure, his province was caught fabricating the passing rates on the annual national exam, enabling him to claim big leaps forward that never happened.

Mr. Mabuza pushed to build big boarding schools whose costs tripled, for unexplained reasons, to $30 million each, alarming education experts. Some construction was so shoddy that roofs sprouted leaks soon after being finished, toilets barely worked, students lacked water, retaining walls collapsed and dormitories were missing doors, according to a provincial report.

Over the years, Mr. Mabuza’s province also became known as one of South Africa’s most dangerous. Nearly 20 politicians, most from inside the A.N.C., were assassinated in the past two decades, some after exposing graft in public works projects.

Mabuza became very powerful over the years

All the while, Mr. Mabuza’s political career flourished. He attracted legions of new A.N.C. members with government contracts, cash handouts and even KFC meals, according to current and former party officials.

Under the A.N.C., Mr. Mandela’s once heralded liberation movement, tens of billions of dollars meant to lift poor black South Africans have been stolen by party leaders. Strong institutions like the tax agency have been hollowed out by party officials bent on shielding their illicit activities.

But the nation’s poor schools are perhaps the A.N.C.’s greatest betrayal of the dreams of black South Africans — some of whom have turned to burning down schools in protest.

The consequences are evident not only in Mpumalanga, Mr. Mabuza’s province, but across South Africa, where corruption has run through every layer of the education system.

Less than a quarter of South African children in fourth grade understand what they read, according to an international literacy test. In sub-Saharan Africa, where South Africa’s economy is by far the most advanced, children in countries like Kenya, Botswana and Swaziland do better in math and reading.

As many South Africans pin their hopes on Mr. Ramaphosa’s pledge for a fresh start, analysts say that much of the country is looking past an unpleasant truth: The new president owes his victory in part to corruption, and much of his administration’s future — as well as the country’s — rests in the hands of Mr. Mabuza.

Read the rest of The New York Times' views on corruption in South Africa at The NY Times.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of The New York Times and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Briefly.co.za.

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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