Pali Lehohla
Pali Lehohla

OPINION: SA needs prison for the corrupt

By Opinion Time of article published Aug 3, 2020

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By Pali Lehohla

JOHANNESBURG - Matthew 5:29 says, "If then your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to depart into hell."

Would it not be that this be the plight of state-owned SAA or any major liability South Africa faces and has to spend on these endless vanity projects?

Part of the economic and management programmes in business schools popularised the notion of core business and dismembered of anything that appeared non-core.

Like in Matthew, that which causes you to sin – discard.

Many institutions and countries followed this maxim and in the process entered a phase of value destruction.

Outsourcing as a practice for functional specialisation in order to achieve operational effectiveness and efficiency has had a direct negative effect of in particular producing middlemen and fixers whose only responsibility is to seek rents.

Think of South Africa in 1994.

It was challenged by an increasing unemployment, poor education, an economy that was not doing well and a society that was poor and is still poor.

In order to achieve the objectives of democracy South Africa adopted a motto of people first.

Yet at the same time the world was changing. By the beginning of 2000, the most common language in business schools, including Harvard, was about business process re-engineering and outsourcing.

Cleaners, security, drivers and all what would be ancillary services got outsourced.

In the outsourced environment the spirit of tenderpreneurs took root with scant attention to the prime evil that South Africa committed to resolving – unemployment and poverty.

Outsourcing and people first became contradictory terms as tenders had to be the vehicle for replacing serving staff, disrupting their futures and those of their children.

A new era dawned that removed those who needed care the most from the government. They were thrown to the tenderpreneurs who competed for these tenders and could not give a hoot about staff. Many poor were used as fronts by whites to meet the representative requirements. Whichever way you looked the poor became fodder.

The students’ movement of #FeesMustFall at universities brought the matter of support staff in sharp relief and how exploitative business process re-engineering and outsourcing in South Africa had become.

Some universities reversed these decisions and employed support staff on a basis that secured their decency and family life. However, the seeds of rot had been planted deep.

That we are shocked by the behaviour in the face of coronavirus is shear hypocrisy – this is who we have become and are today.

The procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has cast a dark shadow on South Africa’s mounting challenges.

What the Zondo Commission gifted us was to open our eyes to the depth and how rampant corruption is in South Africa.

The downside of Zondo, however, has been to encourage those who were not aware of the partying going on to rush through corona gates least they miss their turn to eat.

In the absence of fierce consequences, we cannot expect a change of behaviour and it is only hypocritical to think otherwise.

Belated as it might be, the signing into law of rapid sharing of information amongst institutions of law enforcement, may stop the tail of an alligator that might be presumed to be dying.

That last sway of the tail can be very deadly.

Rwandan President Paul Kgagame has a section in a prison for the corrupt.

Perhaps, instead of digging graves, South Africa should follow this example and start building a whole prison for the corrupt because a section in any existing prison will not be enough.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General and former head of Statistics South Africa. Meet him at and @palilj01


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