In its Trends Analysis Report released in December, the SA Human Rights Commission highlighted healthcare, food, water and social security as the top five recorded human rights violations.
This report provided a snapshot of trends and findings in human rights violations over the five-year period from 2012 to 2017.
As we celebrate 25 years of democracy, it is critical to reflect on how corruption contributes to human rights violations and, most importantly, what those in positions of authority and leadership should do to protect their citizens.
Talking of leaders and people entrusted with authority, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the courage of professionals who have presented evidence at the judicial commissions into state capture, the Public Investment Corporation and governance at the SA Revenue Service.
Most of these professionals related the difficult conditions they had to ward off – some risking their livelihoods – yet they stood firm with integrity and commendable ethical conduct.
This exemplary conduct can only embolden more professionals to play their part to stand up and speak against wrongdoing.
It is a positive sign that Shamila Batohi, the new national director of public prosecutions at the National Prosecuting Authority, is promising to crack the whip and get prosecutions going, especially after the revelations at the Zondo commission.
Previously, commissions of inquiry were perceived simply as a way to ensure that nothing would be done about allegations of corruption.
We cannot overlook the election of President Cyril Ramaphosa – a move meant to represent more than a new era in South Africa’s politics as it personifies an opportunity to flip the fortunes of the most downtrodden among us.
I believe this moment is supposed to encourage patriotism that should raise the levels of good governance, as well as ethical and professional conduct to ensure the country remains globally competitive.
Of course, the opposite of this kind of professional activism is that, when institutions are compromised, service delivery is sacrificed and society breaks down.
In the case of South Africa, the weakening of our moral fabric due to large-scale corruption in the public sector makes it impossible to provide basic healthcare, quality education and security for the majority of our people.
Corruption in public sector procurement has siphoned off hundreds of millions of rands intended to educate children, buy basic medical supplies for clinics and hospitals, and pay for a robust police force to protect us.
One thing is certain, in an environment where basic social services are weak or absent, the poor suffer the most.
All citizens must be deeply worried about bad governance as a result of corruption because it means that our country is gradually sinking into a dark pit.
It is not surprising that international ratings agencies downgrade us, investors intend to look elsewhere for their expansion, and skilled young South Africans consider emigrating to places such as Mauritius and Malta, which offer them permanent residency for an investment of a few million rands.
If not those countries, they take their expertise to continents such as the US, Australia and Europe. Currently, many of our nurses are plying their trade in Saudi Arabia and the UK, while our teachers are working in China, Japan and many other countries where they are better cared for.
With troubled state-owned enterprises such as Eskom, the SABC, SAA and Transnet – which are needlessly in the red and in need of perpetual state bailouts to the tune of billions – a turnaround looks like mission impossible.
It is tempting to advise the president to let all these indebted enterprises fold, but doing so would deny hundreds of thousands of citizens their rights to jobs and security.
If the presidency can sustain the current trajectory – in spite of the crisis of stagnant economic growth, unemployment and economic inequality – our future can be one to look forward to.
Aided by activist professionals in the public and private sectors who fight corruption, our country’s future can be safeguarded.
Professional bodies have to play their part in warding off corporate bullies; they should support whistle-blowing and all instruments that promote the weeding out of unethical conduct in corporations.
They must be at the forefront of protecting the whistle-blowers so that more professionals can be emboldened and stand up and speak against wrongdoing.
Improving good governance can only do the country good.
Surely this will help us receive a favourable outlook from ratings agencies and increase our attractiveness to investors as a good place to do business, which will, in turn, boost economic growth and create jobs.
We must never stop believing – we have it in us to change things for the better.
Most importantly, as professionals, we must play our part in fighting corruption to protect our citizens and help the country to be globally competitive.
Tshenkeng is the founder and managing director of Decode, a reputation management company