In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Dispenser of Grace
`Id al-Fitr Khutbah
Corruption in South Africa: Beyond the Narrative of State Capture
1st Shawwal 1438
We gather here at this `Id al-Fitr service today to bid farewell to the blessed and beautiful month of Ramadan. By the Grace of Allah, the ever-Merciful and all-Compassionate, our spiritual and moral resources have been replenished by the great blessings of fasting. We pray that Allah accept our fast (siyam), prayer (qiyam), supplication (du`a), and acts of charity (sadaqah) and good deeds (`amal al-salihat). On `Id al-Fitr we celebrate our spiritual achievements and accomplishments of the past Ramadan, and we look forward to meeting the challenges of the next year with renewed hope and determination.
In particular, during the past Ramadan, we have had some wonderful initiatives at the Claremont Main Road Masjid (CMRM) that we hope will inspire us to transform our lives and our inter-personal relationships with others. For example, our wellness programme inspired us to embrace healthy lifestyles. Our post-tarawih talks created an awareness of environmental justice, people living with disabilities, and the myriad struggles of refugees in our country. Our children’s programmes provided ways for us to foster a child friendly masjid ethos. Our youth day weekend reflections and discussions once again underscored the value of inter-generational dialogue. Most of all it gave us renewed hope for a generation of youth who are socially conscious, courageous, not afraid to speak truth to power, and who aspire to live in a world free from social injustice, economic inequality and political expediency. We share these aspirations with our youth, and therefore it behoves us to identify and critically reflect on the challenges we have to overcome in order to realize a more just and equitable society.
Hence, in this `Id al-Fitr khutbah, I would like to identify some of the critical challenges facing our country at this captious juncture in our history and provide some modest guidelines for conscientious Muslims and responsible South African citizens to engage the socio-political, economic and moral crises unfolding at this present time. My hope is to inspire all of us to become active participants in the struggle for social justice and especially to affirm the full dignity of the poor and the marginalized in our country. This is precisely the kind of consciousness that fasting in Ramadan is supposed to engender, and is indeed what this great day of `Id al-Fitr symbolizes. In this regard, it is instructive to note that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s everlasting peace and blessing be upon him) envisioned the day of `Id al-Fitr to be a day of recommitting ourselves to strive towards a more just and compassionate society, free of hunger and poverty, and so he proclaimed:
فَرَضَ رَسُوْلُ اللّٰهِ ﷺ زَكَاةَ الْفِطْرِ، وَقَالَ ) :أَغْنُوْهُمْ فِي هٰدَا الْيَوْمِ (. وَفِي رِوَايَةٍ لِلْبَيْهَقِيْ ) : أَغْنُوْهُمْ عَنِ طَوَافِ هٰدَا الْيَوْمِ (.
“Liberate the poor and the marginalized on this day (of `Id al-Fitr) by freeing them from making tawaf i.e. going around in search of sustenance and dignity.”
(Hadith reported by al-Bayhaqi and al-Daraqutni)
The Challenge of ‘State Capture’ and Corruption
I would like to start my reflections with the challenge of ‘state capture’ and corruption. Since former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela published her report entitled ‘State of Capture’ in October 2016, the issue has dominated public debate in South Africa. ‘State capture’ can simply be defined as a type of systemic corruption in which small private groups or corporate interests significantly influence a state’s decision-making processes to their own economic advantage. In such cases, a form of shadow state is bred whose chief aim is to exploit the country’s resources for its own personal benefit.
Following the release of the Public Protectors’ report we have seen sustained protests and unprecedented calls from civil society, trade unions, and even from within the South African cabinet, for President Jacob Zuma to resign because of his alleged corrupt relationship with the Gupta family. During the past Ramadan new incriminatory revelations exposing the bizarre and corrupt relationship between President Zuma, his son Duduzane, influential members of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Gupta family has come to the fore.
