Inequality in the church: Obedience or Ignorance?

Does the bible promote inequality in churches?

…and God said, “Go ye forth, milking dry the springs of prosperity from all peoples and nations. Take from the poor, prey on the sick, and manipulate the needy. In this manner, each may have jet planes, mansions, and shiny jewels according to the strength of his hustle and depth of his compromise…”

If you are a not a frequent reader of the bible, you might assume that there is such a scripture. Truth is, that is what many of the Christians leaders around the world consciously practice.

The Prosperity Gospel (originally known as Seed Faith) began as what could be considered a “grift” (scam) that took shape in the early to mid 50s through tent meetings that moved from town to town, and city to city, in a procession of eighteen wheeler trucks. It initially attached itself to the Pentecostal movement who were excited to hear about the advertised claims of miracles that would happen at these tent meetings – the precursors to the cleaner looking multimillion dollar “healing and miracle” events of today.

In the early 2000s, we witnessed a staggering increase of these men and women who are drawing millions of Christians around the world to believe that they are superior beings “ordained”, “highly spirit-led” men and women of God who deserve better than what their congregants have.

This teaching is adopted from the misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 9:14 and 1 Timothy 5:17 and has led many into despair and an increasing poverty in their homes. Yes the bible teaches that we need to honour our leaders, but the bible doesn’t say that “you should take all your money, and you will see what the Lord will do for you.”

During some of my engagements with many believers in the Christian faith, I always alert them that in order to understand any scripture in the bible, one needs to first insulate themselves with the Holy Spirit and also take heed of the context and settings thereof. When, where, who and to whom the message is said determines how it will be received and perceived.

One popular scripture used by church leaders in trying to justify their self-proclaimed superiority over congregants is Ephesians 4:11-12 where Apostle Paul writers “And he [Jesus Christ] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints [us], for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” The scripture is very clear and needs no effort to understand. It says that the church and society at large is given these five-fold ministries in order to empower us to become better people. Notice that the Paul says “for the perfecting of the saints” and “for the edifying of the body of Christ” which simply means they are tasked to perfect [empower] us and not us perfecting [empowering] them.

Let’s say you sell oranges on the street and each bag has 15 oranges. You then decide to take out 5 out of the bag and leave the rest 10 inside. The 5 oranges are used for display and advertising purposes to lure potential clients. When you have 5 oranges outside, does it mean they transform into mangoes? Do they change what they are now that they are outside the bag? No! It simply means that the 5 are given a much greater task than the 10. They are supposed to take care of the 10 in the bag. Hence Paul continued to say “For the perfecting of the saints [us not them], for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:12 KJV).

So then, we now know that these folks are tasked to make sure that we lack nothing. But that has changed in our society. Sadly, pastors are regarded as the most important people in the church that the congregants themselves.

Early 2014 I heard from a close pastor of a con artist who was visiting a couple of local Pentecostal churches claiming to be a prophet of God sent to assist them with musical instruments. This man robbed pastors and even kidnapped one of them. I partly blame these “men of God” for not being able to “discern” the fella’s crooked ways. He used cajolery, deception, and manipulation to get what he wants from gullible church leaders.

What I’ve learned about humans is that most of us are so desperate for success to a point that we can do literally anything to attain it. Anything can go extreme. We are caught up in the “he/she has this and that. I also need to have it.” We never understand what people had to go through in order to become successful. We’re just looking for instant means to get rich. Be cautious of fraudsters posing as ministers and preachers of the word who deliberately prey on the insecurities of people by acting as though they know things that their followers cannot know.

In his brilliant song titled Royalty, Mali Music writes “Wolf in sheep’s clothing with a cross on his chest. Taking people’s money, and promising them to be blessed”

I want you to ask yourself: “Am I being obedient to God when I keep giving all my belongings to these ministers or am I deliberately ignorant?” If you buy your pastor a car ‘cause “God said so” when your neighbour slept with an empty stomach, then I have a problem with your God. Highly anointed people will use their anointing to make money in an earnest but not by guileful manner (emphasis added throughout).

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate Paul’s profound words in Galatians 6:6-10 that the “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.” Therefore we are all equal and we all deserve the Mercedes Benz, private jets, and special treatment as the bible teaches in Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12 about the body of Christ.

