We Risk Being Called a “Republic of Corruption,” South African Prelate Cautions

Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of South Africa’s Mthatha Diocese and President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).
Credit: Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC)

A Catholic Prelate in South Africa has bemoaned increasing reports of graft in the country, a situation he says puts one of Africa’s largest economies at a great risk of being referred to as a failed state and a “Republic of Corruption.”

In a statement shared with ACI Africa on Thursday, August 27, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of South Africa’s Umtata Diocese, referencing increasing incidences of graft-related strikes, notes that the country’s name was increasingly becoming synonymous with corruption.

“There is a growing worry that corruption is beginning to shape the soul of our nation to the point where corruption is becoming synonymous to South Africa so that if you want to say ‘corruption’ the same meaning will be understood when you say ‘South Africa,’” Bishop Sipuka says.

There is growing tension in South Africa with reports indicating planned strikes to decry mistreatment of public workers and misappropriation of public funds.

According to Bishop Sipuka who doubles as the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), there is a feeling that South Africa is going towards the direction of being known for corruption as a country, “as Columbia is known for drugs, Mali for child soldiers, Nigeria for terrorist groups, Saudi Arabia for lack of women rights, lately Zimbabwe for human rights violations, and other countries known for bad things.”

“South Africa is fast becoming known as a country where corruption is a way of life, much similar to what Kenya was once known for,” the South African Prelate says.

In view of this emerging culture and identity, he urges the people of God in the country to refuse to let corruption culture characterize the nation, especially during the new month.

“As we enter the heritage month of September, God forbid that the heritage we shall be passing on to the next generation should be the heritage of corruption. We must refuse to be defined as a country by corruption,” says Bishop Sipuka.

He adds, “In addition to the to call not to let South Africa be known as a Republic of Sexual Abuse and basher of women, we must also be resolute in our refusal to let South Africa be known as a Republic of corruption.”

He further says that his call is not to encourage grumbling among the people but inspire everyone to act and to resist those who want the country to be defined by corruption.

“We must act against corruption because corruption is contrary to the values we stand for as Africans, as Christians and as a democratic country,” Bishop Sipuka who is also the first Vice President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) says.

 

He adds, “As Africans we cherish the value of Ubuntu and care and corruption is an insult to these values because as Christians, we believe in serving rather than being served and corrupt leaders practice the exact opposite of this value.”

“As democrats we hold the civil servants we elect accountable to us but the corrupt leaders see themselves as accountable to no one,” he laments.

Bishop Sipuka also bemoans that while other offenders in the Southern African country are apprehended, corruption criminals who pose as leaders get away with their offences.

“They get to avoid wearing orange overalls in jail and continue looting with impunity while they continue to enjoy a life of opulence at the expense of poor people and at the detriment of the image and development of the country,” the 60-year-old South African Bishop says.

Calling on the people to fight corruption “before it takes root” in the country, the Local Ordinary of Umtata advocates for a deep understanding of the meaning of the vice, which he says is generally described as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”.

The understanding, he says, calls on everyone to evaluate how they use the power, resources and trust assigned to them for their intended purpose.

“The use of facilities meant for our work for private gain is corruption,” he says.

He continues, “To come to the office and hang one’s jacket on the chair and leave the office to do one’s private business in town is corruption… to use the telephone provided for the purpose of our work to phone family members and friends is corruption. To use the vehicle provided for the purpose of our work for private trips and to make money is corruption.”

The Bishop further urges the people of God in the country to ensure that they always work for everything they possess, adding that failure to do that translates to corruption.

“At personal level it should haunt one at the end of the day when one enjoys a sumptuous meal and a comfortable bed in a cozy room and yet cannot say in clear conscience that today enough work was done to earn one’s living,” Bishop Sipuka says.

He adds, “This is not only stealing from those who have entrusted the resources but it is also an insult to one’s dignity to eat without earning one’s food.”

The evil of corruption, the Prelate says, is that it results in common good objectives not being achieved, and with the majority of people not getting their rights, which belong to them while a few “thugs” wrongfully get more than what they should get.

“In short corruption leads to injustice,” he underscores, and adds, “This in turn leads to a sense of disgruntlement and lack of social cohesion.”

Corruption leads to lack of trust in leadership, which is manifest in few people turning up to vote during election period, according to Bishop Sipuka.

He calls for personal responsibility in the fight against corruption saying, “As we get enraged with corruption, let us remember that the call against corruption starts with us. In our personal lives and in our work, we must not be liable for acts and dispositions that smack of corruption, otherwise we have no right to speak against it.”


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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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