by Pamela Maringa

Who in this country can say that they have never been involved in any act of corruption? How many people, instead of paying a bribe, would report it as a crime? The act of bribing the person who stands in the way of getting what you want, seems like such a small thing. The small change that you give to the traffic officer for speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol, is just that – small change. Some people even give it a euphemism, they refer to it as a “present, lunch or tjotjo”. Corruption is the result  of people’s desire to get preferential treatment.

Not so long I went do my driving licence test through a driving school a friend referred me to. I was shocked that people pay lot of money to get their driving licences. It’s not the matter of knowing how to drive or knowing all your road signs to pass your learner’s licence, but it’s a matter of who has money. I saw pretty shocking things that take place at the traffic department; the exchange of money in envelopes and turning a blind eye to mistakes made during driving. I did my driving test twice because the first time I failed, not because I didn’t know how to drive but because I didn’t pay anyone. On my second attempt my brother was tipped by friends on how impossible it is to get a driver’s licence. He talked to a friend who knew someone who worked at the department to help me.

Corruption has become a household topic. We often have conversations about how corruption has increased in the country. I hear young people justify this behaviour of corruption by referring back to politics. When we talk about corruption we often get tempted to talk about Nkandla, State Capture and other mismanagement of state funds. It’s not just about the driving licence, buying stolen goods, bribing a policeman and fraud, just to mention a few, it’s about the state of mind that we find ourselves in as a nation. I’ve heard lot of people saying, “Morals don’t pay bills, but money does.”

For a person who is trying to make an honest living and not engage in these behaviours, it’s difficult to keep doing the right thing. Corruption seems to be the practice. You’ll hear people you look up to saying, “If the president can do it, why I can’t do it?” Often when politicians are caught for corruption they face no consequences. A recent example of this is Brian Molefe, who instead of being punished, was given his old job back.

The real issue is that personal financial interests intersect with public interests. And personal interests take precedence of the interests of the people of the country. Tragically, the state has shown that it’s too weak to mount an effective fight against such interests.

There’s also no hope in fighting corruption unless those in power start prioritising on the needs of the people over their own personal gain. They should realise that a good name is more desirable than great riches, and to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

As Christians, we should focus on what protects or threatens the dignity of every human life and spread messages of hope in our communities. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society. It is our duty as Christians not to participate in corruption just because everyone is doing it. We should help build a corruption free nation, a nation we will be proud of.

So next time you want to pay a bribe, stop and ask yourself, what am I contributing to my country, and what example am I setting to others?