In South Africa, cor­rup­tion poses a mas­sive chal­lenge. How can we tackle this prob­lem?

Finweek English Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Theuns Eloff

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

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