We can all help to stop corruption

Thursday, September 4, 2014

By Acting Director General of Communications Phumla Williams

Within every society there are issues that cut across race, gender, political affiliations and even income.  These are the issues that concern every one of us and are often a measure of the progress of a nation.

In South Africa, the triple threat of poverty, unemployment and inequality stands as our greatest challenge.  It is one of the damaging legacies of apartheid that still lingers and must be defeated. Since 1994, government has moved to address these three issues, and only the most myopic would dispute that progress has been made.

Sadly, there are instances where our progress has been stifled by the rising tide of corruption in both the public and private sector.  Corruption amounts to nothing more than greed and theft; it deprives communities of much needed services and stands as a clear and present danger to our hard won freedom. Simply put; corruption is cancer which will spread unless it is tackled decisively.   

Government is aware of this and has committed itself to ensuring a corruption-free society which is characterised by ethical behaviour and governance that is accountable to the people. We are cleaning house and those who make themselves guilty of corruption will have no place to hide.  

The news that at least 19 South African Revenue Service (SARS) employees have been arrested and 20 others dismissed over corruption and fraud-related charges is heartening. Government commends SARS for acting swiftly in identifying and dealing with the perpetrators.  

The next five years will be marked by sustained actions aimed at fighting corruption in all spheres of society.  The second phase of our democratic transition will require bold and decisive steps if we are to move South Africa forward. 

The Medium Term Strategic Framework calls for decisive action to tackle corruption within the public and private sectors.  It highlights how corruption undermines the rule of law and impedes our efforts to achieve greater socio-economic development and service delivery.   It targets improving conviction rates for corruption cases along with the revision of anti-corruption legislation to provide for more stringent penalties. It also recognises the need to provide greater protection to whistle blowers.

Although noble, these interventions alone are not enough.  Corruption is a societal issue and must therefore be confronted by all of us.  Those who point fingers or simply assume that government alone must act are misguided. 

The simple truth is that corruption if left unchecked has the potential to derail our democracy.  Like a cancer it can spread quickly and has the potential to become all pervasive.

The scandals in the construction industry related to 2010 FIFA World Cup stadiums and the recent case where several major retailers were implicated for false food labelling are worrying indeed. In both cases the thirst for profit and outright greed trumped decency and honesty. 

When profit takes precedence above all else we are on shaky ground.  The private sector must do more to fight corruption and underhanded practices. 

Such practices are out of step with our democracy, this is not the South Africa that so many fought for and died for.  We dare not squander the legacy of countless selfless patriots who sacrificed all so that we may be free. 

We must get a grip on corruption, the survival of our nation and our values of democracy and freedom depends on it. Corruption is a broad societal problem, prevalent in both public and private sectors, requiring the commitment of all to eradicate it.

The National Development Plan, the country’s long term vision highlights that to fight corruption both the private and public sector must be involved.  It calls for increased public awareness and improved access to information as remedies to fight the scourge.

Corruption flourishes because it often takes place behind closed doors or away from the public eye.  However, it can only occur if there is a willing recipient; the old saying that it takes two to tango rings true. 

Within all of us lies the power to end this scourge.  The time has come for society to take a stand; we can either do what is easy or we can do what is right.

Change begins with you and me; it’s simply not good enough to assume that someone else must lead the charge.  Doing your part is as easy as picking up the phone.  If you are aware of corruption in the public service simply dial the National Anti-Corruption Hotline on: 0800 701 701. The number is toll free and disclosures may be made anonymously.  Corruption can also be reported to the police, the Special Investigating Unit, the Public Protector or non-governmental organisations such as Corruption Watch. 

There simply is no excuse for not dealing with corruption wherever it may reside, our inaction and complacency makes it stronger.  By turning a blind eye we fuel its insatiable hunger, we make it stronger and more pervasive. 

However, our action can kill it; corruption cannot thrive if all South Africans are united in their revulsion of it.  We have the power to end corruption today; it is as easy as saying no.  Together we can resist the temptation to take the easy way out and take a firm stand against it and move South Africa forward.



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