Corruption and Crime in High Places-South Africa
A book reviewed about South Africa
The problem of corruption and fraud is a huge one in African Countries and also in South Africa where I have lived all my life - growing up as a white boy in the time of apartheid and now living as an aged man in the time of the new ANC government. A debate on the TV news last night about the SABC (South Africa Broadcasting Corporation) imposing new restrictions on its news staff, triggered this article. (Maggs on Media)
The Mail and Guardian Newspaper reports today that 28 of the nominations by the ANC for the coming municipal elections are people with criminal records or facing serious criminal charges. In the local newspaper, The Daily Dispatch, the front page article mentions the fact that three local municipal politicians are appealing to the High Court against their conviction of stealing money that had been granted for Nelson Mandela’s funeral in the Eastern Cape.
In a study conducted in a World History class of students at the African Christian College in Manzini, Swaziland, students were asked to do a brief history of their countries that included Kenya, Malawi, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia and Swaziland among others. They then all had to identify major problems in their countries and how these countries could be improved. All listed corruption as the most important problem they faced and that before progress could be made this would have to be solved.
Almost every day new stories about criminal activities by political leaders are posted in the news. The question that we need to ask ourselves is, “What can I do about it?” Can we in fact do anything or are we simply as individuals too isolated to make a difference? Obviously we need to cast our vote in the elections, but perhaps we need to also speak out when we have a chance.
The book that I read this week, recommended by a friend, needs to be read by every South African, be they white or black. Here is someone who, in his way, is trying to make a difference in the country. Please read it!
Book review: Nothing Left to Steal by Mzilikazi wa Afrika.
The memoir of the well-known journalist, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, is an amazing account of a black South African man who started his life as a very poor boy growing up in the area of Bushbuck Ridge in the North Eastern part of South Africa and ended up as an award winning investigative Journalist in Johannesburg.
He started his life as a young man fighting the Apartheid Government as one of the African Youth League Cadres in the 1980’s. Always enjoying writing, reading, poetry and music he used his obvious gifts to produce anti-apartheid poems. He was also involved in passing on weapons that arrived from Mozambique and Swaziland, to the military wing of the African National Congress.
He rejoiced with so many South Africans when Nelson Mandela was released, the laws in South Africa were changed, and a new constitution was introduced. He started his working career as a teacher and then a salesman but soon realised that this was not what he has been destined to do. As he saw the corruption that is taking place under the new government, he joined first the newspaper in Nelspruit and then moved to the Sunday Times in Johannesburg. He was tutored by many experts in the field of journalism and soon began knocking heads with his former friends from the struggle. He started to take them on as they began to enrich themselves in their new positions of power. He worked, and still works fearlessly at this task, coming into conflict with the authorities. He was arrested, beaten up, threatened with death, and put in jail. In this book he meticulously details the corruption and criminal actions that he and his team of investigative journalists have uncovered.
He went undercover to Mozambique to expose a human trafficking ring and nearly got killed. The people exposed in the Sunday Times and often leading to their arrest reads like a who’s who of South African political corruption. They include Jackie Selebi, the then Comissioner of Police and head of Interpol who ended up in jail; Irvin Khoza the chairman of the South African 2010 FIFA World Cup bid; Tony Yengeni, the then chief whip of the ANC, who resigned from his position in the ANC after being arrested on charges of fraud, corruption, forgery and statuary perjury in Oct 2001; etc.; etc.
At the same time he continued his love for music, first as a writer and then recording his own and others’ music, and producing CD’s from his own studio.
Some of the many awards that he and his team of journalists have won are: 2001 Sunday Times Story of the Year Award; 2003 John Manyarara Investigative Award winner (Namibia); 2011 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award; 2013 Global Shining Light award winner (Brazil).
He also has an impressive number of music albums under his stage name Mzee, including the EP Ancestral Calling in 2010 (Nulu Music); a double album Tamanini in 2009 (Soul Candi Records), to mention just a few.
What, however, is so interesting is his transformation from being a rather naïve supporter of the ANC to one of their most feared and hated opponents in modern times as he engages in “the war for an open democracy.” (Ray Hartley, the former editor of the Sunday Times.)
In his book wa Afrika shows an excellent knowledge of the classics, the Bible and world literature, often quoting from people like Mahatma Ghandi, Mark Twain, Tomas Jefferson and African writers like Onkgopotse Abram Tiro and Steve Biko who said “It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die”.
One quote that caught my eye and to a large degree seems to illustrate his life is: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act” – Unknown.
His closing statement in the book is a serious indictment of the present government in South Africa: “Our beloved country has become the land of the blind; many people suffer from political myopia. It has become obvious that some people believe that to live like kings they must steal from the poor.” Unless we do something as a collective, the thieves will continue to rob us blind, loot and pillage everything until there is ‘Nothing Left to Steal’.” (pg. 268)
He tells an interesting joke to explain what politics is. A ten year old boy asks his father: “Daddy what is politics?” After scratching his head for a while he answers; “In our home your mother is the government, as she administers the house; I am the politician as I am working hard to make certain we have food on the table. You are the trade unions because you are always demanding this and that. You little brother is the future as he is young and innocent. Our servant is the working class, as she works hard to prepare our food, wash our clothes and cook our meals”.
The boy went to bed disappointed because it did not really make sense.
He woke up in the night to hear is younger brother crying in his cot and goes to check. He notices that the boy has a soiled nappy. He goes to his parent’s room to get help but finds his mom fast asleep and his father missing. So he goes to the outside room where the maid stays to get help there. The door is open and as he looks in he sees his dad having sex with the maid.
The following morning the boy says to his dad at breakfast. “Now I understand what politics is.” His father is pleased to hear that, but perhaps is not so pleased with the answer: “While the government is fast asleep the politician screws the working class, the trade union cannot do anything about it, and the future is full of shit”.
Mzilikazi wa Africa has his own definition: “Politics to me is the surreal art of convincing the nation that you are proficient to milk a chicken and circumcise a mosquito every election season, and even promise to build bridges where there are no rivers.” (pg.253)
Mzilikazi tells the story of how he takes on a world of corrupt authorities and sinister political motives without fear. His findings about what is happening in South Africa and several other African countries does not auger well for the future. But while people like him are prepared to take on the corruption, perhaps there is hope. He quotes an African proverb that says: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.”
Mzilikazi introduces the reader not only to what is happening in South Africa and in many other African countries but also to what life was like growing up as a young African boy in Apartheid South Africa – something all white South African’s on the other side of the colour line should know.
Mzilikazi wa Africa “Nothing Left to Steal: Jailed for telling the truth”. Penguin Books, 2014, Johannesburg.'