The art of stealing

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T

HERE was a time when government officials in this country used to pinch state funds.

Then, they used to steal a few hundreds or rig small tenders for small kickbacks.

But that, of course, was never going to be enough for some of them.

So when the pittances did not quench their insatiable urge to get rich quickly and the police kept their heads buried in sand like proverbial ostriches they started looting.

But now, government officials are no longer pinching or looting.

That is so yesterday.

A more trendy habit now is to plunder government resources with vim.

Times have indeed changed and so have our civil servants.

But why did our civil servants move so fast from pinching to plundering?

The answers to this question are diverse depending on whether you have your calloused fingers in the cookie jar or not.

If your mouth is stuck dip in the feeding trough you are likely to use the F-word on anyone who thinks stealing from government is a horrible means of survival.

There are those who blame poverty and low wages.

That, of course, is an all too common excuse but Scrutator doubts that anyone has so far proven that there is a strong link between poverty and the propensity to steal especially through white collar fraud.

Look at the amounts that are being stolen from state coffers and you see that these are not people stealing to merely put papa and moroho on the table.

M200 000, M400 000, M1 000 000, M5 000 000 and the list goes on.

Our civil servants don’t steal small change.

If you are one of those loudmouthed and holier-than-thou Pentecostals you are likely to blame demons that make people too helpless to resist the temptation to take that which is not theirs.

But that explanation too just doesn’t cut it.

There are those who want to blame the weak systems in government.

That might be closer to the truth but Scrutator still suspects it’s just not enough to explain why civil servants are scrambling to line their pockets.

So if hunger, demons and weak systems are not the main reasons for our civil servants’ newly found passion to plunder national resources then what is?

Scrutator has a theory: Our civil servants steal because the government has made it clear through omission and commission that stealing national resources is now a national policy.

 

L

ets’ deal with omission first. When was the last time you heard any senior government official condemning corruption in this country?

Corruption is a national disease, a cancer gnawing at our moral fibre, but it seems taboo for government ministers to condemn it in public.

They tiptoe through that subject as if they are walking through an area with landmines.

This omission is mostly prevalent among ministers and principal secretaries.

While national resources are being looted under their watch they would rather talk about other mundane issues.

The reason for this silence is probably because they know they have lost the moral high ground to condemn corruption.

They fear that if they shout too loud about corruption someone is bound to say “Nxa!

Who are you to point fingers at others when just last week you came out of the office with a bulging pocket?”

Some remain mum about corruption because their conscience tells them it’s wrong to be hypocritical.

You can only convincingly condemn things you really abhor.

It just doesn’t feel right for them to go around castigating a habit that has brought them the good things of life.

They know it’s hypocritical to stand on the pulpit to condemn thieves when their tummies are full of stolen goods.

They would rather shut up and let the plundering continue lest they be reminded that their shoes or earrings don’t look like they were bought by someone who earns like a Lesotho minister, director or principal secretary.

They are aware that if you talk too much about corruption it might open a Pandora’s Box.

 

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hat brings me to the commission part of this government policy to steal from the people.

There seems to be a tacit agreement by those at the top that stealing is good but getting caught is wrong.

That is what specifically motivates those at the lower ranks to steal.

They have grown weary of watching those at the top develop rotund cheeks by plundering state resources while they are continuously farting the gases off empty stomachs.

Low-ranking civil servants genuinely believe that if senior officials are stealing to buy expensive things then there is nothing wrong with them stealing just a few thousands to nourish themselves.

Junior civil servants are merely trying to equalise in a game they are already losing by 100 goals to nil.

They know they will not win it but still believe it’s a game worth playing.

After all it does bring the goods at the end of the day.

Those at the top have shown those at the bottom that it pays to plunder government resources.

Corruption in this country will only stop when senior government officials stop setting a bad example for those at the bottom.

Until that happens we can stop dreaming of having a squeaky clean civil service.

There will always be a mad scramble towards self-enrichment.

 

B

ut if the powers-that-be insist on stuffing their pockets and bank accounts then we the people will have to show them the door.

When elections come we must kick them so far out of the government that their heads will spin.

Once in political wilderness they will realise how it feels to be so far away from the cookie jar.

They will feel how painful it is to lose a tender to a minister’s friend or relative.

It’s your right to use your “X” to dump any government that doesn’t do enough to protect public resources from being plundered.

Ache!

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