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South Africa Is Hanging by a Thread – How Short-Term Greed Is Destroying Our Country

Short Term Greed Is Destroying Our Country

South Africa Is Hanging by a Thread – How Short-Term Greed Is Destroying Our Country

Twenty-three years.

That’s how long it took the Prudhoe community to win their case in the Land Claims court and gain access to their ancestral land.

Guess how long it took a few Einsteins from the very same community to completely destroy it?

Two months.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at photos of stolen appliances that fell off vehicles as they sped away, but this one had all the ingredients of a good news story:

On March 21, 2021, ancestral land in the Eastern Cape was finally returned to the people of Prudhoe after a protracted battle between the Prudhoe and Mazizi communities.

Like so much of South Africa, the land in question was rich in potential.

Close to the beautiful coastal town of Port Alfred, with its long stretches of beach, abundant sunshine, game reserves and scenic marina, it also contained the famed Fish River Resort.

Income from this resort alone would have been more than enough to elevate the lives of all the local people. Just a year ago, digital asset exchange Forus announced their intention to invest R500m to upgrade the resort, including the creation of state-of-the-art Fish River Studios. This would create an entirely new revenue stream for the resort, as well as the community, and surrounding areas.

On top of this, in June last year, Survivor South Africa started filming Series 9 there.

The future was looking good for this impoverished community.

But that was before May 2, 2023, when members of the same community stormed into the Fish River Resort and looted it.

Millions of Rands in assets, including TVs, fridges, stoves and IT equipment, were loaded onto vehicles with trailers and stolen. Every single room was burgled and ransacked.

Offices were broken into, and vehicles were completely stripped. Jobs have since been lost, along with many millions in potential future revenue.

The Prudhoe Community is very likely worse off now than it’s ever been, yet this time, the blame for their situation cannot be laid at the feet of previous governments. The people responsible for their plight come directly from within their own ranks.

Tragically, this seems to be the blueprint for how things operate now in South Africa. If you want something, why work for it? Let’s play a “Follow my leader” game and simply take what we want when we want it instead.

We see it when university students protest against paying fees by burning the very buildings and books of the institutions they want to study at.

We see it when corporate management and auditors get creative with the financial statements so that the C-suite can retire early and buy luxury holiday homes.

And we see it with Eskom, whose management allegedly continues to collude with government officials to steal our country blind so they can line their bottomless pockets at the expense of the very people who trusted them to deliver on their promises of a better life for all.

There is no art which one government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people.”

Adam Smith

The problem with this – apart from the obvious – is that it sets the benchmark for acceptable behaviour incredibly low.

When people are voted into power and create a culture of cronyism, corruption, fraud, and dishonesty, it becomes easy to assume that it is acceptable given the example that is being set.

So, in South Africa, when people see officials pillaging government entities with impunity – and living very large on the profits of their actions – it’s no wonder they feel it’s not only possible but also acceptable and desirable to do the same.

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Guns, Germs and Steel, one of the issues that author Jared Diamond explores are the possible reasons why Africa – which should, in theory, be one of the most advanced continents in the world with its rich and ancient history of impressive civilisations – languishes behind the ‘developed countries in many areas.

Despite having had many great leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, Haile Selassie I, Kofi Annan, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, many others seem to have lost the plot.

The problem is that our brains are biologically hardwired to naturally pick the path of least resistance when making decisions. This means we tend to do what’s easy rather than what’s right.

And there’s no doubt that in South Africa, it’s easier to follow a corrupt path than an honest one.

It all boils down to the environment we create.

When you look closely at some of the world’s most successful countries, you see that their success has little to do with their people but everything to do with the environment their governments create.

A superior environment – the context you create as a leader – makes for superior development.

The answer, therefore, lies in creating an environment where it’s easier and more desirable to do the right thing than the wrong thing.

Singapore is a great example.

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s prime minister from June 1959 to November 1990, implemented a zero-tolerance policy towards crime and corruption that is widely credited with his country’s spectacular economic transformation from Third World to First World country during his three decades in power.

Singapore was recently ranked 4th globally, together with Norway and Sweden, on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. It also consistently ranks as the least corrupt Asian country on the same index.

Yew is quoted as saying, “My experience of developments in Asia has led me to conclude that we need good men to have good government. However good the system of government, bad leaders will bring harm to their people.”

I’m pretty confident no one could argue that South Africa’s leadership environment is bringing harm to our people, leaving us precious little room to deliver on our full potential.

Our country is in tatters. Short-term greed is killing our long-term growth and no one in power seems interested in doing anything about it.


Because they’re hell-bent on protecting their golden goose for as long as possible.

A president cannot defend a nation if he is not held accountable to its laws.

DaShanne Stokes

I am obviously aware that, just as the Prudhoe looting wasn’t undertaken by the entire community but a small faction, the corruption we face in South Africa isn’t supported by every member of the ruling party.

In an article for the Daily Maverick, written shortly after the 2021 KZN and Gauteng riots and titled, “An Unauthorised ANC Apology to the Nation,” Mavuso Msimang writes:

“To paraphrase Charles Dickens, we of the ANC have visited upon the nation a veritable winter of despair, which led to death and destruction. It mostly punished the poor, a high percentage of whom we created on our watch, because of inappropriate policy options and misgovernance.

“We apologise that, for many years, disgruntled ANC members worked overtime making provocative utterances, totally unrestrained by us.

“There aren’t adequate words to describe the ruthless pummelling of the economy.”

He concludes with, “Hopefully soon, the president contemplates reducing his unwieldy Cabinet. While making essential replacements, he might wish to consider casting his net beyond the NEC pool and look at the shoal swimming in fresher water in Parliament.”

From Mavuso’s lips to God’s ears, because there’s no doubt South Africa has many great people with big dreams who are ready and committed to driving our country forward.

Our once great nation can be great again – but we need transformational leaders who can uplift our people and inspire positive change. If we all unite against those who only seek to benefit themselves, we can bring about the change South Africa needs.

We saw it in 1994.

South Africans from all walks of life and all political beliefs came together as one to vote for a new, brighter and democratic country.

Thirty years later, although we might feel betrayed by the non-delivery of the Rainbow Nation we were promised, giving up – and giving in – are not options.

South Africa has thousands of skilled, dedicated and capable people who are actively working to build vibrant societies within the confines of our bleeding society.

With honest, transformational leaders, we can expand this optimistic rebuilding throughout our country.