Corruption has become so pervasive that the same vigour used to fight apartheid should be used to combat the scourge.
This is according to the Public Service Commission (PSC) Commissioner, Prof Somadoda Fikeni, who was speaking on Friday at this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day at the ZK Matthews Great Hall at Unisa in Pretoria.
International Anti-Corruption Day is commemorated annually on 9 December in recognition of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which was signed in Mexico in 2003.
South Africa is one of the signatories to the Convention having ratified it in 2004.
Reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the passing of the global statesman Nelson Mandela, Prof Fikeni said Madiba led with cohorts of successful leaders of their time.
“The struggle and the mission of their time was apartheid. That was the biggest challenge of their time. But today, after all the revelations to the Zondo Commission, we realise that the biggest challenge we face is corruption.
“Apartheid was the rule of law that took from the majority and gave to the minority. And corruption is the minority rule that takes from the majority and gives to the minority,” he said.
He believes that it should not matter whether corruption happens is in the public or private sector, religious institutions or non-government organisations.
Fikeni called South Africans to wage war against the scourge.
“During apartheid, we had iconic figures who died like Hector Pieterson and today, the whistle-blowers like Babita [Deokaran] are the Hector Pietersons of the struggle of today and many other whistle-blowers who died to save the country have become the Sharpeville Massacre victims of today.”
He said collaborative effort is needed to fight corruption.
“Government alone, accountability institutions alone, civil society alone, academic institutions alone and private sector alone can no longer combat this scourge. We need a coordinated effort,” he said.
South Africa, according to Fikeni, is rich in producing policies and frameworks but tends to be challenged with implementation.
It is for this reason that the 2023 International Anti-Corruption Day’s focus is on uniting against corruption and how to better collaborate and improve implementation and impact.
“When we leave this place and years pass, no one will remember what we said, what we were wearing, what venue we were in but what concrete steps do we take to combat corruption,” he said to the packed hall.
He said it was not right that whistle-blowers have to go into “exile” because they do not feel safe.
According to the Prof, the PSC is also working on the lifestyle audits of officials and collaborating with Chapter 9 institutions to ensure the oversight eco-system is strengthened.
“This is a generational mission of our time to say that corruption is a new apartheid that we should all combine forces. It shouldn’t be a football for any election but an all-time struggle and something we talk about and pursue beyond elections.”
Deputy President Paul Mashatile told the attendees that both the public and private sectors needed to unite against unscrupulousness to maintain good governance.
The country’s second-in-command said Madiba played an integral role in advocating for a Constitution based on the principles of social justice, inclusion, accountability and decisive leadership.
“It was through his leadership and those who led with him that we learnt the values of selflessness and putting people first. Corruption on the other hand is based on selfishness and a lack of concern for the majority that one leads.”
It is on this basis that the Deputy President said government should be vigilant in how it deals with corruption, especially in the public sector.
“It is a persistent problem that inhibits development, fairness and inequality in our society.”
He also called for a united front dedicated to getting rid of corruption and dealing harshly with those partake in it.
In the past 29 years of democracy, he said the State has developed framework law, strategy, and institutions mandated to combat corruption.
These, the Deputy President said, include the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act, the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2020-2030 and the Anti-Corruption Advisory Council.
The strategy, he said, also aims to ensure that officials and those in positions of power act with integrity, respect the rule of law and promote zero tolerance for corruption.
The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004 intends to provide for the strengthening of measures to prevent and combat corruption and corrupt activities and to provide for the offence of corruption and offences relating to corrupt activities, among others.
The Deputy President is of the view that accountability, transparency and the rule of law are important tools to rid the country of crime and corruption.
“As public servants and office bearers, we must safeguard the preamble of our Constitution and constantly remind ourselves that our purpose is to serve our people and not to satisfy our stomachs.
“Our priority should be those we have sworn to serve and protect.”
He also announced that government was also in the process of implementing recommendations contained in the State Capture report.
“We need to ensure that such activities should never happen ever again,” he said, adding that the State is looking at tax avoidance and illicit financial flows. – SAnews.gov.za