Why we need an Integrity Commission
At the end of March last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed a stern letter to ANC members concerning the issue of endemic corruption in SA, declaring the ANC was “accused number one”.
The letter provoked heated discourse, both in the public domain and within ANC ranks. The Covid-19 pandemic with its lockdowns, the fraudulent procuring of PPE and related resources, together with insurrection related to corruption, have precipitated the most serious political and economic crisis since the inception of the democratic era.
The crisis affects both South Africa and the ANC-led governing alliance. Ramaphosa has, until now, failed to take decisive action in relation to the scourge of endemic corruption. He places the unity of the ANC and its “renewal” – which are two contradictory goals – above the interests of SA.
Severe manifestations of endemic corruption, State Capture and theft of state assets are criminal violations of fundamental constitutional and human rights.
The anti-corruption strategy and mechanisms in SA are ineffective or virtually moribund. The criminal justice administration is not up to its constitutional obligations relating to both the nature and magnitude of corruption in all its nefarious appearances.
It is surprising that besides other political parties, such as the DA and IFP, the ANC’s National Executive Council (NEC) has also voiced the urgent need for the establishment of an institution that stands alone, is specialised, independent and addresses corruption. The NEC has instructed Cabinet to establish the new body urgently. Cabinet has procrastinated and done nothing.
Providentially, the Constitutional Court, in its meritorious Glenister judgments, furnished binding criteria for the establishment of functional counter-corruption agencies that would be able to implement both our international treaty and domestic obligations in relation to corruption. This esteemed court has endeavoured, without any practical success, to prevail on Parliament to effectively take reasonable steps in relation to the meaningful countering of corruption.
South Africa’s highly prejudicial current circumstances require that best-practice reform is necessary to strengthen and sustain our country’s fragile culture of human rights. This will enhance confidence in extant governance and improve economic prospects.
Such a new body is urgently needed to address corruption. It is submitted that such a body should be established as a Chapter 9 institution, as one Supporting Constitutional Democracy, designated as the Integrity Commission. This will require legislation to amend the Constitution to provide for it and complement the work of other Chapter 9 institutions such as the Public Protector and the Human Rights Commission.
Accountability Now, a prominent NGO that is committed to ensuring “accountability, responsiveness, and openness” in government as mandated by the Constitution, has already prepared draft enabling legislation and a constitutional amendment so that the necessary constitutionally compliant procedural steps can be effected.
If acted on and refined in the crucible of parliamentary debate, the drafts will facilitate Parliament’s work in the formation of an Integrity Commission.
Its work could rescue our country from the devastating consequences of politically and economically destabilising corruption and the imminent potential that SA could become another failed African state.