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What must be done to counter corruption in SA effectively?


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What must be done to counter corruption in SA effectively?

Accountability Now

3rd February 2023


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There is a global problem concerning the levels of corruption in the world. Transparency International produces an annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) that tracks the trends of global corruption. It has recently published the 2022 edition of the CPI. Biznews reported on the publication of the CPI and interviewed Karam Singh of Corruption Watch.

‘The 2022 report paints a disturbing picture of an increasingly dangerous world, highlighting the link between corruption and conflict globally, and the threat that corruption poses to peace and security. The recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and growing security threats can be said to be at the root of a new wave of uncertainty and greater instability in the world in general. 


“The annual CPI represents an opportunity for countries to redeem themselves by demonstrating a tangible shift in addressing their corruption problems. However, we are assailed each year by the failure of governments, our own included, to be seen to be advancing anti-corruption efforts,” said Karam Singh, executive director of Corruption Watch. 

“The fact that South Africa has slipped a point at a time when there appears to be some momentum in bringing the corrupt to book, following the findings of the Zondo Commission reports, is particularly galling. It is hardly comforting that we have leaders paying lip service to the anti-corruption agenda in an environment that is not just hostile but extremely dangerous for whistle-blowers and those activists seeking to address the huge inequality and injustices wrought by corruption.” 


Whistle-blowers and activists in South Africa and the Southern African region, as has been seen too often recently, face real threats to their physical safety and even their lives, Singh added. “Part of making a breakthrough in the fight against corruption involves squarely addressing the plight of whistle-blowers and providing them with greater protection and support in terms of physical safety, psycho-social support, financial incentives, and legal protections.” ‘

What then is to be done about the malaise outlined by Singh?

Accountability Now has campaigned long and hard for the establishment of adequately independent anti-corruption machinery of state that is compliant with the criteria set for it in binding terms by the Constitutional Court in the Glenister litigation. Anyone who thinks we already have the effective and efficient machinery the court requires, in terms which oblige government to do the necessary, has not read the report of the Zondo Commission, has not noticed that the Hawks are at half their budgeted strength nor that the NPA is hollowed out and saboteur infested. It is incapable of mounting sufficient prosecutions in complex corruption cases to even begin working off the backlog of cases that built up during the height of the state capture period. The admonishment by the Chief Justice that “an army of prosecutors” is required to attend to the matters uncovered by his Commission appears to have fallen on deaf ears. The NPA is in such a mess that the type of specialists trained in anti-corruption work who are required, won’t work for the NPA.

In order to focus our minds on what needs to be done, four critical issues will be debated at a conference at UCT on 6 February 2023. The conference is of a hybrid nature, so anyone can attend online for free from 09:00 to 18:00 on YouTube, as will Archbishop Makgoba and Lord Hain, via this link:

Lord Peter Hain, the slayer of Bain, will be participating in a panel discussion of the need to introduce an International Anti-Corruption Court moderated by Justice Richard Goldstone. This court is seen as a means of dealing with serious corruption in countries in which the judiciary, the prosecution service and the police have been bent to the will of the corrupt.

The second issue identified is the need to put proper anti-corruption machinery in place in SA. Analysis of the court decisions that apply and a comparison with the lived reality of countering corruption in SA will be debated under the title “What are the legal requirements for anti-corruption machinery of state – achieving compliance with the Glenister decisions” The panel, chaired by Judge Ian Farlam, includes survivors of the Glenister litigation and the Zondo Commission. Proposals by various parties for the establishment of a new Chapter Nine institution to prevent, combat, investigate and prosecute serious corruption will be scrutinised.

Perhaps the most pressing issue on the agenda of the conference is the lot of whistle-blowers in SA as highlighted by Karam Singh in his Biznews interview. They are the lifeblood of anti-corruption efforts. Without their testimony the secretive activities of the corrupt remain unknown and unreported. In most complex corruption cases, recovering the loot and ending the impunity are impossible without credible testimony from whistle-blowers. Instead of being hailed as heroes, protected, and treated with respect, whistle-blowers are shunned, intimidated, and sometimes even shot for spilling the crooked beans of the corrupt. A revision of the laws protecting and supporting whistle-blowers is needed. The notion of immediately protecting them via an informal ombud system will be raised as a quick temporary solution to their challenges.

A future in which Non-Trial Resolution of complex corruption cases is possible is the topic for the fourth panel. This notion is novel in SA, and it will require a great deal of preparatory work and new legislation to get from the drawing board to the statute book. On the panel is the only SA citizen with a master’s degree in anti-corruption studies from the International Anti-Corruption Academy, Colette Ashton, who is a director of Accountability Now. With three practising attorneys on the panel, a lively discussion of the new territory to be covered is anticipated.

With a word of welcome from  the Minister of Justice, Ronald Lamola and from Professor Firoz Cachalia, chair of the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council, a full day of deliberations will be rounded off with reflections by Professor Somadoda Fikene, Chair of the Public Service Commission, and the Archbishop.

Written by Paul Hoffman SC, Director of Accountability Now


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