THEUNS ELOFF ON STAMPING OUT CORRUPTION
In South Africa, corruption poses a massive challenge. How can we tackle this problem?
transparency International publishes an annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) which measures “perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys” in 175 countries. The CPI’s definition of corruption is the misuse of public power for private benefit. It therefore focuses mainly on corruption in and by the public sector. In 2015 South Africa was ranked 61st out of 168 countries, with a score of 44 out of 100. A score of 100 means that a country is virtually free of corruption and a score of 1 means that the country is very corrupt.
What is particularly disturbing in SA is that senior political leaders employ their positions of power and questionable methods to enrich themselves by, for example, awarding tenders to family members, and use public money for their personal needs and affairs. Willie Hofmeyr, former head of the now disbanded Scorpions, reported to Parliament in 2011 that between R25bn and R30bn had disappeared from the state’s coffers in this way.
Widespread corruption is a sign of a failing state and indicates a lack of transparency in the state. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money and affects service delivery at local and national level extremely negatively.*
In 2016, Gwede Mantashe, secretary general of the ANC, said that one of the three things that will destroy the ANC soon, is corruption. In a similar vein, the 101 ANC stalwarts said in their 2017 statement that “(w)e have observed the ill-begotten wealth among some of our leaders at all levels” and that “the leadership of the ANC has […] pre-occupied itself with defending personal interests, interests of colleagues, families and friends, at the expense of the people of South Africa, particularly the poor…” and “failed to act decisively against corruption [...] in the ANC and the Alliance”.
Fixing the system
Even though it may be difficult in the present circumstances, let us fast forward to May 2019, after the general election. Let us say the winning party elected a new president who wants to fight corruption, realising that if this is not done, the chances of SA becoming a failed state become much higher. How should they go about it?
This would be a long and arduous process. A two-pronged approach would be necessary: fighting existing corruption, and preventing further corruption.
In fighting corruption, the political and moral will to do so should be made clear and be one of the first priorities of a new president’s strategy. They should lead by example.
Secondly, they could start by submitting the whole Cabinet and leadership of the governing party – at all three levels of government – to a voluntary lifestyle audit. These lifestyle audits should be conducted by an independent body, not under the oversight of the Executive – a Chapter 9-like institution.
In a 2016 conference hosted by the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC), an integrity commission was proposed. This commission would be established through a constitutional amendment and should have the following features: political and operational independence, satisfactory training of all staff, adequate resources, and security of tenure. Such a commission would have a mammoth task, but it is one that our country and its new leadership cannot shirk away from. It would weed out corrupt politicians and business people in a systematic way.
Third, there is the possibility of rewards for whistle-blowers of corrupt activities. Recognition rather than victimisation. Ordinary South Africans often know of or suspect corruption, but do not want to come forward and expose it. There should be an incentive to do so.
Fourth, party political structures, under the leadership of the new president and his or her Cabinet, should use party disciplinary procedures to weed out corrupt office-bearers. They should be made to realise that it is in their own best interests and those of their (especially poor) constituents to do so.
In 2016, the secretary general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, said that one of the three things that will destroy the ANC soon, is corruption.
Back to Batho pele
Preventing corruption should be a parallel strategy. In the business world, there are numerous training programmes on anti-corruption available. All listed companies should have a social and ethics board committee, with a focus on corruption. This should also be applied to the public service.
Further, the culture of the public service will have to be changed. In the 90s, the slogan was
Willie Hofmeyr Former head of the now disbanded Scorpions
Gwede Mantashe Secretary general of the ANC