Bishop Sipuka: South Africa at Risk of Being a ‘Republic of Corruption’
By Agnes Aineah – A leading bishop has bemoaned increasing reports of corruption, warning that South Africa is at a great risk of being referred to as a failed state and a “Republic of Corruption”.
In a statement, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha noted that the country’s name is increasingly becoming synonymous with corruption.
According to Bishop Sipuka, who is also the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), there is a feeling that South Africa is going towards the direction of being known for corruption “as Columbia is known for drugs, Mali for child soldiers, Nigeria for terrorist groups, Saudi Arabia for lack of women’s rights, and lately, Zimbabwe for human rights violations”.
He urged the people of God to refuse to let a corruption culture characterise the nation.
Referring to Heritage Day on September 24, the bishop warned that the heritage we pass on to the next generation should not be that of corruption.
“In addition to the call not to let South Africa be known as a republic of sexual abuse and bashers of women, we must also be resolute in our refusal to let South Africa be known as a republic of corruption.”
He emphasised that his call was not intended to encourage grumbling among the people but to inspire everyone to act and to resist those who want the country to be defined by corruption.
“We must act against corruption because corruption is contrary to the values we stand for as Africans, as Christians and as a democratic country,” said Bishop Sipuka, who is also the first vice-president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.
“As Africans we cherish the value of ubuntu and care, and corruption is an insult to these values because as Christians we believe in serving rather than being served, and corrupt leaders practise the exact opposite of this value,” the bishop said.
“As democrats we hold the civil servants we elect accountable to us, but the corrupt leaders see themselves as accountable to no one,” he noted.
Bishop Sipuka lambasted the corrupt who get away with their offences.
“They get to avoid wearing orange overalls in jail and continue looting with impunity while they enjoy a life of opulence at the expense of poor people and to the detriment of the image and development of the country,” he said.
The bishop called for a deeper understanding of corruption, which he said is generally described as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”.
This understanding, he said, calls on all of us to evaluate how we use power, resources and trust assigned to us.
“The use of facilities meant for work for private gain is corruption,” Bishop Sipuka said.
“To come to the office and hang one’s jacket on the chair and leave the office to do one’s private business in town is corruption…to use the telephone provided for the purpose of our work to phone family members and friends is corruption. To use the vehicle provided for the purpose of work for private trips and to make money is corruption,” the bishop pointed out.
“At a personal level it should haunt one when at the end of the day one enjoys a sumptuous meal and a comfortable bed in a cozy room and yet cannot say with a clear conscience that today enough work was done to earn one’s living,” Bishop Sipuka said.
“This is not only stealing from those who have entrusted resources to you, but it is also an insult to one’s dignity to eat without earning one’s food.”
The evil of corruption, he said, is that it results in common good objectives not being achieved, and with the majority of people not having their rights, which belong to them while a few “thugs” wrongfully get more than what they should.
“In short, corruption leads to injustice,” he said, adding, “This in turn leads to a sense of disgruntlement and lack of social cohesion. It leads to lack of trust in leadership, which is manifest in few people turning up to vote during the election period.”
Bishop Sipuka called for personal responsibility in the fight against corruption saying: “As we become enraged with corruption, let us remember that the call against corruption starts with us. In our personal lives and in our work, we must not be liable for acts and dispositions that smack of corruption, otherwise we have no right to speak against it.”
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