Black PHDs

During the festive season, I decided to finally read Chika Onyeani’s book titled Capitalist Nigger. After many years of running away from it due to the commentary I read on it, I felt it was time I had my fair share. Mr. Onyeani’s book was published in 2000 but after reading through it, I thought it was recent looking into the current events. It is still relevant and still does provoke one’s thoughts.

What I have learned about human beings is that when someone hits hard at home, we are quick to jump to protect our infirmities. We haul “though shalt not judge” and pull out the race card. Mr Onyeani’s book “tells it like it is” without fear or favour. That’s why I respect him.

I would like to believe that most black people hold PHDs. I mean the Pull Him/Her Downs. We are so good at obtaining them. I have my reasons which I will argue. This is not to degrade the black race, but to explore one of the many reasons why we don’t make it in life. The first step to solving a problem is to create a point of engagement so that we can identify the many challenges we are facing, out of it comes solutions to move forward.

Do you know what black Africans say when you share your success story with them? They say “ya, but so and so did it better. You are not the first.” Well first and foremost it was never about so and so, it was about showing that “With God, nothing impossible”. If none of you never did it, it means I am the first to do it in your circle. I have been told that and never got a heads up for what I was doing. That’s just too demotivating.

The second week of December I attended the Youth Leadership and Entrepreneurship Emporium in Free State hosted by Sibusiso Leope Education Foundation (SLEF). Sbu shared with us his journey to success and the many challenges he had to face trying to rise up to the top. Having launched the first black owned energy drink – MoFaya, he inspired many of us to go into manufacturing and owning strategic industries that build our economy.

Instead of being inspired, I heard some people say “but that idea was not his”, some said “redbull and other energy drinks are still the best”. That for me disappointed me because for a change we have our very own energy drink which we should be very proud of but people are already criticising without bringing solutions. These are the very people who will rejoice at your downfall and mock you on social media. If that’s how we are going to carry on, then we are on our way to owning nothing and having nothing to be proud of.

Another practical example I recently witnessed was that of a learner who passed her matric. Instead of congratulating the lady, some people said “we never thought she will make it. We will see what happens in varsity.” I was so disappointed again not to hear a simple “congratulations” coming out of their lips.

I’ve observed one particular reason why most of my fellow black Africans don’t succeed in life and that is they can’t appreciate and embrace success of their peers. Instead of being inspired, they feel threatened. You refuse to learn from Abuti Rams because you think you know him too much! Maybe you have schooled with him or maybe you stayed in the same house with him or you are in the same hood together, but that doesn’t mean he can’t teach you something you don’t know.

I guess I sometimes exempt many of successful black folks who at one stage lived in kasi but moved to the suburbs. They argued “why be in a place full of negative people who don’t see success in you but think you are nothing?” It is tough and everyone wants you to be apologetic about succeeding in your endeavours.

I want to see many of my brothers succeed. It can’t always be a handful individuals. Let us put away all manner of hate, jealously and negative talks. Let us learn from each other and help one another become better people. Only better people can make a country better. Don’t be counted amongst those who have no intentions to succeed.

A CHRISTmas without CHRIST

Regifting is a term to represent a form of repackaging a gift from an old partner and present it to your present partner as a birthday present – even though it wasn’t his/her birthday. Pretending it’s someone’s birthday and giving them a gift that is obviously from a second hand emotion isn’t exhibiting love or respect, is it? Well then why do you believe that you are showing Jesus love and respect when you do the exact same thing to Him by regifting paganism and pretending it’s His birthday? Some argue “Christmas is no longer about Jesus Christ. We still go to church on Christmas to thank God for giving us His son Jesus Christ”, and I’d say “well it was NEVER about Him in the first place.”

Each year, millions of people around the world gather around as families, churches and communities to celebrate a widely and commonly known secular holiday called Christmas. This is a holiday celebrated by mostly Christians in honour of the day that their messiah (Jesus Christ) was born. To some (Agnostics, Jews, Atheists, many more) it is just holiday to spend with family and make a lekker braai if you are in South Africa or Kwanzaa in Black American Community. For some of us, it is just another day passing by with no direct meaning to what we believe in. Could it be that we have been corned into worshiping other gods than the God of the bible?

