by Frances Correia

Nkandla is again in the news because it may need further security upgrades. It has become the icon of corruption in our country, where power is exercised without accountability for personal gain. However corruption is not limited to those who hold the most privileged positions of power. Going to a state hospital and discovering that there are no sheets, or that the toilets in my local school are not working are may be other signs of the endemic nature of corruption around us.

Apartheid left us with a legacy of radically unequal distribution of tangible wealth, land and, very importantly, unequal access to education and the means to live a fulfilled life. 20 years later the gap between rich and poor is wider than it has ever been. Constitutionally we all have access to basic services. However, the reality is that many of these benefits are significantly less effective than we would want. For example our education system is failing us so badly that, to compensate, we have dropped the pass rate to 40% (for 3 subjects) and 30% for the rest. We have created a laughable low pass rate, in this way our youth are being systematically deprived of the very thing that they are apparently being offered.

The fact that the gap between rich and poor has increased in the years since the fall of Apartheid is a sign that something is terribly wrong. Corruption is endemically robbing us, particularly the poorest of us, of functioning health, legal and education systems.

Book publishers who failed to deliver school books, teachers who do not prepare their classes and use union power to avoid being held accountable, or parliamentarians who take bribes are all stealing from our common heritage. The tragedy of anything held in common is that often we don’t feel like we are stealing from anyone, but in fact the people who are worst affected will always be the poorest who rely completely on the state. Every time any of us steals from the state, we must remember that we are not taking surplus from a wealthy state, but are in fact stealing from the poor. Every time anyone of us turns a blind eye, we are endorsing the systematic undermining of our whole country.

Jesus is clear in the gospels that whatever we do to the least of His people we do to Him. For each of us corruption is a challenge to our faith. If we take our faith seriously then we are called firstly not to engage in corrupt activities. Secondly we are called to use our intellect and our resources to challenge and expose corruption, wherever we may find it. This stance also requires that we should be aware of and involved in our local communities and government. The Church challenges us to be a light to the peoples. In our local communities Christ’s light may well be best shown in helping develop a culture of transparency and accountability.