The outrage at the discovery of irregular expenditure and contravention of the tender process in eThekwini municipality (Daily News, July 4) needs to be seen in perspective.
First of all it is not an aberration. It has been going on for years and has infected municipalities countrywide the majority of which have become bankrupt as a result. Promises of investigations and disciplinary action make for bold media sound bytes but are invariably quietly swept under the carpet.
The reason for these contraventions is also obvious. With the exception of a few officials, the bloated state of eThekwini’s staff (24,000) is the result of a deliberate policy which one sees from the presidency down to local government level to abuse the public service by packing it with comrades, cronies and cadres.
Thus, the public service and service delivery have become a complex web of patronage and entitlement. Public treasuries have become feeding troughs for the politically connected. As we saw with the former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, the new political elite does not take kindly to exposure and indictment for its culture of enrichment.
The extent to which such corruption is entrenched was revealed by the late Professor Lawrence Schlemmer. He noted that many of the service delivery protests were not aimed at the local mayor or councillors but were actually part of factional dog fights within the ANC whereby one faction sought to oust another so it could obtain control over the patronage system (RW Johnson, How long can South Africa survive, 2nd edition, p. 57).
The role of opposition parties in exposing and protesting this state of affairs is unenviable and frustrating because short of removing root and branch those in control, abuse of public funds will continue indefinitely. Ironically, the country needs to be liberated from those who have claimed to be its liberator.
Sent into The Daily News and published, 6 July 2017.