Slowly, and I hope not surely Christianity is becoming irrelevant in our society and it is always stealing from other traditions. As a result, it has become a laughing stock with no facts but lots of fictitious stories. No wonder the increasing, yet alarming rate of Atheism in our society. All thanks to Christians.

Stay with me as we unpack the real truths around Christmas, looking into the 10 questions you need to ask yourself before you wish someone a “Merry Christmas”.

  • Why do we have to observe Christmas if the early church (The Apostles) never observed the birth of Jesus Christ but His Resurrection?
  • If Jesus Christ NEVER commanded us to celebrate his birth but His Resurrection, why do we do it?
  • Why would God tell prophet Jeremiah to tell us NOT to follow heathenish traditions such as Christmas trees (Jeremiah 10:1-5)?
  • What’s the connection between Winter Solstice and the feast of Evil-Merodach on 25 December in Jeremiah 52:31?
  • If the feast of Tabernacles fell on September/October, why are they saying that Jesus was born in December?
  • If gifts were only given to Jesus in Bethlehem, why do we EXCHANGE gifts amongst ourselves?
  • What does Santa Claus and his funny dudes (Elves) have to do with Jesus Christ anyway?
  • What does family feasting have to do with Jesus’ if we are celebrating his birth?
  • Why do we decorate our houses with angels and all those Christmas decorations if we are commanded not to do so in Exodus 20: 3-5?
  • Why does this holiday if being ‘Christian’ make us lose thousands of lives on the roads?

 

Throughout the years, I’ve debated with many Christian leaders in South Africa around this and other subjects such as Easter and Rapture whom up to now haven’t given concrete answers.

I guess I’ve always been inquisitive and I’ve never accepted or done things without understanding their meaning. I’ve always wanted to understand the historical background of why certain things exist and why they are widely accepted. That’s called thinking beyond the obvious. So let’s have a look at the history behind Christmas.

December 25th marks the celebration of the Persian god of light called Mithra and ancient god of agriculture called Saturn by Romans. To this end I find it hard to understand how this blends with Jesus Christ’s birth which NEVER fell December but some time September/October. Luke 2:8 explains that when Christ was born, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Note that they were “abiding” in the field. This never happened in December. Both Ezra 10:9-13 and the Song of Solomon 2:11 show that winter was the rainy season and shepherds could not stay on cold, open fields at night.

The birth of the Messiah is not known for certain, but we can know the approximate time of year when he was born! In the book of Luke we read that the father of John the Baptist was Zacharias, and he was a priest who served at the temple in Jerusalem. He was “of the course of Abia” (Luke 1:5). While serving at the temple, he was informed by an angel that his wife was to have a son, who was to be named “John.” After this, Zacharias finished “the days of his ministration,” and “departed to his own house” (v.23). “And after those days, his wife Elizabeth conceived…” (v. 24).

The pagan festival most closely associated with the new Christmas was the Roman Saturnalia, which honoured the god of the harvest, Saturn, on December 19 and was marked by seven days of riotous merrymaking and feasting. At the same time in northern Europe a similar winter festival known as Yule was celebrated in which giant logs, trimmed with greenery and ribbons, were burnt in honour of the gods and to encourage the sun to shine more brightly. Having incorporated these elements, the Christian Church subsequently added, in the Middle Ages, the Nativity crib and Christmas carols to its customs.

By this time lavish feasting was the highlight of the festivities with large quantities of food, including a decorated boar’s head, ceremoniously consumed over eight or nine hours by rich and poor alike. All this came to an abrupt end in Britain at least when in 1652 the Puritans banned Christmas, a move followed in Massachusetts seven years later. Although Christmas returned to England in 1660 with Charles II and the Restoration, the rituals all but died out until revived in Victorian times.

Christmas as we know it today is thus a 19th-century invention. The decorated Christmas tree, common in German countries for centuries, was introduced to Britain by Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria. Carols were revived and many new ones written, often to traditional melodies. The custom of carol-singing, although with ancient origins, dates mainly from the 19th century. Christmas crackers were invented in the late 19th century by an enterprising English baker, Tom Smith, who, by 1900, was selling 13 million worldwide each year, and Christmas cards only became commonplace in the 1870s, although the first one was produced in London in 1846.

