ALAN KNOTT-CRAIG Junior,VODACOM Results,Vodaworld,Midrand 13/06/07.pix ROBERT TSHABALALA
ALAN KNOTT-CRAIG Junior,VODACOM Results,Vodaworld,Midrand 13/06/07.pix ROBERT TSHABALALA

YOU would have to be delusional to think South Africa is a fully transformed society.

YOU would have to be delusional to think South Africa is a fully transformed society.

But seen through the prism of time, that moment when South Africans, black and white, stood in long queues to cast their votes, will remain one of the most pivotal of our time.

Looking back, life was in some respects easier in those tumultuous but heady days of the new South Africa.

You were either racist or not. You either wanted the new South Africa to be a reality or you were in the tinned-food brigade - people who dug bunkers and made attics, stocked up on nonperishable food, all in preparation for the swart gevaar.

The overt prejudice of that time was easy to identify. It had a name.

Now, 16 years after democracy, there is a more covert and insidious form of racism. Black and white people alike are guilty of it.

I am shocked at the deafening silence with which news of former Vodacom group chief executive Alan Knott-Craig and his son's alleged corruption has been met.

The senior Knott-Craig is accused of nepotism and breaching corporate governance standards.

The Sunday Times has revealed that a forensic audit by KPMG had found that Knott-Craig helped his son - Alan Knott-Craig Jnr - in business ventures, allegedly using Vodacom resources.

There have been murmurs from some quarters, but they have been nothing more than a whimper. Only a few publications have bothered to report on a story that has rocked the cellphone giant.

Sure, you are innocent until proven guilty. Let's face it though, this principle was subverted when allegations of wrongdoing were made against senior black managers such as Danisa Baloyi, Dali Mpofu, Jacob Maroga, Alan Mukoki, Khutso Mampeule, Khaya Ngqula, Papi Molotsana ...

Read my words carefully: I am not saying that these individuals were not guilty of the accusations against them. Honesty demands that I state without any compunction that when some of them vacated their organisations, it was good riddance.

I have used this space recently to criticise Maroga for playing the race card instead of demonstrating how his strategy was better for Eskom than that of its former chairperson Bobby Godsell.

There is nothing more abhorrent to me than a black person who plays the race card every time his or her competence is questioned.

Equally repulsive are white people who are so vocal about the failings - alleged or proven - of black managers and are silent about those of the people they consider their kinsmen.

I have yet to hear loud calls for the Knott-Craigs to "come clean".

The sanctimonious lamentations about how "this country is going down the drain" have been absent.

Stories of the alleged corruption of senior black executives dominated news and was the subject of newspaper editorials and radio talk shows. This happened before these individuals were proven to have done anything wrong.

Some of them, like Mampeule and Mukoki, were victims of a hostile board and ministers who lacked the gravitas and integrity to do the right thing.

The muted response from the public and media to the mess at Vodacom is an example of a nuanced and toxic form of racism. Is corruption in a black person easier to accept and believe without proof because somehow we have come to believe that it is inherent in black people?

Where are all the columnists and commentators who generously share their learned observations that "Mr so-and-so is innocent until proven guilty but the mere perception of corruption is bad for the image of the organisation. He should step aside until his name is cleared".

I agree with this position, but it must be applied equally to all.

The Knott-Craigs must be presumed innocent until proven guilty but, like all the black executives accused of corruption, they too must be called upon to answer to the allegations.

Allegations of corruption and nepotism are serious and should be met with the same displeasure, whether the accused is black or white.

Racial solidarity is dangerous if it means we support each other because of race, or judge and condemn those who are different. We must stand up for what is right. Period.