South Africa must adopt an anti-corruption culture that was taught at kindergarten right through to institutions of higher learning, public service and administration minister Richard Baloyi said today.
“We must create a public awareness that makes it anti-South African to be corrupt,” he said at an anti-corruption business forum in Johannesburg hosted by Business Unity SA.
Since corruption undermined the rule of law, it was incumbent on the business community to join forces with the government to combat it.
“It is the business community that must write the rules of business. They cannot be determined by those not in business.”
Corruption could stunt economic development in the country as it would discourage foreign direct investment, the minister said.
South Africa ranked 54th in Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index released on Tuesday.
The country had a score of 4.5. Botswana was the best of all African countries at 33rd with a score of 5.8.
The closer the score is to 10, the less corrupt a country is perceived to be.
Baloyi said this indicated South Africa had a growing corruption problem. While it had the infrastructure to combat corruption, society’s perception was that the country was not performing as its infrastructure allowed.
“Corruption could collapse the economy in ways only realised once the collapse has taken place.”
The most common manifestations of corruption had been classified as being bribery, embezzlement, theft and fraud, extortion, abuse of discretion, favouritism, nepotism and clientelism, conflict of interest and improper political contributions.
Baloyi said “for obvious reasons” he wished to clarify improper political contributions.
“The difficulties of making a distinction between legitimate contributions to political organisations and payments made in an attempt to unduly influence present and future activities by party members once they are in power explain this categorisation.”
In a reference to the matter involving the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro), businessman Sandile Majali and Kalahari Resources, Baloyi said recent stories about company hijacking, irrespective of whether these were true or false, “create a perception-driven cloud of mistrust on our company registration systems”.
The country should be worried about corruption as it was the biggest threat to good governance.
“Left unabated, it will develop to a state where access to both public and private services is based on the degree to which you are able to manipulate delivery, even if these are supposed to be freely given.”
However, the minister said the government had introduced a number of laws to remove the space for corruption to occur. These included the Public Service Code of Conduct issued in terms of the Public Service Act, Promotion of Access to Information Act and Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.
Included in this policy mix was the ratification of international conventions dealing with corruption.
“This we did because we understood our role in the globalising world and Africa in particular.”
Baloyi said South Africa had signed the Southern African Development Community Protocol against corruption, the African Union Convention on Preventing Corruption, the African Peer Review Mechanism, the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Officials in International Business Transactions.