The familiar image of Santa Claus, complete with sleigh, reindeers, and sack of toys, is an American invention which first appeared in a drawing by Thomas Nast in Harper’s Magazine in 1868, although the legend of Father Christmas is ancient and complex, being partly derived from St Nicholas and a jovial medieval figure, the “spirit of Christmas”. In Russia, he traditionally carries a pink piglet under his arm.

Today, Christmas is as much a secular festival as a religious one. It is a time of great commercial activity and for present-giving, family reunions and, in English-speaking countries, a “traditional” Christmas meal of turkey or goose, Christmas pudding, and mince pies. Midnight mass is celebrated in churches and cathedrals in the West. In many countries the custom of lighting the tree, singing carols around it, and opening presents is celebrated on December 24, Christmas Eve (Microsoft Encarta, 2008).

Many Christians insist on celebrating the man-made “holiday” of Christmas, even though many of them know that our Saviour was not born in December. Many have written to The Refiner’s Fire with comments such as, “Who cares when He was born – we celebrate His birth in December!” Apparently they can’t grasp the fact that God’s commands override mankind’s desire to concoct their own “holy days”.

Now let’s look into the Biblical History just a bit, in attempt to understand Jesus Christ’s birth.

YHWH (Yahweh/The Creator/God) arranged for His Son to be born in His timing – as revealed in His Mo’edim – Biblical Feasts/Appointed Times. Yeshua has so far fulfilled on the first FOUR of the SEVEN. Biblical Feasts and there are just three more to go!

One of the Feasts Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled was His own birthday: The first day of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles, which falls in the September/October time frame on our man-made Gregorian calendars – three months before “Christmas”! This makes Christmas a lie on many levels, especially the “Santa Claus” lie we tell our children. Most know that lying is a sin….

Please consider the five (5) facts below as observed by The Refiner’s Fire (www.therefinersfire.org):

1. Shepherds do not “abide in the fields” in December with their sheep in Israel, not 2,000 years ago and not now. It is well known that shepherds stay in shelters starting in November, with the arrival of the rainy season.

2. If you know what the Star of Bethlehem is (Jupiter) then you know when the Nativity was. The Magi told Herod “the time the star appeared” and Herod killed infants two years and under in response. That means the Magi were tracking the “king’s star” for two years, because Herod didn’t stop from killing his own children and his favorite wife, per Josephus. In fact, Josephus says that Augustus Caesar himself remarked that he would rather be one of Herod’s dogs than one of his children. The only “star of kings” that Magi would have known was Jupiter. “Magi” refers to Zoroastrian priests from either Babylon or Persia (Iran or Iraq), both of which are EAST of Israel and both tracked a triple conjunction of Jupiter (the king’s planet) and Saturn(the saviour planet for the Jews) in Aries (the zodiac sing for Syria and Israel in their mythology). Zoroastrians had a myth that their version of Messiah, called “Saoshyant” in their scriptures, would be born “in the west, in a foreign land.” When the triple conjunction, along with a comet and other things, all began in 7 BCE, they knew they had to grab the incense and go. Jupiter even went behind the sun and “died” – was invisible, for more than a year. It emerged triumphantly from behind the sun in mid 6 BCE and tracked west for 4 months, pausing over Bethlehem on Sept. 5 BCE

3. As if that isn’t compelling enough, remember Luke tells us Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, served 15 months in the Temple before Messiah was born. Luke gives us the name of the course: Abijah (Luke 1:5). Guess what? We know when Abijah served during this time, and when we add 15 months it comes again to Sept, 5 BCE.

4. Likewise we can date the first census of Qurinius as well,as Romans counted folks every 14 years and people in Egypt like Josef and Mary were forced to return to their ANCESTRAL HOMES to pay the tax. This is verified in the Bible; it is not open to interpretation!

