Grace and peace to you…
Corruption scandals abound: From Nkandla to Panama. By Panama I am referring to the 11.5 million “Panama-Papers” released this past week exposing how over 150 politicians in over 50 countries (together with many more rich and powerful people) hide “their” money in “shell” or fake companies located in off-shore-tax-havens.
I am always amazed when some people respond to corruption, inequality and injustice by saying: The Bible says: “do not judge”, so who am I to judge? This (mis)-use of Scripture promotes an abdication of responsibility of our collective living. It attempts to turn the vice of apathy into a scriptural virtue.
Of course we are called to judge. We are called to judge what is right and what is wrong. All ways of doing life are not equal. Some ways of living bring life while others bring death. We are called to choose life and this means we are called to expose and resist the ways of deathliness in the world.
BUT while judging what is right and wrong; life-giving or death-bringing we are NOT allowed to judge ourselves to be better than others. We are not allowed to judge Mr Zuma and the Panama-Paper-people as worse than ourselves. To judge in this regard is a denial of Jesus’ teaching that the splinter in another’s eye is of the same substance as that which is lodged in our own eye. This denial therefore places as much distance between the guilty party and ourselves which is convenient but less than truthful. The truth is that many of us have our own little Nkandlas where we have used our power and influence to secure undue benefit and our own Panama-shell-companies where we hide our excesses.
To know that we carry the same corrupt substance within us doesn’t however mean that we have no right to say or do anything. All it means is that whatever we say and do is said and done with due humility and mercy. Our aim should always be more redemptive than punitive.
Should Mr Zuma step down? Of course he should because the integrity or lack thereof within individuals in positions of power makes an almighty difference to all of our wellbeing. But let it be said that the removal of the likes of Mr Zuma and others without changing the systems of power that enable and protect and unfairly benefit a few at the expense of the many will mean little. Systems outlive people. Remove the individuals without addressing these systems and corruption is certain to continue by the next crop of head-honchos that take their place. And some of these systems are in fact legal – but sadly legal does not mean that they are just, e.g. Apartheid was legal and unjust.
One of the issues facing the world all over is the relationship between money and politics. Ensuring greater transparency in this area with stringent mechanisms of accountability is imperative for politics to be more life-giving. This is true for each of us too. Greater transparency about our own relationship with money will bring us and others a deeper fullness of life. Therefore I hope we will allow the Nkandla and Panama scandals to be a mirror to help us to see ourselves more clearly. And that as we call others to rightfully step down, we will address ourselves with equal passion.