Corruption: getting to the belly of the beast

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Oxford Dictionary defines corruption as “dishonesty” or an “illegal behaviour”. Full stop. It ends there.

The results of Police Minister Bheki Cele’s recent dissection of the word are less flattering. However, it piercingly removes the scabs of the plague’s recuperating laceration, writes Sihle Manda.

“Corruption kills the progress of communities,” an animated Cele told delegates at the recent National Summit on Crime and Violence Prevention in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni. Intensely sobering was that the statement was met with a deafening silence in the second or two while he caught his breath.

Government has prioritised the scourge of corruption, adopting a zero tolerance approach in both the public and private sector. Corruption is deemed a societal problem to be fought collectively.

The pandemic of fraud and corruption continues to be a source of trepidation to the country’s development prospects but government’s recent interventions have sparked optimism that the tide will gradually turn.    

Having taken stock of this harsh reality, government has undertaken a series of interventions in an effort to stop the rot.

The Anti-Corruption Inter-Ministerial Committee and the Anti-Corruption Task Team has developed a broad framework to deal with corruption and is in the process of finalising the development of a holistic Anti-Corruption Strategy.

Government’s arsenal to combat corruption includes the adoption of a Code of Conduct for the Public Service.

Additionally, government established specialised anti-corruption units such as the SAPS Organised Crime Unit, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), the National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit and the Financial Intelligence Centre.

These efforts are bolstered by Specialised Commercial Crime Courts as well as the creation of the national and sectoral anti-corruption hotlines.

“We have corruption as a disease,” Cele lamented.  “Nobody can now deny that some of us in South Africa are corrupt – very corrupt. It’s not just police as some of us would want us to believe. [This] is one area that the President has made a serious call.”

Corruption Watch’s 2018 Analysis of Corruption Trend (ACT) Report, says it continues to receive thousands of complaints from the public with harrowing experiences. The non-profit organisation, working to fight corruption in South Africa, received 2 500 complaints according it its 2018 report. The matters ranged from recruitment to procurement in schools, police stations and municipalities, among others.

The picture is not assisted much by international observers. According to Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Index, South Africa slipped from rank 64 to 71 from 180 countries.

In an attempt to up the ante on looting Robin Hood opposites, the South African Police Service will soon announce an anti-corruption body to ensure police net perpetrators more efficiently.

“We’ll soon be announcing that we want eminent people to join the anti-corruption body in the South African Police. It will be people like retired judges, bishops and so forth. This will be to make sure that we have all the integrity of a monitoring structure,” Cele said.

“It can’t be us alone in monitoring ourselves. Cats can’t monitor cats not to eat the cheese; you need some other animals.”

Cele is adamant that the lives of millions South African’s will continue to linger in oblivion should the epidemic not be halted. 

“If we don’t fix this [corruption], we won’t fix the lives of the people. So, don’t look away where you see corrupt practices, [more] especially, don’t be part of it,” he said.

The notion that only government officials were corrupt needed to be stopped as this act required collusion between business and government, Cele said, reiterating his stance during the release of the 2017/18 crime statistics. 

“I agree, some government people [are] corrupt. But who corrupts them? Did they wake up corrupt? Or somebody said: ‘If you give this to me, I’ll give you a cut. Just give me the tender, I’ll take 60[%], you’ll take 40[%]’ – and that’s a R20 million cut,” he said. We are not going to go anywhere if we don’t deal decisively with corruption. Corruption is across the board. People are corrupt out there, especially government people.”

Cele heaped praise on President Cyril Ramaphosa on his unflinching stance on fraud and corruption, citing his recent signing off of Special Investigation Unit proclamations into maladministration at various government departments, state-owned entities and municipalities.

One of those was the investigation into the Office of the State Attorney, which is alleged to have fleeced the state of R80 billion in malpractice, lack of professionalism and suspicion of abuse of office towards unlawful ends.

“[Have you ever] thought this office would be investigated by the office of the SIU? They are investigated for the abuse and stealing of R80 billion. Eight-zero billion - Office of the Attorney General. I’ve never heard you shout about them being corrupt,” he said. 

The reinvigorated elite police unit, the Hawks, Cele said, “must get their wings and fly”.

“Strengthening all the police units, all the courts and becoming really brutal and making sure that structures like the IPID are working. But ourselves as police, two Fridays ago we arrested six of our own in the Eastern Cape. Three months ago we arrested 17 at a go in the Eastern Cape.”

Justice and Violence Prevention head at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Gareth Newham, recently wrote on the institution’s website that President Ramaphosa has to support much-needed criminal justice system reforms that could hold the corrupt accountable.

“An active civil society, an independent judiciary and a strong media are also fundamental to improving the criminal justice system and strengthening the rule of law,” he wrote.

He said some headway has been made with the positive appointments of new head of the Hawks, Godfrey Lebeya, and the police’s Crime Intelligence Division, Anthony Jacobs. 

“[The] new law enforcement agency leaders must urgently replace compromised or unsuitable individuals with capable managers, investigators and prosecutors,” he wrote.

With the evident untangling of the complicated web, it is evident that Government seems more firm than ever to get to the belly of the devouring beast. –