The brittle condition of South Africa’s moral backbone

The brittle condition of South Africa’s moral backbone
I read Willem Landman’s piece entitled, “SA is already knee deep in moral bankruptcy” with great interest and sadness. However, I do believe there are enough people in South Africa today who feel as strongly as I on this matter, and if all these people could band together in the fight against a corrupt and unethical society and start building a common ethos of honesty, authenticity, regard for others, accountability and social justice, life for our children and their children has far more promise in the future. Individuals and groups should start a public discourse, form a forceful coalition that will contribute to the advancement of a more ethical South African society. In Tony Manning’s view, “If you don’t make a difference, you don’t matter” and we must make a difference to show that our beliefs matter in making society better.
Willem Landman, CEO of the Ethics Institute of South Africa ( offers some harsh points [extracted by me] when he claims, “The state of ethics in our country – in our politics, economy and even personal lives – is in a critical state. There is a growing gap between the normative vision of 1994 and what has happened since then. By means of our Constitution, we committed ourselves to a new value system, but in our personal and professional lives, we are increasingly moving away from those values….the basic prerequisites for an ethical journey in our personal and public lives were established, namely extraordinary people as role models and democratic institutions imbedded in a standard-setting legal structure. But it is in our public life – in our political economy – that the depth of our moral bankruptcy is reaching serious proportions. Indicative of this is the behaviour of our politicians and public officials…..They do not understand the difference between the law and ethics….. public health care and education were the most unfortunate examples of the lack of ethics…… Almost all the speakers [at a recent conference] highlighted our sad lack of ethical leadership.” We need to act on this immediately.
One of the most commonly held views today seems to be, as long as it’s legal who cares if it’s ethical. Courts are overrun with cases that should never have been addressed by the legal system at all – if only those involved had acted ethically. Our society is morally bankrupt simply because its ‘ethics’ bank account has been robbed to pay for the legal costs of the ever-increasing reliance on litigation to solve battles created by unethical businessmen, politicians and the like. We must act to change this.

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