The moral decay of South African society frightening

21 February 2020 - 05:36
By AND Thembela Khamango
Celebrating acts like that of Bathobile Mlangeni shows our society is slowly slipping into moral decay and we should be ashamed, the writer says.
Celebrating acts like that of Bathobile Mlangeni shows our society is slowly slipping into moral decay and we should be ashamed, the writer says.

One of the most valuable lessons I learnt as a child was that integrity is the best quality to possess for any human being. I grew up in a rural community with limited resources but despite our poor background thieves were shunned, and hard work and an honest living valued.

Over the years, I have sadly watched the moral degradation of our society as corruption and theft dominate local newspaper headlines daily.

However, nothing would have prepared me for the reaction to a story we published this week.

We reported about a woman who was wanted by the police after she vanished, allegedly with millions of rands stolen from her employers.

Bathobile Mlangeni, a security guard at a cash-in-transit company, is accused of stealing R4m from an SBV depot in Midrand. She allegedly strolled out of the depot with a trolley containing the cash in refuse bags on July 15 and was never seen by the employer again.

Mlangeni, from Dlamini, Soweto, who was on duty at the time of the incident, was captured on CCTV footage as she allegedly cut open two bulk cash bags with a pair of scissors before transferring the money to several bags.

She never returned to work and police have been searching for her since then.

We published the story on Tuesday and it was well received on most social media platforms, judging by the number of comments and shares.

But what was shocking was how she was hailed as a hero by online readers instead of being condemned and shamed for her alleged bad deeds.

People referred to her as "leadership" and prayed for her not to be caught by cops. I was stunned.

We ran a follow up the next day after interviewing her neighbours in Soweto who said they had seen her during the festive season.

The piece was also one of our most read stories with comments bashing the neighbour for being "nosy".

I was disappointed at what we have become and I became worried because this is the same country I call home and where I am raising my children.

What has happened to us? Why have we become such a lawless society without morals? Why are we celebrating thieves?

If we see nothing wrong in what Mlangeni is accused of having done, why are we angry at politicians who steal from the public purse?

We are a capital for protests, as disgruntled communities take to streets often to voice their unhappiness with public office bearers accused of not delivering services. One of the main reasons for lack of delivery of services in our country is because of high levels of corruption.

In the 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index South Africa was ranked 71st out of 180 countries.

Why are we upset when traffic department officials expect us to pay a bribe before we can be issued with a driver's licence? Or at police officers taking bribes to release criminals who broke into and stole from our homes? Are we angry at crime only when it affects us?

Our society is slowly slipping into moral decay and that is not something to be celebrated, but what we should be ashamed of.

If we do not go back to the basics - where morality was the compass of our society - the only way we are going is down. We will find ourselves in the same position as most countries on our continent where public institutions have collapsed completely, partly due to corruption and theft.

Is that what we want for our country? That is what we will get if we continue on the path of celebrating thieves instead of locking them up in jail.