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An immoral sense of morality

You are probably corrupt.

Here is why. In the last 12 months you probably have done one of the following. You probably have, on at least one occasion, bribed a traffic cop who pulled you over for speeding. You had no qualms parting with a facilitation fee to a driving instructor in return for a licence. You also have probably greased some palms at Home Affairs, SARS or the Licensing Department, to get what you felt was justifiably, a more expeditious service. And yet after all that, you still have the cheek to complain about corruption in this country!

It took the recent screaming headlines about Jackie Selebi’s fall from grace for me to realise our irrationality in celebrating a flawed sense of justice. Indeed, recent events seem to confirm our folly in this matter. It would seem that we have developed an immoral sense of morality itself, preferring in many instances, to over-magnify “big” wrongs and overlook “small” ones.

Take the instance of some unscrupulous residential estate managers in Johannesburg’s plush northern suburbs. They are central to decision-making in matters relating to repairs and improvements carried out by various contractors on the property you live. They are diligently courted by many such contractors who are keen to be awarded the lucrative projects fuelled by your inflated sense of self-importance which otherwise, masquerades as a never-ending quest for self improvement.

You often find that barely a year after your pristine residential complex has been spruced up with a fresh coat of paint, another gang of painters arrive on site to apply some “touch-ups”. The price of the touch-ups is duly reflected in future levy statements, which you obligingly pay, no questions asked. Come the end of the month, the property sharks we abet, are more than likely to be laughing all the way to the bank and back, while we have to endure the ravages of an ever-decreasing disposable income.

In short, on a domestic level, hundreds of residents’ association boards in Gauteng, have, under the pressure of keeping up appearances, unwittingly created corrupt estate managers who, come year end, fly away to exotic resorts for the holidays, thanks to the inflated projects they oversee with the residents’ tacit approval.

Yet as a nation we cringe with dismay, when men in positions of responsibility fall from grace. Nay, we are outraged even. But surely our outrage is misplaced. In fact it blind-sides us from the plain truth. And the truth is that corruption starts with us.

In the domestic context alluded to above, it is fair to say that the unscrupulous contractors abetted by the unquestioning residents, are the “corruptors”. Yet, our sense of morality singles out for punishment the corruptible once caught. This, notwithstanding the fact that an honest dissection of the anatomy of sleaze, reveals that in most instances, it is individual actions and attitudes which play a far more devastating role in allowing a culture of corruption to flourish in a nation.

For us to play a meaningful role in advancing national morality and excellence through such noble initiatives as LeadSA, we must first exorcise the demons which turn us into corruptors. For corruption to fester in society, it is individuals who must first become corrupt or corruptible.

It starts and ends with you and me.


  • Jeremiah Kure

    Jeremiah Kure is a professional working in the corporate governance arena, based in Johannesburg. He is the founder of the Heights We Must Climb movement and a firm believer in a progressive Africa; an Africa not tied to her stereotyped past but one that is steadily reclaiming her dignity and potential in the global space.