Once upon a time we were appalled when the minister of health squandered R15m on the musical Sarafina 2. That was 1995. Today, we wince and brace for more bad news when we hear that parastatal Eskom lost R20bn in the past financial year. It’s not just the scale — of corruption, collusion and capture — that has changed but the scope too. The effects are all linked. All of it is avoidable. It starts and ends with business. It starts with using a middleman to get the contract. The middleman gets paid a commission on the total value of the deal. Let’s call it 20%. On a contract of R100m, that’s R20m that wasn’t budgeted for, that will probably be extracted from this country and deposited in a bank vault offshore. But it’s not just the inflating of prices or the extractive corruption where money is physically removed from the SA system. It’s the corrosive, insidious and all-pervasive effects associated with it. For a start, the person to whom the kickback is paid has probably done nothin...

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