Daily Maverick

Why we need an Integrity Commission

- By George Devenish Professor George Devenish is Emeritus Professor at the University of KwaZuluNat­al and assisted in drafting the Interim Constituti­on in 1993.

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa