NATIONAL NEWS - Corruption Watch (CW) recently released its 2018 corruption report, Upholding Democracy. The report marks 25 years of freedom and democracy in South Africa, and gives credence to the role of civil society and members of the public in exposing corruption and holding leaders to account.
CW chairperson, Mavuso Msimang, states that “it is time to usher in a new order that gives us the government and democracy that we deserve, and of which we can be proud”.
David Lewis, executive director of CW, observes that the central theme of Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index is the relationship between democracy and corruption. South Africa attained a low score of 43 in the Transparency International 2018 Corruption Perception Index, where 0 is highly corrupt, and 100 is very clean.
The 4 200 corruption reports received by CW in 2018 point to the abuse of power, bribery and procurement corruption. First place, for the highest number of corruption reports, goes to provincial government departments, followed by national departments, with local government taking third place.
Gauteng recorded the most reports of corruption (45% of all cases), followed by KwaZulu-Natal. Limpopo came in third with 8% of cases.
The real cost of corruption on the lives of ordinary people
Young voices share their opinions and their expectations of democracy: “We live in a society where corruption has become a culture, a normalised act.” First-hand accounts are given by those who have suffered the effects of corruption. There is a proliferation of bribes, kickbacks and money laundering.
The real cost of corruption is the devastation caused to communities and to the lives of ordinary people.
Citizens of a democratic state have a right to access education, healthcare, housing, safety, protection of their environmental rights, and human dignity and equality. Corruption impinges on human dignity and denies groups of people access to basic human rights such as proper schools, learning materials, running water, and sanitation.
The feeling of powerlessness experienced by South Africans impacted by the crumbling infrastructure and inadequate resources is brought to light in the report. The corrupt enrich themselves at the expense of the needs of the people. It rankles that perpetrators of gross misdeeds have remained largely unpunished.
Instances in Gauteng of patients sleeping on floors, drugs being stolen, moonlighting by doctors during working hours, denying foreigners access to health facilities, demanding bribes for treatment; indicate that corruption has become a public health risk. Those who helped cripple the health system have not yet been charged.
In the Cape Flats, entire generations have encountered violent criminality, addiction, classism, unemployment, oppression, and abuse of police power. Manenberg “is an oozing infected wound that has been left untreated for far too long”. Occurrences of sexual abuse, gang rapes, gender violence, are frequent. There is no escape from the cycle of poverty.
The North West mining community, who live above vast reserves of mineral riches, have lost hundreds of millions of rands of mining royalties, and suffer from abject poverty. They lack access to basic services.
Investigations during 2018 centred on mining royalties, procurement, and corruption in the management of schools. Mining royalty issues were incorporated into the Mining Royalties report released in March 2019.
The relationship between corruption and democracy is a central theme. By capturing key institutions of democracy, corruption can be sustained. “Corruption undermines democracy, and, conversely, democracy is the best antidote for corruption”.
In fighting back against state capture – new boards were appointed at state-owned enterprises like Eskom, Transnet, Denel and South African Airways. Tom Moyane was dismissed from Sars and Shaun Abrahams was forced to vacate his office after the Constitutional Court found that his appointment was invalid. Mosebenzi Zwane, Des van Rooyen and Malusi Gigaba were removed from their cabinet positions.
Investigations into corruption are being undertaken at the Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA), the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency, various procurement investigations, school investigations and cases involving the Department of Home Affairs.
CW maintains that fighting corruption could be strengthened by:
- Demanding access to parliamentary committee meetings.
- Demanding effective enforcement of laws such as the law regulating political funding.
- Protecting institutions of accountability such as the NPA and the Auditor-General.
Participating in democratic processes and raising public awareness
The CW legal team has participated in many high-profile legal cases of public interest, such as the irregular tender process by which Cash Paymaster Services were appointed by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa).
Written submissions are made on proposed amendments to new bills with the objective of strengthening the law. Submissions include comments on the Draft Public Audit Bill, 2017, the Draft Supply Chain Management Bill, amendments to the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Bill, 2017 (PRECCA), and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Amendment Bill.
Questionable appointments in the public service are challenged by CW. Moyane, dismissed ex-Commissioner of Sars, was reported to the NPA for his alleged criminal conduct in December 2016. The National Prosecuting Authority declined to prosecute but is apparently reviewing this decision.
The recent appointment of Advocate Shamila Batohi as the new National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) was welcomed by CW, who viewed the appointment as an indirect victory. CW had successfully challenged the legality of the 2015 removal of the former NDPP Mxolisi Nxasana in the High Court. In 2016 CW campaigned vigorously for a transparent and merit-based process to appoint the new public prosecutor.
CW is raising public awareness into the proposed National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) by creating avenues for public engagement and consultation, which included a public survey carried out in June 2018. It was also one of the four winners of USD 250 000 in the Google Impact Challenge South Africa, for the project titled Bua Mzanzi – Know Your Police Station.
CW is committed to continued participation in the democratic process and urges the public to do the same. “Whilst we hold onto the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the few pillars of democracy that were not eroded completely by state capture, we have 25 years of liberation to reflect on, centuries of oppression to contemplate, and the recognition that collective people’s power is the only solution to fight the scourge of corruption in South Africa.”