Makhosi Khoza is a woman of courage

August 17, 2017

Makhosi Khoza is the woman of the hour in South Africa, she has carried out campaigns against corruption and the corrupt. I must say I’m fascinated by her bravery and confidence. Corruption is evil and it affects all corners of the globe, whether in developed or developing countries. But in South Africa, the allegations of state capture by an Indian family known as the Guptas, has attracted a lot of criticism to the current leadership of the country and the ruling party, African National Congress. Anti-corruption campaigns in South Africa follow a dominant worldview that see corruption as something evil. Campaigns against corruption in South Africa paint it as an extraordinary crime carried out by greedy people which has made Makhosi Khoza a household name in the country and beyond. In South Africa, preaching anti-corruption messages, most campaigns neglect local cultural norms and values. In designing anti-corruption campaigns, the country import an understanding of practices labelled as corrupt from developed countries, which generally value individualism and are not averse to conflict.It’s difficult to apply these notions in South Africa’s anti-corruption campaigns without taking into account the complexities of values, such as collectivism and social harmony.This lack of cultural sensitivity in preaching against corruption has created fear and discomfort, demonised certain cultural practices and genuine intentions, with an outcome that is far from desirable. As Makhosi Khoza has shown, a greater sensitivity to context is needed to effectively change people’s behaviour and attitudes towards corruption.Makhosi Khoza look at corruption from the point of view of the individual actors and not generalizing it. She is a woman who encounter issues of corruption daily and have to decide what to do and thats to fight the corrupt and corruption itself. Some of my South African friends talk about corruption with nuance. The dominant view of corruption as evil is there, but it’s distant from their own lives. Makhosi Khoza doesn’t like the fact that members of the ruling party talk about corruption that is out there as opposed to their own practices, which they consider as not corruption or less corrupt and therefore not evil or less evil.In Makhosi Khoza’s own words, they see a spectrum of badness in practices associated with corruption. The dominant view in looking at corruption has often missed this important insight.South Africans attach the label corruption only to practices that are seen in excess or in a magnitude that they consider unacceptable to them.

South Africans determine corruption based on how severe the act is, which depends upon group or social norms like has been the case with the Guptas. This means the label corruption does not stand on its own and it is always seen in relation to other practices.Makhosi Khoza view is that people talk about difficulties of disengaging from corrupt practices, they don’t talk about abusing power like the way Gupta family has been accused of. People talk more about relationships and caring about others.Makhosi Khoza fight against the corrupt in South Africa will help her better understand people’s attitudes towards corruption. Her view challenges the dominant ethics theory that views individuals as free agents of graft.Back in my elementary school days, our teacher taught us in ethics theory that individuals are expected to apply abstract standardized principles not only to hypothetical scenarios but also to real and often highly conflicted situations in life like politics.In fact, people do not make decisions based on standardized principles and instead base decisions on what they think is best for others and their relationships with others, emphasizing the connectedness and dependencies in human life.Makhosi Khoza has demonstrated that South Africans affected by issues such as corruption rarely think in a linear manner as described in decision-making models. In making decisions South Africans don’t usually go through a step-by-step process of defining the problem, identifying the criteria and risks involved, developing alternatives and eventually making a supposedly well-informed decision like she has done by highlighting what the Guptas have captured the different institutions of influence in South African government from state apparatus, finance ministry and media.What I am seeing in Makhosi Khoza ongoing analysis is that, for South Africans who don’t engage in corruption, their identity is built around being a change agent, being a pious person and being an example for others which duly fits Makhosi Khoza. Those who do engage or become complicit in corruption may see themselves as living the norm like the Gupta family and see the practice as the only way to get things moving around South Africa.One of the taglines in Makhosi Khoza’s anti-corruption campaign is honesty is key to the future of South Africa including her own children.Makhosi Khoza campaign calls for people to rise and to fight corruption to the best of their abilities, even if this include jeopardising their livelihood and other people they care about.But the number of South Africans who want to do what Makhosi Khoza is advocating is growing.She is a woman who doesn’t want to defend corruptors. Makhosi Khoza is identifying existing biases and limitations is just as crucial as the effort of improving governance itself across South Africa and apart from the corrupt who have threatened her with death, rest should rally behind her and be proud of her braveness.

Contador Harrison