Two centuries ago, 80% of the world lived in absolute poverty: fetching water by bucket, sleeping on the ground and cooking over an open fire. Since then, most of their descendants have moved to the next two levels, but they are forever impeded from breaking through to the fourth by the theft of the funds intended to help them do just that.
The middlemen and the tenderpreneurs aren’t Robin Hoods stealing from the rich to give to the poor. On the contrary, they’re stealing from the poor. Many of the middle classes, who bear the brunt of the tax burden, have protected themselves against kleptocracy by opting out of state health, education and even security by buying private solutions.
The poor can’t see what is causing their misery. As for the middle classes, many of us are part of the collusion, not able or brave enough to stand up and speak out for fear of losing our jobs, or of being ostracised. Rotting in the centre of this malaise is our cynicism of government and any dream of social cohesion, as the devil takes the hindmost.
The state capture that characterised the major part of Jacob Zuma’s tenure did not happen overnight, but the groundswell revulsion to it was spontaneous — though only after years of tacit acceptance. Now we have been given an opportunity to change.
We dare not squander this. The only way to ensure that we don’t is to inculcate a culture of active citizenry that starts in our classrooms, teaching our children to speak truth to power. This culture must evolve through there to our business schools especially, to craft a new cohort of business leaders; men and women who will not chase profit at all costs but extract the maximum good for everyone involved in the process, from investors to local communities.