'Scandals are relative: Why the Island’s political troubles are actually a sign of good health'

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By Douglas Kruger

SCANDAL in the corridors of power! Jersey’s politics is in an uproar at the highest echelons. The winds of anarchy are blowing.

…But are they really?

Over the past few weeks, our island community has followed the explosive allegations, inciting letters, and scandalising announcements emanating from a couple of political scandals at the zenith of our government.

I admit that I haven’t scoured the details with a fine-toothed comb, but to me it sounds like little more than a personality clash on one hand, and a distant connection to a connection of a connection on the other. And it makes me smile.

Don’t misunderstand, my mirth comes not from dark glee. I take no joy in local upsets. It’s the opposite. I smile in gratitude, a fact that may take some explaining.

Step into your DeLorean with me. We shall be travelling not just in time, but place. Give the flux capacitor a tap, then type in: ‘South Africa, 9 May, 2009.’ Some of us will recognise this as the day of the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma. (Cue horror music).

Emerging out of Apartheid, South Africa enjoyed nearly 15 years of genuine hope, first under the inspiring Nelson Mandela, then under the at-least-fairly-innocuous Thabo Mbeki. Business boomed. Our sports teams, previously barred from participating in international competitions, became the envy of the world. Prospects looked strong in a nation that honestly strove to become harmoniously multiracial.

Then, by hook and by crook, our third president and first polygamist of the new era crept to power, and it was akin to the coming of storm clouds.

I won’t bore you with his entire atrocious legacy. A sprinkling of highlights from his two terms will do. This was a president who once faced over 700 charges of crime and corruption, while in office. How anyone racks up triple-digit misdeeds, particularly when he has six wives and 15 children to tend to, remains baffling. This is not even to mention his extra-marital affairs.

Zuma built a gigantic mansion for his extensive family using public funds, the infamous ‘Nkandla’. (For a good laugh, look up his ‘fire pool’). He simultaneously sold-out South Africa’s state institutions to international criminals, whom authorities still can’t seem to extradite from the UAE, in the beginnings of a long-broiling scandal known as ‘state capture’, and was actually sentenced to serve prison time by his own Constitutional Court.

That last one may sound positive, but it never pans out in practice. Top African National Congress members do not serve prison time. Each year, amounts averaging over 40-billion rand go missing from the nation’s public coffer. That’s a little shy of two billion pounds, year after year after year, and that’s in a nation where less than a million people pay over 60% of the tax for a population of approximately 60 million.

No one – I repeat, no one – has ever gone to prison for it.

Under this man’s calamitous reign, my nation sank to claim the dubious honour of ‘most corrupt government on earth’ several times.

I love the country of my birth. You’d be hard-pressed to find a South African who doesn’t. I openly despise the corruption of its government. The reality is, South Africans don’t leave their nation, their community, their beloved home. They leave the ANC.

The legacy continues, even after Zuma’s departure. The greatest travail facing SA today is the slow collapse of the power grid. Turns out when corruption is a cultural norm, and you steal all the money earmarked for maintenance, things fall apart.

I took a trip there two weeks ago. The power went off consistently at least three times a day, for several hours, in order to ease pressure on the grid, and people attempt to work around it by charging devices when they can. Traffic is carnage when the lights go out.

These blackouts have simply become normal. A businessman appointed to fix the issue, André de Ruyter, resigned after someone allegedly tried to poison him with cyanide-laced coffee, before he could make corruption charges against those in power.

So, forgive me if I think that a spat between several of our officials is actually cause for celebration, in that something so relatively minor qualifies here as a ‘scandal’.

That, my fellow Islanders, is the sign of an extraordinarily healthy system.

Let’s deal with the issue, by all means, because it matters that we maintain the rule of governance. But let’s also keep it in perspective. This is not a disaster; not really. If this is the scale of our scandals, the Channel Islands are in very good shape.

  • Douglas Kruger is an award-winning professional speaker and author. His books are all available via Amazon and Audible. Meet him at douglaskruger.com.

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