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Crippling effects of corruption on the poor

Recently, I got a call from a very good friend mine. I met this guy while at varsity. He asked me to come drive him home since he was already over the required level of alcohol consumption to drive himself.

I hastened to his rescue, but right as we were about to park, another friend called and told us police had arrested him for drunk driving.

Knowing the situation could get worse, we sped to the location where police were holding our friend. On our arrival, we found that the cops had literally asked him to drive slowly behind them until we arrived with his informal bail (R100) to release him. To put it nicely, the poor guy was under strict police escort.

My friend paid the bribe and then we left - very easy and without any complications. And apparently for these people this is normal.

Bribery is often the most direct experience of corruption for a person. It doesn't only cost the individual paying the bribe - it also undermines the efficient and equitable allocation of resources, people's respect for the rule of law and the overall integrity of a society.

People regularly pay bribes to get their driver's licence, considered as a chief factor why so many people take forever to obtain their licence.

To a varying degree, corruption exists in almost all countries. However, the degree to which it impacts common people's lives and increases poverty is directly proportional to the level of this scourge and how widespread it is in society.

Rampant crime and corruption, at all levels, significantly undermine and contaminate our efforts in trying to build a strong and unified South Africa.

A country's development depends on how much of the State's resources are lost to corruption. In developed countries, the adverse impact tends to be marginal and does not endanger the welfare of its people. In contrast, for poor countries this has a significant impact.

Corruption can, and often does, infringe on fundamental rights and this is a problem many people are not aware of. It deprives ordinary people of basic services they are entitled to have access to, but cannot due to greed and power manipulation.

Corruption is bound to flourish in a culture that encourages display of affluence without any regard as to how the wealth has been obtained.

Lack of accountability plays a crucial role in the promotion of bribery and resistance to any form of reform.

When dominant groups of people buy influence over government decisions or when public funds are diverted into the coffers of the political elite, ordinary people suffer.

This made me realise how toxic and embedded corruption is in our systems and people that it seems normal and the logical thing to do. The manner in which this has been accepted in our society heightened my nerves, and got me thinking… we seem to have grown increasingly oblivious to what used to be right and opted for the unconventional way of doing things.

Corruption is corruption, it does not matter how big or small and if we do not stand up and change this culture - which seems to be growing exponentially - we are running the risk of moral depletion and lawlessness. This speaks of moral malnutrition and the sense of moral decay our country is facing.

The disturbing truth that many people hate to hear is that not all problems and challenges require financial intervention, but the drive and desire to earn a good living makes us risk our lives and those of our loved ones in this relentless pursuit of money and survival.

The extreme poverty and lack of infrastructure and basic services in South Africa are in part fuelled by bribery, influence peddling, extortion and abuse of power.

The poor people will always bear the brunt because decisions to allocate public resources are distorted by money, power, access, connections or some combination of the above.

A country's government is in a unique position to lead the societal response to corruption, to set standards, to put anti-corruption laws in place and ensure these laws are implemented.

Failure to do so in a timely manner will continue to frustrate the poor and make them weary of the current democratic system and drive them to extremism.

But are governments around the world doing enough?

Leeto Khoza is a member of the EWN Online Team.