Johannesburg – A renowned political analyst and a Commissioner for the Public Service Commission Professor Somadoda Fikeni has likened the conduct of public servants who steal public funds meant for the poor to the recently convicted serial killer and former police officer Nomia Ndlovu.
Speaking during the Joe Slovo Memorial Lecture that was hosted by the Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlement, Fikeni said South Africa is among the top 10 countries with best governance systems but falls among the worst corrupt and poor governance countries.
He said the biggest error that the country made after 1994 was investing in governance systems and ignoring developing a human consciousness.
Turning on corrupt civil servants, Fikeni said their only difference with Ndlovu is that they are not hiring assassins and their victims are still alive.
He said: “You don’t kill people by hiring assassins like Nomia Ndlovu, but when you take people’s IDs for purposes of defrauding the system you are also Nomia Ndlovu.
The only difference is that you have not pulled the trigger to its owner. Your own victims are not dead and buried but are still walking through the streets.”
Fikeni singled out public servants who have been fingered by the Special Investigative Unit in stealing of SASSA R350 Covid-19 Distress Relief Funds.
He said: “We have lost common sense, we have lost honesty and we have lost Ubuntu.
It is for that reason that today we are speaking about officials in government, not all of them of course, but there are those who blemish the most, who have been claiming R350 which are meant for people who are destitute.
“You are a director or a chief director but somebody’s child goes at 3am to line up at the Post Office, you have stolen their IDs in order to get this money,” he further said.
Outlining some of the systems designed to stop corruption, Fikeni said: “We have governance principles, we have governance systems, audit systems and rules but they have not done much. I have not seen a country with such the highest levels of stealing yet it’s top 10 in terms of the governance systems.”
He said South Africa business schools need to reposition themselves because the most corrupt people in senior government positions and in the private sector are those who claim to have MBA in their qualifications. Fikeni said corruption starts from the university level in student bodies such as the SRC and by the time someone starts a professional career they have mastered the art of stealing.
He said not much of the stolen money will be recovered from the Zondo Commission because it has been spent in extravagance.
“No one can point out what he or has done with the money. Money has been spent on women, it has been used for the weddings to the value of R10-million and birthday parties of R5-millions. It’s like people were doing all of this out of anger that their forefathers never tasted this kind of splendor,” said Fikeni.
Fikeni blamed the patronage for destroying the capacity of the state and praised the government efforts to professionalise the public service as a step in the right direction.
He said: “Government has finally understood the importance of building a capable state and professionalising public service. This patronage stuff has destroyed the capacity of the state. In that patronage system the only qualification you need is loyalty. In a professional meritocratic system you need competence.”
He described Slovo as an organic public transformative intellectual giant who was often original and brought seminal ideas.
“Fikeni Slovo never wanted to prioritise himself with deployments after the struggle because he understood that it was a sacrifice not for repayment later.”
He said some of the corruption that is happening, the levels of unemployment and inequality would send him back to his grave.
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