OPINION: Switch to see accountability and responsibility as essential norms

There are two proceedings that have been taking place in South Africa which offer hope.

One is the Life Esidimeni arbitration chaired by former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.

The other is the parliamentary inquiry chaired by ANC MP Zukiswa Rantho into the state capture project at Eskom.

There is no question about the horrific content that has come out of these two inquiries.

The devastation mismanagement by the health authorities in Gauteng of the Life Esidimeni patients saw lives lost and immense pain and suffering inflicted on their families.

Similarly, the devastation caused by the state capture project at Eskom has pulverised the economy beyond measure – and continues to do so, as we saw with last week’s investment downgrades attributed in large part to the implosion of the state-owned entities.

A further devastation of these crises is the negative effect they have had on the collective psyche of the nation. We are increasingly being pushed towards the erroneous idea that we might not be capable of building and managing our nation.

This is perhaps the most dangerous idea we could entertain, especially being in Africa. For a very long time, this has been the general narrative about Africa. It is an erroneous concept, but is nonetheless fuelled by the carelessness, greed and arrogance of the state.

It is particularly tragic that these vices are spearheaded by the head of state with support from some in his party. Indeed it’s downright criminal.

However, the Life Esidimeni arbitration and parliamentary inquiry suggest a breakaway from the usual state initiated inquiries which are token events just to pull the wool over our eyes.

This is cause for hope. And these proceedings seem to be in the same spirit as the parliamentary inquiry into the SABC, which culminated in the dismissal of Hlaudi Motsoeneng and his dysfunctional board.

We hope stern action will follow.

The current inquiries correctly bring the importance of accountability to the fore.

Nothing less should be expected by and of a free people.

Whilst the apartheid regime’s illegitimacy made subverting the law and accountability systems of the times seem admirable, this is no longer the case.

As a free people, it is now our responsibility to change our mind-set from one of subversion to one of building, managing and improving all of the time.

This is an area we may have taken for granted. With a history which produced a brutalised nation, we need to undo many redundant attitudes from the past. We still need a deliberate and sustained campaign to bring our people to a common understanding that freedom demands accountability. It must be commonly understood that accountability is never victimisation.

Against this background the explosive testimony of former Eskom chair Zola Tsotsi has been crucial for putting accountability back into the centre of our democracy.

Besides the thousands of e-mails, Thuli Madonsela’s report and many other reports on state capture which are already in the public domain, we now have Tsotsi’s sworn testimony.

It is a testimony which places people such as Dudu Myeni, Tony Gupta, Minister Lynne Brown and none other than Jacob Zuma himself right at the “crime scene”.

It implicates these characters in gross interference at Eskom with the express intention of facilitating wholesale looting.

So, we are at a crucial juncture as a nation where we have to decide whether we are rediscovering our status as a free people, whose action must always make way for future generations, or not.

The investigation and prosecution of these individuals is long overdue. But those who have subverted state business as part of the state capture project must be charged and answer for it in court.

This one action will send valuable lessons into the future, so that no one will ever willingly embark on a project to rob and destroy this country again under the delusion that political connections will shield them.

Many South Africans hope these proceedings are setting us on course towards a new direction. We want our country back from forces of callousness, greed and thievery.

We hope to re-establish the importance of accountability in our democracy and build enough of a sense of nationhood to develop and sustain all our people.

I hope the inquiries will be shown live on our national broadcaster. Every South African must learn about the extent of the damage we have suffered and understand that this is what happens when citizens do not actively hold politicians to account!

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