| The real cost of state capture

Recently the respected former finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, revealed that it is estimated that at least R100bn had been lost due to “state capture”. This widely respected man suggested that this amount, which equates to roughly 9% of government spending in South Africa, would have been sufficient to double social grants.

While it can be argued that social grants are indeed one way of combatting poverty, a solid argument can also be made that true and effective longer term alleviation of poverty should be achieved via the creation of employment, rather than by increasing “hand-outs”. This of course is a different discussion altogether.

What we should maybe be considering and reflecting upon is how far exactly the missing R100bn could have gone to contribute towards the limitation of unemployment, and maybe even the creation of jobs.   

But how much is R100bn exactly?

One hundred million stacks of a million rands each. One hundred million millions…

At the latest minimum wage in the agricultural sector, a million rand can employ 25 farm labourers for a year. The math is simple. A hundred million million could potentially ensure employment for 2500 million people. For an entire year! Note the fact that in South Africa the unemployment rate in January of 2018 was in the region of 6 million people.

The agricultural sector is merely used as an example. Other sectors of the economy may very well have a different wage structures which would naturally influence these numbers. But the principle remains – money that could have ensured employment for South Africans has been lost.

Land reform remains a contentious issue within the South African discourse. It has been for a long time, and it will continue to be until such time as it has been addressed. Yet, very little progress has been made with this key issue. It is regularly pointed out that ample land is available on the free market, yet it is claimed that there is not enough funding available to complete acquisition of this land for the purpose of redistribution. One cannot help but wonder what impact R100bn could have made in addressing the imbalances of a sad and divided past.   

Travelling through our beautiful country one does not have to go far before encountering squatter camps and a variety of other informal housing types. It is well known that South Africa is plagued by a housing backlog. If one assumes that an RDP house can be erected at a cost of R 100 000, capital expenditure of R100bn would have made possible 1 000 million dwellings. The backlog in 2016 was estimated to be in the region of 2,1 million dwellings by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. It thus stands to reason that, if a mere 25% of the outflow of capital to state capture could have been prevented, the housing backlog that challenges the people of South Africa could have been all but eradicated.

In January 2018 a little girl by the name of Zailee was born in a rural town in the Free State province. Unfortunately, being premature, her respiratory system was underdeveloped, and medical intervention was urgently required. Sadly, the regional hospital where she was born and admitted to neonatal ICU lacked the correct equipment to successfully intubate her. Zailee was transferred to a larger hospital, where the right equipment was available. But it was too late for Zailee, and after eight days her frail little body succumbed to the initial damage that may very well have been prevented by the availability of the correct equipment where she was born. Her grieving mother will probably always wonder, if some of the R100bn that was “captured” would have rather been allocated to the procurement of medical equipment, if her little girl might have one day been a loving mother herself.

We look at our children as future leaders. But without a decent education they will never be able to reach their full potential. Yet, we are constantly reminded that schools are overpopulated, resulting in less than optimal outcomes being achieved with education. At a cost of R300M per school, the math can easily be done to determine how many schools the children of South Africa have been deprived of. Decent schools, with proper infrastructure. Unlike the one where an innocent little Michael Komape died in 2014 after drowning in a pit toilet.

The sad part is that this is not money that needed to be generated or found – it was already available! Only, it was misappropriated, and as such lost, and could not be put to use to benefit the people that was supposed to be deriving the benefit from their own taxpayers money.

So let us not fall into the trap of thinking that corruption is some foreign and far away monster. It is right here, right now. And it is adversely affecting the lives of people within our own country.

Corruption, of which state capture is a prime example, is daily robbing our nation of opportunities.

Opportunities to prosper.

Opportunities to be employed.

Opportunities to have a decent roof over our heads and those of our families.

Opportunities to have the peace of mind of world class healthcare

Opportunities to give our children wings to fly through education.

Opportunities to develop infrastructure that will efficiently serve the people of our country.  

The question that we have to ask ourselves is: “Where do I stand in relation to corruption? What responsibilities can I assume, where I am, within my sphere of influence, to ensure that this illness is nipped in the bud, before it gets an opportunity to grow it’s horrible tentacles like a sick cancer?”

In the final instance, it is up to each one of us to be the change that we would like to see, where we are, when we are there, with whatever means we have at our disposal.

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