SA needs strong organisations, says Vavi

2011-12-08 12:54

South Africa cannot defeat corruption and abuse of power with weak organisations, labour federation Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said in Joburg today.

A strong and active ruling ANC was needed along with independent state institutions, he told delegates at an anti-corruption summit.
“We need a strong ... independent Cosatu, we need religious [organisations] ... and independent media, we need a strong and transformed judiciary.”

He said the Protection of State Information Bill would deter whistleblowers from reporting crimes, and make it easier to conceal corruption in the government.

Those reporting corruption faced jail time, while those committing it would “roam the streets”, Vavi said.

The bill criminalises possession and publication of classified information with sanctions of up to 25 years in prison. It was drafted to replace apartheid-era legislation dating from 1982, but critics say it marks a shameful return to excessive state secrecy less than two decades into democracy.

Vavi today also welcomed lifestyle audits being carried out by the SA Revenue Service into the sources of wealth of some individuals.

Among those being investigated is suspended ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

Vavi, who was recently appointed a board member of the parastatal Industrial Development Corporation, further supported the establishment of an anti-corruption task team by President Jacob Zuma into expensive hotel stays by ministers and government officials.

He told delegates that tender processes needed to be transparent and that public servants needed to be held accountable for wrongdoing.

Delegates heard that a “Corruption Watch” had been set up on the internet for people to report graft. They could phone or text information through.

Vavi said corruption was the elite’s way of stealing from the poor.

“It has become a matter of life and death. Corruption is the biggest threat to the realisation of our dreams.... Self-enrichment will unravel the fabric of society.”

He said about 20% of government procurement was lost to corruption as officials exploited gaps in the system to get government tenders.

“We are facing a nightmare future in South Africa... people are systematically using their power to secure... parts of society.”

If the current economic system of capitalism continued with the “me first” mentality, it would be difficult to root out corruption.

“Me first results in social and economic injustices... the me first culture is killing human solidarity. The culture of me first accumulates and accumulates, so that one person in this country earns R627 million per year... while workers earn less than R1 500 per month.”

On the sidelines of the summit, Vavi confirmed his appointment to the IDC board, but emphasised he would still remain general secretary of the trade union federation.

“It’s not like I’m going to be CEO [chief executive officer] or something, I’m just going to be a board member.”

The corporation is tasked by government to create more jobs.

The appointment became effective on November 28.

Speaking at the summit earlier, National Anti-Corruption Forum chairwoman Futhi Mtoba said 1273 public service officials were charged with misconduct for corrupt activities between September 2004 and June this year.

During this time, 603 officials were dismissed from the public service, 226 were suspended, 134 were fined and 16 demoted.

Another 330 officials were given final written warnings, and 190 prosecuted.

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