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As a nation the lines between right and wrong have begun to blur

By unknown | Nov 13, 2006 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

South Africa is a country at a crossroads.

South Africa is a country at a crossroads.

When we defeated apartheid there was no doubt that morally and ethically we were as one.

We were united in the belief that apartheid was a morally repugnant system. We were at one in the assessment that criminality is a terrible and repugnant practice.

We believed in good rather than bad, in right over wrong.

Crucially, though, we knew the difference between the two. It was difficult not to know the difference - the line between them was clear.

Unfortunately, with the maturation of our democracy, these certainties are becoming harder to stick to.

For the ANC, for example, it is probably proving harder to govern than it was to keep people focused on toppling a racist regime. After all, getting cadres to be united against apartheid is easier than keeping them focused on fighting poverty and corruption.

Our freedom is proving tougher to handle than fighting the dictatorship of apartheid. Freedom places more responsibilities on the individual and the state than dictatorship does.

That is why we are at a crossroads today. The lines are beginning to blur.

The wall between right and wrong begins to break down. This is a time when we need to be extra vigilant about this blurring of the lines.

Take the case of the national police commissioner, Jackie Selebi. It transpires that Selebi is fast friends with Glenn Agliotti, a man alleged to be at the heart of a massive smuggling syndicate. Investigations into Agliotti continue.

Selebi does not deny his links to Agliotti. He even admits to meetings with him. He told the Sunday Times: "Where I have time and Agliotti has time, we meet and talk about social things. I have never been in discussion with him about criminality.

"I do not know if he is involved."

He concludes with this line, which I find incredibly troubling: "He [Agliotti] would never be involved in any sort of crime in my presence."

In my presence. Would Agliotti's involvement in crime in his absence then be okay? Would Selebi arrest the man if he knew about such activity?

Agliotti is a free man, and so is Selebi.

But Selebi is not just any free man. He is the national police commissioner of a country wracked with crime.

He is the man we all look up to for guidance on how to fight and defeat the monster that is making all of us prisoners in our own homes.

His behaviour does not merely have to be above reproach, it has to be seen by ordinary citizens to be beyond reproach.

There can be no insinuation that the man has links with criminals and their gangs. This is not something that the government has to ensure, but he personally has a duty to make sure that he is seen to be cleaner than clean.

Firstly, then, he has to answer all the allegations made against him. Then he has to let the investigation into Agliotti and others continue unhindered.

Finally, and most importantly, he has to wash his hands of these so-called friends who have been linked in so many ways to the criminal underworld.

It might be a hard choice for him personally, but surely if he is innocent of wrongdoing then he should dump friends who have such unsavoury reputations.

To keep them on is simply incomprehensible and leaves Selebi open to the accusations he is facing.

Further, to refuse to dump Agliotti leads to the next logical question: why won't he dump him?

We are often told that we should all become whistle- blowers.

We are told that if we all reported our friends and neighbours who are thieves and car hijackers, then we would help defeat the monster of crime and corruption in our country. This is all true. But it has to happen at all levels of our government if the ordinary man and woman in the street is to believe it. That is why Selebi has to lead by example and stop trying to defend a friendship that clearly makes no sense.

There are many other examples where our leaders and top officials need to help us stop the rot. For example, what was the speaker of parliament, Baleka Mbete, doing at the gates of Pollsmoor Prison when Tony Yengeni went to jail?

And what were Essop Pahad, the minister in the presidency, and the correctional services minister, Ngconde Balfour, doing there? Explicitly, they were saying it is okay to defraud parliament.

Nowadays, we hear of ministers' wives suddenly becoming businessmen and getting massive tenders simply because they happen to be politically connected.

Now, I am not against people becoming entrepreneurs. But when ordinary, hard-working entrepreneurs lose business because a wife is fronting for a minister or premier, something is wrong. What kind of message are we sending?

We are at a crossroads. We could choose to continue on the path we are on, which leads to nothing but a failed state, or we could stop the rot.

Unfortunately, with the daily scandals we are seeing, we seem to have chosen the path that leads to rot and failed states.

We, as citizens, need to make our politicians answerable again. We need to remind them of the difference between good and bad, proper and improper. Selebi's friendships are improper.


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