In my considered view, the scourge of corruption is not a new South African crisis, but is an affliction that has troubled conscientious social justice activists for a very long time. Almost two decades ago in a 1988 `Id al-Fitr khutbah, I raised the alarm that the euphoria which characterized the first few years of our democracy had vanished and that white collar crime, private indulgence and a decline in public morality was noticeable at all levels of our society. The focus of my 2012 `Id al-Fitr khutbah was on corruption. I argued that corruption had become endemic in our society and that our silence rendered us accomplices. Why then did it take almost two decades for this crisis of corruption to be fully recognized? Why has it become such a vexed issue that is mobilizing such widespread and legitimate outrage within our society at this time? And most intriguingly, why is the widespread and endemic crisis of corruption in South Africa currently being reduced to so-called ‘state capture’?
I believe that a number of factors have coalesced to produce the current crisis of corruption. Notwithstanding, it is no coincidence that the quandary of ‘state capture’ has reached these mammoth proportions during the year in which the ruling ANC is convening its national consultative conference to elect a new party president. In light of this, I would like to call on social justice activists to be vigilant about not allowing our noble struggle to be hijacked by factions within the ANC who would like to advance their own political agendas at the ANC’s national elective conference in December 2017. Simply put, getting rid of President Jacob Zuma and replacing him with Cyril Ramphosa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or any other high-ranking ANC leader, is not the magic wand and solution for our country’s deeply perilous situation.
Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy in Society
It is palpable that our country’s corruption dilemma is much more than President Zuma, the Guptas, and ‘state capture’. In fact, it would be naïve of us to think that we are simply faced with a political crisis of leadership when it is obvious that the situation goes much deeper. In terms of the economy, South Africa is also experiencing a major economic crisis as our Gini-coefficient i.e. the measure of the gap between the rich and poor, confirms that we are the most unequal society in the world. It is even more disconcerting to realize that over and above the political and economic crisis, our distressing situation also points to the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of our society where the value placed on human life, and on women and children’s lives in particular, has been eroded. How else can we explain the wanton killing and brutal raping of girl children and women? Credible statistics indicate that in South Africa a woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours, making our country’s femicide rate five times higher than the global average. The wide-range and acute crisis of corruption we are faced with is aptly depicted in the Glorious Qur’an in verse 41 of chapter 30, surah al-Rum, where Allah the Lord of Compassionate Justice proclaims:
ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ
لِيُذِيقَهُمْ بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
Corruption is flourishing in the land and the sea as a consequence of people’s deeds; God makes them taste and suffer some of the consequences of their vile actions so that they may turn back from corruption. (Q30:41)
From the above verse of the Qur’an we learn that corruption is not merely a material challenge facing the political economy of South Africa, but it is also a spiritual, moral, and social concern. How should we as conscientious Muslims and responsible South African citizens respond to this grave crisis of corruption in all of its forms?
It is always edifying to examine the life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s everlasting peace and blessings be upon him) who was an excellent example of an active citizen and a principled leader. Throughout his life he assumed the dual responsibility of being both a spiritual leader as well as a social justice activist. The divine revelations that he received throughout his 23 year prophetic mission, demanded social and economic justice, and inspired him to constantly strive towards a more just and compassionate society. In this regard, he made sure that his message to the people always constituted a radical protest against the corruption, exploitation and arrogance of the Makkan elite. In a prophetic tradition (hadith), narrated by the companion, Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) and recorded in the hadith collection of Imam Muslim, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have declared:
عن أبي سعيد الخدري – رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنهُ – قال:
سمعت رَسُول اللَّهِ – صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم – يقول:
(( مَنْ رأى منكم منكرًا فليغيره بيده، فإن لم يستطع فبلسانه، فإن لم يستطع فبقلبه؛ وذلك أضعف الإيمان ))
“Whosoever amongst you sees an evil, let him change it with
his hands; and if he is not able, then with his tongue; and if
he is not able, then let him hate it in his heart, and that
is the weakest of faith.”
Moreover, our beloved Prophet (pbuh) has counselled us in another hadith recorded in the collection of Mishkat al-Masabih as follows:
كَـمَـا تَـكُـونُـوا يُـولَّـى عَـلَـيْـكُـم
“Your leadership will be a reflection of you (the people).” [Mishkat al-Masabih]
The critical message of this hadith is substantiated by the Glorious Qur’an in surah al-An`am, chapter 6 verse 129 in which Allah, the Lord of Wisdom, proclaims:
وَكَذَلِكَ نُوَلِّي بَعْضَ الظَّالِمِينَ بَعْضًا بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ
“(During the course of history) We let some (Zalimun) corrupt and unjust people rule over others on account of what they (the people) have earned for themselves.” (Q6:129)
Classical Muslim scholars clearly understood the key message of the above Islamic guiding principle on governance and leadership. The renowned classical Muslim scholar, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d.1350) echoed this message with great clarity when he affirmed:
“People will get the leaders which they deserve.”
