Raising the red card on graft

2011-08-22 11:45

The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) held a convention to publicise its anti-corruption pledge, Sabelo Ndlangisa spoke its leader Sipho Pityana about this initiative.

Q: Why did Casac hold the conference it held yesterday to get South Africans to pledge to fight against corruption?

A: The Constitution speaks of values of equitable distribution of resources all of which are a commitment to the rule of law, transparency and accountability. Corruption diverts resources for socioeconomic rights to a few who are able to manipulate it. Corruption undermines the rule of law and thrives in an environment where there is no accountability. It is an affront to the values of our Constitution that is why we chose to focus on it.

Q: What about the role of existing state institutions to fight corruption?

A: We looked at that and said in the early period we did a lot of things to fight corruption.

We not only signed conventions but ratified them to become part of the legal systems, and established institutions such as the Hawks (we had the Scorpions before) and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

We have independent institutions such as the Auditor-General and the Public Protector.

Because we have all of these entities and agencies they are tripping over each.

Most of them are not independent like the Hawks and the SIU.

The international conventions that South Africa is signatory to enjoin us to have not only an independent anti-corruption body, but also that that body must have responsibility about public education on what corruption and how can we deal with.

The public education aspect is not carried out by dealt with by anybody.

You don’t have prevention programmes. And you don’t have a mechanism of involving ordinary members of the public.

An effective fight against corruption is one where all of us as members of the public are participating in the fight against corruption.

So we are hobbled.

Q: What is the aim of the Red Card Corruption (RCC) campaign?

A: The judgment (of the Constitutional Court on the independence of the Hawks) enjoins government that within 18 months, which is September next year, that an independent anti-corruption body must be established.

So the Red Card Corruption campaign is aimed at ensuring that we achieve that principally and that that body must be independent.

We are going to focus on ensuring that it has the responsibility of education, prevention, enforcement and the involvement of the population.

Secondly, we are going to focus on whistle-blowing legislation because you can’t say people must participate in the fight against corruption yet they don’t have protection.

Thirdly, the RCC campaign proposes that we should have regulation of party political funding. That must be done in a transparent way so that the links between those donations and the activities of those companies is transparent.

This is to ensure that we don’t have private sector buying political favour. We are also proposing that we have effective monitoring and disclosure of interest of public office-bearers.

There are laws and rules about disclosure but these are not monitored effectively.

Q: How do you reach the broader public?

A: We’ve consulted with the trade union movement, business, the churches, sporting communities, various NGOs.

We are running a process in terms of which we will be having town-hall style public consultations, all of this is intended to brief the public what the RCC campaign is all about.

And secondly, to get a sense whether there is a consensus about the kind of things that we say need to be in place to fight corruption.

There’s been widespread and general support for this initiative.

Q: Does this initiative recognise the initiatives that government has been undertaking to get rid of corruption?

A: In our report we have adopted a view that part of the problem is that have been too accusatory in a way that suggests that we (civil society and business) are clean and government is dirty.

Not that it has not been defensive with us because government has not been very enthusiastic about coming on board. But we accept that there’s a lot of good things that government has done but it has fallen short.

We also take the view that government carries a much bigger responsibility because government shouldn’t be corrupt, and government carries has an added burden (because) it runs on public money.

Government has a responsibility to regulate a corrupt-free society, it can’t do that if it lacks the requisite responsibility in its own conduct.

The pledge basically is very clear it says we refuse to accept or give bribes and we will report all acts of corruption to the relevant authority.

It invites society to say we refuse to be agents in the game of corruption. We encourage South Africans to sign the pledge.

Q: What do you make of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s call to introduce ethics education at school levels to counter corruption?

A: That suggestion from the deputy president is a positive one. But education is a limited terrain. The socialisation of our young people goes beyond education. We take our children to churches and mosques.

Those must have programmes of raising awareness.

The other thing is that we have to make sure that we appreciate the impact of role models in society.

When you have people in a communities that are wealthy and it turns out that all of that is ill-gotten, it shapes the attitude of young people.

In our conduct we need to ensure that we act in a way that should aversion and disdain, that’s a powerful way of socialising the young. 

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