5. Luke and John synch on the same year for the beginning of Messiah’s ministry: 27 BCE. How do we know that? Forty-six (46) years from the beginning of Herod’s temple and the 15th year of Tiberius bring us to the same year. Coregencies were counted as part of Roman rule, so Tiberiusco-ruled with Augustus starting in 12 CE. Josephus says Herod began building the Temple in 19 BCE. Then Luke says Y’shua was “about 30” when he began his ministry. By this clock, he would be 30 years exactly and a few months. (No year zero (0) in the timeline so four (4) years to 1 BCE +26 to get to Rosh hashanna = 30).

There you have it, there’s just no connection between the birth of Jesus Christ and the Pagan Custom ‘Christmas’. I advise you to go through the pages of the bible to understand what God says about the birth of His Son. Before you say Ho Ho Ho of Santa Claus, consider the Ho-liness of God.

The unfortunate part that the level of ignorance in Christians is growing bigger by the day and as result, they’re swimming in a pool of ignorance. Paul says God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him.” Acts 17:30 (NLT).

One might say, but Abuti Rams does it matter if we celebrate it or not? Of course it does matter to God because James in his epistle says “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17 KJV). Therefore DO GOOD to avoid SIN!

Is your response like so many people, “Oh it doesn’t matter. I don’t use the Christmas tree to worship Scandinavian gods. I observe Christmas in order to show love to Jesus Christ.”? Well let’s read what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10. He writes: “…the things which [the nations], the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink [of] the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.”

We are forced by the Scripture to ask a hard question. You need to ask yourself this: How much are you willing to drink of the cup of the Lord’s table and the cup of the table of demons and conclude that it doesn’t matter to Christ?

I think if Christians were honest, what does the Bible have to say about it and is it fair to repackage something that isn’t Christian to begin with? I think Christ said some amazing things about that when you think about repackaging – mentioning wiccans and witches and witchcraft, warlocks – all of these pagan traditions, can you package that and say I’m going to honour God with this?

I don’t think people think of it in that sense and Christ addressed that over in the Mark 7:9. He said, “All too well you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition.” And so is it fair? Can we really do that? I don’t believe Christians can repackage something and call it Christian when it’s not Christian to begin with.

It’s really time for an honest discussion about this and for everyone who uses that idea as well. Is it okay to use pagan things to worship God or to worship and to honour Christ? Anyone who really understands the Bible understands that, Christ was the One, the God of the Old Testament, and in the Old Testament He told Israel to destroy any vestige of pagan culture that was there and not to adapt it, not to adopt it, not to use it in any way, shape, or form. Theologians really know this. Honest theologians should know this otherwise they’re willingly ignorant.

Educated but broke and unemployed

Just a couple of months back we welcomed thousands more new graduates in our academia. One of the most beautiful and exhilarating moments for many students in higher education. Their achievements have indeed put smiles on their long faces who have put up with the difficulties of long hours of studying in cold, hot and windy days. The sheer joy in the hearts of parents around the country was exhilarating. Higher education department congratulated some of the outstanding pupil who came out of tertiary institutions with cumlaudes. Surely this is a good story to tell in celebrating 20 years of freedom right?

Let me take you back in my life just 3 years ago.

At 22, early months of 2011 I was working at my university’s Library on Sundays just to make some few extra bucks whilst applying for an internship to graduate in September. I made couple of bucks that were not enough but I was never broke. June I got an internship with a marketing and left the tertiary job. I was young, ambitious and fresh in the team in the company.

September came, I graduated with my fellow class mates. The feeling of now being officially recognized by the institution that I was a ‘web developer’ was amazing and I knew that in just 6 months I was to earn R15k before deductions. Who in his/her early 20’s wouldn’t be excited about that anyway? 20th of September I witnessed parents from all walks of South Africa get off City to City buses with traditional apparels ululating in their praise for their children’s achievements. I heard one parent from Limpopo saying “Tlala e fedile” i.e. “No more hunger.”

Hope filled the hearts of the many parents who’ve raised their children in poverty. They’ve spent their last savings and even made credit just to see this day and moving forward. Not even a single person I saw on that day was worried about what tomorrow holds. Fast-forward to today I would like to paint a real picture of what that ‘tomorrow’ actually holds:

  • Over 70% of the people I was in the same class with are skilled, educated, but unemployed;
  • The skills they’ve obtained are no longer useful in the industry of their specialisation;
  • Many of them have used over innumerable amount of data sending out their CVs to recruitment companies for employment;
  • 90% of them are in debts with study loans (not to mention the many times they’ve went to the loan sharks for money to go to interviews).

