Corruption is what it is, shouldn't be viewed through prism of race

Author Jacques Pauw (in striped shirt) prior to the official launch of his book The President's Keepers at Exclusive Books in Hyde Park, Johannesburg.
Author Jacques Pauw (in striped shirt) prior to the official launch of his book The President's Keepers at Exclusive Books in Hyde Park, Johannesburg.
Image: ALON SKUY

Just as most people who have been able to get hold of Jacques Pauw's book, The President's Keepers, have rightly lauded his courageous documentation of the rot in the state, others have appropriated his work to a narrative that blacks can't govern.

Nowhere in his book does Pauw make such a claim. All he does is to unmask president Jacob Zuma, who has allegedly abused his powers and misappropriated state resources to enrich himself and his cronies while making sure he stays out of jail.

How is it then that the sins of this one man and his administration become transferable to all black people in South Africa?

If that conclusion can be arrived at on the basis of some corrupt black people in government, then we must also conclude that the evils of the white leaders who created and implemented apartheid can be attributed to all whites.

Those whites who have used the unfortunate delinquency of the Zuma administration as an opportunity to justify swart gevaar only betray their disparate need to justify their privileged position.

Try as they may, it does not change the fact that they enjoyed benefits and privileges at the expense of the exploitation and dehumanisation of fellow black country men.

These whites are appropriating Pauw's work to reinforce among themselves the long-held and false belief that whites are more human and morally superior to blacks.

When one considers the extent of corruption and the evident complicity of white corporate SA and the politically connected whites during apartheid, it is surprising how a black government embraced and accepted them as equal citizens without any consequence.

It is saddening to see that these racist whites are not only disingenuous in their gloating but disparaging to blacks who have stomached their arrogance, their continuous flaunting of opulence and privilege.

Twenty three years since the demise of apartheid, whites, who are a minority, own more and earn more than blacks. The socioeconomic structure still favours them.

The two richest people in SA, Johann Rupert and Nicky Oppenheimer, are white and own wealth equal to that of 50% of the population.

These are the beneficiaries of wealth that was amassed during the periods of colonialism and apartheid.

Hennie van Vuuren, author of Apartheid, Guns and Money rightly asks why these people who got rich on the back of apartheid are not being quizzed about why they remained silent and even greased the hands of a racist government?

When you juxtapose Pauw's corpus of evidence of corruption under a black government and Van Vuuren's detailed exposition of white corruption during apartheid, it becomes clear that corruption is not a matter of race. Corruption is a human vice.

It is the quest to eradicate racism that justifies the struggle to decolonize society. And it includes pushing back against this narrative that corruption is inherently black.

The struggle of the previous generation was mainly about a wide access to participation in political and social life.

Although this is an on going effort, we cannot deny that inequality remains the biggest threat to the gains of previous decades.

This inequality does not just refer to the material and resource disparities between and among different demographics, but all the social and cultural disparities where white are elevated above those of African origin in particular and subaltern in general.

It is to this struggle - the struggle for social inclusion - that the contemporary student movement has begun to turn its attention.

But this is not a struggle that can be confined to the parameters of universities. It's a struggle that needs to be waged throughout our society.

This is the struggle for the acceptance and recognition of a common humanity, an understanding that no race can claim a monopoly on ethics and morality and humanness.

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