This is the same critical lesson that we need to learn from our past twenty three years of living in post-apartheid democratic South Africa: if we want a strong and robust democracy then each of us needs to become active citizens who hold government and those in leadership positions accountable for their moral and political mandates. In doing so, I offer the following modest advice resulting from my experience of social justice activism as well as deep reflection on the question of the relationship between civil society and the state.
Beware of an Obsession With the State
First, during the current wave of social justice activism, it is important to remind ourselves and especially those who have heeded the call for President Zuma to resign, that the critical motor of social change does not lie in the support of any political party, politician or candidate president, but rather in a robust, independent, well-organized civil society that holds those in power accountable for their political and moral mandates. Even more importantly, we need a paradigm shift – a shift in thought and action. We desperately need to rid ourselves of the ill-founded obsession that our entire fate rests with the state. While we need a just, compassionate and caring state, such a state can only be genuinely realized if we build and nurture a just, compassionate and caring society. We therefore need to reallocate our energies and resources towards grassroots empowerment and make this our priority rather than exclusively focusing on liberating our current state from capture by certain powerful interest groups.
Challenge Neo-liberal and Capitalist Economic Policies
Second, we should use the current wave of activism to spawn a resilient mass movement of people who are dedicated to transforming the political economy and social fabric of our society. This socio-political change should move us from a culture of covetousness, self-entitlement and greed, to that of selflessness, altruism and compassion. In order to achieve this goal, we need to collectively work towards exposing and mitigating the devastating consequences of the neo-liberal and capitalist economic policies being pursued by our ANC-led government. As such, we should be critical of those who have joined the bandwagon for Zuma to resign only because their capitalist self-interests are under threat. In this regard, it is important to call out the selective outrage of many South Africans and liberal activists. I would like to echo the sobering and inspirational words of Witwatersrand university student activist, Fasiha Hassan who said the following in a pre-khutbah lecture in this masjid on Friday 16 June 2017:
“There is outrage at #ZumaMustFall, there is outrage at Nkandla and state capture, but where was the outrage when 43 miners were assassinated and massacred in Marikana. Where was the outrage when our masses of the people did not have their grants paid and had to face the fact that they would not be able to put food on the table. Where was the outrage when it comes to issues of land redistribution? Why are we only outraged when it is only our economy and our money that is at stake? Because we have become so consumed with lining our pockets, not just as a state but as a society as a whole, that we become so self-interested.”
It is not only ANC politicians and members who bear responsibility for the current state of affairs in our country. Big business and captains of industry are also culpable of perpetuating a capitalist economic system that thrives on and maintains economic inequalities, and spawns a culture of greed, materialism and avariciousness. We will only be able to root out all forms of corruption, including that of ‘state capture’, if we work to combat corruption at the systemic level.
Seek Strategic Alliances
Third, as civil society we need to acknowledge that our lethargy, cynicism and lack of action have rendered us complicit in enabling the corruption that is rampant in our beloved country. Therefore, it is my considered view that while we recognize the power agendas of competing ANC factions and other political parties, we should also seek strategic alliances with protest movements that call out corruption, including those who have called for President Jacob Zuma to step down. In this regard, I would like to suggest that the Claremont Main Road Masjid participate in the national convention of civil society organizations proposed by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and other civil society formations. This consultative convention of the people will include a broad base of South Africans who will plan the way towards a just, equitable, reconciled, peaceful and corruption-free South Africa. The CMRM should support this call by the SACC including its resolutions.
