The youth culture here--as in other countries---showcases affluent life styles and blatant materialism that lead many to take corrupt and criminal short cuts to finance pricey and unsustainable life styles.
Inequality has deepened. Johannesburg's Sunday Times reports, "Despite being one of the poorest regions in the world, the number of super-wealthy individuals in Africa grew faster in 2010 than in any other region." An official at the Daimler auto company told me that more Mercedes are sold in South Africa than Germany.
Egging all of this on are several big scandals in which the government is directly implicated as a key player barely enforcing conflict of interest rules.
The Black Empowerment scams through which White-run companies co-opt a few blacks that get shares to advance their own agendas in the name of a phony racial balance and reparations. While some in the new black middle and upper class benefit, inequality is blatant. This has led to great cynicism and encourages greed. Money, not morality, is the driver in ANC sanctioned race to get rich quick.
Big spectacles like the World Cup, subsidized by South Africa's tax payers, made for a big party that left the country with a huge debt that has required cutbacks in public services. The soccer body FIFA called the World Cup in South Africa their most profitable ever, but they are the ones who got the most along with the local companies they favored. The games benefited corporate marketers with FIFA keeping TV rights money and paying no taxes. The press mostly covered the games, not the insidious wheeling and dealing behind it. TV stations refused to show a critical documentary.
The biggest scandal, bigger than the corrupt arms deal, and "Oilgate" in which funds from oil sales were siphoned into ANC party coffers, is happening now with the construction of two multi-billion dollar coal fire plants that will not only increase pollution but benefit the ANC directly through a supposedly independent investment trust partnering with Hitachi of Japan.
South Africa, which gave up its Israeli supplied nuclear weapons in the apartheid days is also now planning a huge new nuclear power plant, despite Fukushima and the risks. According to the Financial Mail, the leading business magazine, there are already "rumors of corruption and cronyism."
Of course, corruption is rife in other countries too, some born of revolutions like China whose President recently sounded like Jacob Zuma in denouncing crimes by officials. In China, they shoot many corrupt bureaucrats; in South Africa, they are largely ignored if not rewarded. In fact, anti-curruption police units and public prosecutors have been sidelined.
The US certainly can't lecture South Africa. I made a film, Plunder The Crime of Our Time, showing how our financial crisis is sparked by Wall Street crime in which U.S. banksters illegally transferred more wealth to themselves than the kleptocrats here could even conceive. The US now has more high net worth individuals than any other country.
I never imagined that the "new" South Africa, a country that I, and so many millions around the world fought for, would succumb so quickly to deep and blatant corruption. Much of it had its origins in the private sector's "helping"/bribing willing politicians.
Its painful for me to write about this because I have been a believer in South Africa's potential as a "Rainbow Nation" that has a lot to teach the world. It has improved the lot of millions even as poverty remains pervasive. There are great people here who sacrificed for their freedom and still struggle for the values and goals they believe in.
They know right from wrong.
An indictment of the corrupt few should not take our eyes off a majority that is conscious of where they have been and work hard to survive and prosper if possible.
At the same time, they too, are being put in jeopardy by what veteran journalist Allister Sparks calls "a corrupt game of greed." If it is not combated, he warns, "it will be all downhill for the promising new South Africa."
The faith in the promises of Nelson Mandela for a "better life for all" is running up against an avaricious and secretive clique in a party that operates like a "family" in the Costa Nostra sense, putting its own interests ahead of the public interest. The line between party and government is often blurred.
Mandela himself spoke to this shameful situation, "The symptoms of our spiritual malaise are only too familiar. They include the extent of corruption in both the public and private sector where office and positions of responsibility are treated as opportunities for self-enrichment ... We have learned now that even those people with whom we fought the struggle against apartheid's corrupt can themselves become corrupted."
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