Not much of a good story hey? What could be wrong? Are we ready to blame the education ministers for creating graduates but not employees and employers? Let’s talk statistics.

According to Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey results, under the current leadership, the official unemployment rate in South Africa is now up at 25.6%. This compares with 25.2% in Q1 2013, and 24.9% a year-ago. Clearly, the latest unemployment reading is very disappointing despite the rise in employment, suggesting that South Africa is still struggling to gain meaningful traction in the labour market. At 25.6%, the unemployment rate is extremely high by global standards. Importantly, 70% of SA’s unemployed are younger than 35, while the unemployment rate among people aged less than 25 is over 50%. The unemployment rate among graduates is recorded at only 5.2%, reflecting the fact that education is vital to growing employment (See http://bit.ly/1slv4Wi).

My fear about the current education system is that it is creating more unemployable graduates and 2 real entrepreneurs out of 10 each year. I’m taken aback by some words of Sir Ken Robinson whom in one of his presentations said “the current education system is designed for industrialisation, so young people are still hypnotized to believe that after secondary schooling, you go to tertiary to become a graduate that’s going to help with production instead of leading production.”

Where I live, graduates sit at corners of their streets whilst some chose to gallivant throughout the rest of the day because there is no work for them. You’d be expecting that at 10 o’clock in the morning such educated young people to be at work or at least at internet café’s applying for posts but they are left helpless and resorted to unproductive activities. Sadly I’ve witnessed many of them stay home for over 5 years without employment. As a result, young people are demotivated and feel dis-empowered to even do anything. I would also give up if I was constantly spending thousands of rands just seeking for an internship that will remunerate me R2,5K per month.

Being youth, I’ve learned that we’re very impatient. Trust me, it’s in our nature. Saying to a young person “you’ll get a smart phone 2015” in a fast-moving country like ours is really frustrating. Young people are addicted to speed. They want things to work quickly and on time. We are not so patient, however if you give us your word on when exactly on the ‘not so long future’ how they will be assisted, then you’ve won us. I’ve been to many gatherings talking about 2030 as if there’s some miracle we are going to see. 2030 is too far for the majority of the population. What about now?

Looking into 2015, can things change for the better? Does our government have feasible solutions to actually combat unemployment, specifically in the youth or are we still going to say the same thing come December 2015? Are we still going to see educated young people push each other on long queues applying for EPWP jobs? Are we still going to have young people who are educated but broke and unemployed?

I fear..

Step on the corruption scale

Say you were to step on the “corruption scale”, how much do you think you would weigh?

Just like most people, I have a problem with corruption in its diverse forms. In recent years, most of our media reporting has exposed corruption on all levels of government (be it local, provincial or national). Every week we hear of protests and rumours of protests against inadequate service delivery, often the result of corruption in local government.

And whilst a number of municipalities and leaders may be under corruption watch, I have to ask, are we any different to them?

Some 47% of South Africans say they have <a href=”http://www.corruptionwatch.org.za/content/almost-50-s-africans-paid-bribe-last-year” target=”_blank”>paid a bribe</a> in the last year. According to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer 2013, securing essential services in South Africa means that a staggering 20% more of our population believes that this is the only course of action compared to the worldwide average of 27%.

What this means is that almost half of the country is participating in some form of corruption to access essential services. Believing ourselves to have no other choice, we pay our way out of trouble.

The barometer also asked respondents how they viewed the extent of corruption in twelve key institutions or categories – from political parties, to Parliament, military, NGOs, media, religious bodies, business, education systems, judiciary, health services, police and civil servants. A 24% increase in perceived corruption in religious bodies – surely the one area in our society that should be above reproach – paints a bleak picture.

Whilst many might debate the real causes behind citizens participating in some form of corruption, one has to consider the impact of historically pervasive disadvantage – a factor that remains to this day.