During the past Ramadan at its 2017 Triennial Conference on June 8 in Benoni, the SACC called on its members to withdraw their moral support from the government. The Conference also resolved to call for the dissolution of Parliament and for fresh national elections to be held in order to secure a new mandate based on acceptable values and integrity. Consonant with the SACC position, the CMRM mandate should not be limited to a mere call for President Zuma to resign, but should also call on the entire cabinet and current ANC leadership to take full responsibility for enabling the current crisis of corruption and ‘state capture’. However, the CMRM end goal should not be limited to the election of a new government. We should continue the struggle for economic and social justice for all, and therefore also support the struggle for service delivery and land redistribution, resist the gentrification of our neighborhoods, protect our farmland from urban development, and support the fight for free, quality and decolonized education. It is only through our continued support of all of these struggles that we can truly claim to live up to the aspirations of our youth and live in a world free from social injustices, economic inequality and political expediency.
In conclusion, on this great day of `Id al-Fitr we celebrate all those who purposefully live their lives in the cause of social justice and lovingly spend of their time and resources in helping to make the world a more just and humane place. On this day of `Id al-Fitr let us reflect seriously on how we can support the struggle for the eradication of violence against women and children in our homes, in our communities, and in our country. Let us use this prodigious day of `Id al-Fitr as the dawning of a renewed appreciation for our role as conscientious Muslims and responsible South African citizens in stemming the tide of gender-based violence. Let us take forward the great levels of self-discipline, moral rejuvenation (tazkiyya al-nafs) and solidarity (ukhuwwa) we have fostered during the past month of fasting and work towards sustaining and nourishing the virtues of egalitarianism, compassion and social justice in the coming year.
Today we spare a thought for the people of Syria and Yemen who continue to face the ravages of war and political instability in their countries. We pray for the people of Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Palestine, Rohingya, Central African Republic, Libya and elsewhere in the world. We pray that wisdom guide the leadership in these countries to fashion a more compassionate, just and caring world.
Finally, ‘Id-al-Fitr is also a day on which we remember and honour the memories of our family and friends who have passed on to the hereafter. Today they are no longer physically with us, but their memories live with us forever. We may remember our deceased loved ones by visiting their graves and saying a prayer (du’a) on their departed souls and we may honour their memory by visiting and paying respects to some of their closest relatives and dearest friends.
اَللّٰهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَرْحَمْهُمْ وَسَكِّنْهُمْ فَي الْجَنَّةِ
O Allah pardon our deceased, have mercy on their souls
and grant them the abode of paradise.
On this blessed day of `Id al-Fitr, please join me in a making a special prayer for an end to ‘state capture’ and all other forms of corruption at every level of our society and country.
Ya Rabbana wa Rabba Kulli Shay’ – Our Lord and Sustainer of Everything that Exists;
We are grateful that you have blessed our country South Africa with rich resources
Ya Rabb al-Rahma – O Lord of Compassion, Mercy and Forgiveness;
We are deeply remorseful for the perverse use of your gifts and blessings through our acts of injustice and corruption.
Ya Rabb al-Mustad`afin – O Lord of the Oppressed;
We are mindful of the harm and suffering this inflicts on many people in our country who are hungry, unemployed, defenseless, and lack the basic necessities to live a life of dignity.
Ya Rabb al-Shifa’ – O Lord of Healing;
Help us to heal our souls from greed and avarice and to heal our nation from the scourge of corruption.
Ya Razzaq – O Provider of Sustenance;
Grant us the will and capacity to use our country’s resources for the well-being of all of its citizens.
Ya Rabba al-Qist – O Lord of Justice and Compassion;
Help us to raise just leaders and caring citizens who will lead our country to the path of peace, prosperity and loving kindness.
Lord of all Cultures and of all Humankind;
We ask this through your Holy and Beautiful names.
May you all have a festive ‘Id and May you live well and in the Grace of the Lord Compassion.
ألله أكبر، الله أكبر، الله أكبر، الله أكبر ولله الحمد
God is Greater than: All Praise, Thanks and Gratitude belongs to God Alone
I greet you all:
‘Id Sa’id Wa Mubarak
May You Enjoy a Happy and Blessed `Id
Kullu ‘Am Wa Antum Bikhayr Ma’as-Salamah Was-Sihhah
May your entire year be filled with Goodness, Peace and Health
Baie Slamat vir Labarang