[notice]A monthly column in which we share testimonies of some of South Africa’s ‘True Champions’ who bring glory to God and bless their fellow-citizens, by opposing the tide of corruption and taking a strong stand for ethics in their spheres of influence. You are warmly invited to suggest anybody you think deserves recognition as a ‘True Champion’. PLEASE EMAIL YOUR SUGGESTIONS TO firstname.lastname@example.org.[/notice]
Anyone who is familiar with the word of God knows that God is a God of justice. In Proverbs 21:3, for example, it is written that “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” In Psalm 119:121, David is also able to say, “I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors.” President of the South African Christian Police Association (CPA), Colonel Jan Swanepoel, understands this. The CPA is part of a global movement of Christian police that will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in September this year.
Swanepoel’s life is a living testimony of actively striving for justice. He has served more than 30 years as a member of the South African Police Service, which has required him to work in seven countries and eight provinces. He is not only a longstanding member of the CPA but also the Pan African Christian Police Association Conference (PACPAC), of which he is a board member, and the international Pointmen Leadership Institute (PLI). The latter focuses on principle-based leadership training for various government organizations with the aim of exposing and eradicating corruption. It is named after the point men in an army who occupy the front positions to point out any problems and provide direction.
According to Swanepoel, corruption is so embedded in some societies that there is no awareness that it is wrong. He says people need to have the mindset shift that they are not corrupt because they are poor but they are poor because they are corrupt.
“Corruption is prevalent in all sectors of society, whether you are in government or corporate. In some countries it is so bad that people depend on bribes to survive as they do not receive their salaries for months at a time. Corruption in all its facets, including the abuse of power, must be exposed,” says Swanepoel. He adds that corruption, often, does not start off in a criminal way – there is usually a slippery slope, which starts with a small compromise and then a gradual lowering of standards until it evolves into serious crime. Therefore, a zero tolerance approach is needed in order to nip corruption in the bud as soon as it rears its ugly head.
The PLI has provided ethics training in countries such as China, Russia and Liberia. In Africa, Swanepoel says Botswana is leading the way against corruption with the government taking a firm stand, which has included dismissing a third of the members of its police force who were suspected of conducting illegal activity. Visitors are provided with a letter on arrival in the country detailing the government’s stance against corruption with a tip-off line they can call to report alleged corruption. He attributes Singapore’s improved economy and level of education to the fact that it is one of the least corrupt countries in the world (Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index – CPI, 2013). There has also been a marked improvement in Liberia’s CPI rating as a result of ethics training.
Unfortunately, in South Africa, the PLI has not received a warm welcome from government over the years, despite the association’s offer to conduct training at no cost.
No perceived need for ethics training
Swanepoel says: “There is no perceived need for the training nor is there the political drive to change. There is much talk of fighting corruption but no action. In addition, people are not being empowered to take a stand against corruption. Examples of this are cases where whistleblowers have been victimised, instead of protected.” He adds that it is for this reason that he is particularly excited about the launch of “Unashamedly Ethical” by Graham Powers.
While the focus may be on corruption, the Colonel’s heart is clearly on justice and shining God’s light in the darkness. However, he says wisdom has taught him that, in the workplace, one cannot randomly approach people with the aim of sharing the Gospel. He says, “You need to develop a relationship with someone first and expose them to your character, which should create an open door. When you have the first love you want to save everyone and the Lord is able to use this — sometimes you do need fire and boldness – but we need the consistency of big logs that keep burning.”
It is clear that the Colonel is not afraid of entering the enemy’s camp and shining the light of Christ for all to see wherever he goes.