Take for instance a single, unemployed parent of five children – three of school-going age and two who have completed their education but have not yet found employment. They live in a two bedroomed RDP house and receive a monthly bill of R600 for municipal services, for water, rates and electricity. They’ve accrued a backlog of R25 000 on their account. Failure to pay results in the municipality cutting your electricity and reducing your water supply. As a result many people in this situation resort to paying bribes to municipal officers to reactivate their services. This may seem as an option considering the conditions at hand, however it is another form of corruption and it all starts there.

I encourage us to respect our institutions and make arrangements to pay our debt so that we can root out the influence of corruption in our society.

As a graphic designer, I was recently requested to forge the security certificate required for a tender submission in return for the promised “ke tla go fa ya colie” – the well-known shorthand “cash for a cool drink” that is an invitation to a dodgy deal. I admit I was tempted – until my ethical concerns held out. However, I equally have to admit that I still failed to find the courage to voice my disapproval.

One example most of us are familiar with is that of a traffic officer asking: “What’s in it for me?” It’s a “get out of jail free card”. However, it creates a platform for both you and the officer to contribute towards the advancement of corruption in our society. Like most crimes, corruption should be punished.

The problem with corruption is that it destroys prosperity by doubling the cost of the provision of services or doing business. A corrupt political, civil society, or business leader uses the opportunity to benefit improperly, as insurance for performance of duties.

Such leaders take advantage of their power to harbour resources unto themselves. Corruption has taken hold in all spheres – in both the public and private sectors, and even in religious institutions – that should function as the custodians of our national conscience.

We must hold corrupt officials accountable for their actions – even our Number 1, the president. However, if we are going to point fingers, we also have to look at our own actions and take responsibility for our own ethics. This means that each one of us too should refuse to receive or give a bribe.

It is possible to have a corruption-free nation if it starts with you and me.

Youth Entrepreneurship – A missing link to South Africa’s economic growth

Genuine entrepreneurs are the engine of sustainable economic growth and innovation in South African as a nation. Under proper governance and encouraging environment, they can make a pivotal contribution to the socio-economic development of the continent. However, entrepreneurs, particularly owning Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), have continued confronting formidable challenges.

With a high number of SMME falling within a period of 5 years, it is time for the economic burden to be lifted off the government and for entrepreneurship, diversification and individual empowerment to carry us forward.

Today the problems South Africa faces seem big, and it seems the only force strong enough to fight them is the government. We say this and yet we ignore the potential we have within us and if we come together, everyone contributing. For this to be achieved mobilization of resources and acting courageously is our only recourse.

The current rate of unemployment in South Africa estimated to be about 24% (CIA World Fact book, 2012) is unacceptable. South Africa currently has one of the highest unemployment rates internationally. Our economy had entered a period of “jobless growth”.

More and more of our young graduates are either unemployed or are placed in wrong positions. Research has shown that South Africa is facing structural unemployment and something needs to be done fast and now. South African youth over dependence on government to create jobs must come to an end. Not only are we having high rate of unemployment but always a very low entrepreneurial activity as compared to others developing nations (2009 GEM Report, entrepreneurial activity amongst male South African is about 7% and female about 5%).

The most affected by these rates are young graduates. They lack the necessary skills, inspiration, motivation and acumen to take advantage of their creative and innovative minds. There is lack of entrepreneurial culture and skills among South African Youth.

As a young entrepreneur, I’ve been late to meetings due to using public transport. I’ve needed someone to tell that “My project didn’t go well, what could have led to that?” I needed fast internet and data bundles not running out every now and then. At times I had to make calls to many companies recharging with different sim cards, comparing rates of various cellphone networks. I’ve been there.

I’ve however learned that there are 5 things any young person from a disadvantaged community needs for him/her to become a better entrepreneur:

1. A mentor

2. Access to internet and a telephone

3. Access to efficient transport

4. Healthy and nutritious food

5. Right network of people

With these 5 things firmly in place, you don’t need anything more.

Youth entrepreneurship is not something that would be ‘nice’ to have as a nation; it is a national imperative and the allocation of our national budget must reflect that; our schooling system must reflect that.”

Follow Abuti Rams on Twitter (@abutirams) & Facebook (www.fb.com/abutirams)

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