Radebe: Corruption the enemy
Johannesburg - The fight against corruption should be as important as the struggle against apartheid was, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said on Thursday.
"Corruption seeks to extinguish the flame that shines on all South Africans, the flame that promises freedom and security for all, the flame of democracy," he said at the launch of the Corruption Watch initiative in Johannesburg.
"Corruption is a criminal act that steals the fruit of our struggle, and we must declare it our enemy as apartheid was. If we acknowledge that corruption is a way of life in South Africa, we have lost the battle."
Radebe said government looked forward to the positive contribution the Corruption Watch initiative would bring to the country.
"With corruption in government, all members must be dealt with irrespective of rank or status," he said.
"Corruption Watch will ensure that people are not passive, but are important role players in democracy."
Corruption Watch was an initiative by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) to hold public and private sector officials accountable. The initiative had a website allowing victims of corruption to lodge complaints. The initiative would then gather all the information, analyse it and make it available to the public.
Radebe said the media had to be applauded for consistently exposing government corruption.
"We often do not appreciate the role of media as a watchdog. We want media to continue in its effort to expose corrupt individuals," he said.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said a free media was one of the core methods of combating corruption in the country.
"There is not a single day without newspapers exposing corruption of a government worker. All stories have this one thing in common, corruption is daylight theft from the poor. Unless we can mobilise and empower people... we will not succeed in our quest to defeat this fast advancing enemy."
Vavi said corruption also extended to trade union members.
"Some union leaders have been paid to turn a blind eye to worker abuse. This type of corruption results in a situation whereby we have agents of the capitalist class within the workers' movement.
"That is why Cosatu insists that people have to choose whether they want to pursue their business interests or serve the public. They cannot do both at the same time."
Vavi said corruption had made politics a competition of who had the "biggest treasure chest".
"This will destroy the democracy built by the struggle," he said.
"Worst of all is the growing evidence that corruption is becoming literally a matter of life and death, as people are being intimidated or even killed for exposing and preventing corruption."
He said divisions and factions within unions, businesses and political parties provided a perfect cover for corrupt individuals.
"The perfect cover that such factions and divisions provide is that even those caught with their hands in the cookie jar refuse to resign from their post as they enjoy immunity and guaranteed indemnity provided by their factions," he said.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, also present at the event, said the initiative "couldn't have come at a better time".
"Corruption poses a threat to balance in the Constitution... [the initiative] will ensure that those who rob the poor will be held accountable. All sectors of society need to support the initiative. It is with the active participation of everyone that the idea of a [uncorrupted] state will be realised."