Corruption a 'real national threat'

Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi testifies at the state capture commission of inquiry in Parktown on January 18, 2018 in Johannesburg. (Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)
Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi testifies at the state capture commission of inquiry in Parktown on January 18, 2018 in Johannesburg. (Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

National security combines economic, political, environmental, health, nutritional, community and personal securities. The state has an obligation to follow the dictates of the constitution that guarantees all these securities, writes Evangelos Mantzaris.

Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi's testimony at the Zondo Commission hearings into state capture has once again illustrated how far and wide the tentacles of corruption have spread.

Although newspapers have reported on Bosasa in the past, the full extent of the corruption is now being laid bare. What Agrizzi's revelations also showed is how corrupt acts take a wide variety of combinations and forms with devastating, even dilapidating effects on the lives of billions of people throughout the globe, especially the most vulnerable.

In South Africa we have seen how this has played out over the years. Despite the efforts of different gatekeepers of transparency, accountability and honesty, corruption and corruption acts persist.

READ: Is this why Bosasa was never prosecuted?

Corruption is a scourge that pervades and transverses both the public and private sectors. It de-legitimises the state and its apparatuses at all levels of operations amongst communities, leads to distrust and denigrates local government, the last hope of the marginalised communities for service delivery.

The massive "stay away" of registered voters in the 2016 municipal elections has shown that the support that flows from the people to their beloved ruling party has dissipated. Perpetual instability is the effect. Today, rural and urban communities are still suffering the severe indignities inherited by the apartheid regime despite the efforts of the government to remedy them at all societal levels.

This is because corruption leads to ineffective utilisation of state resources aimed at providing the essential conditions and services to communities, thus denying them the possibility of realising their full potential. Corruption is instrumental in denying the most deserving sections of the population the right to effective and efficient health care, education, employment opportunities, housing, roads, and security.

Such essential services continue to elude millions of South Africans, especially the poor, the marginalised and the rural masses. A sad and endless reality not because of lack of resources, but because government's capacity to provide such services and deliverables has been greatly affected by corruption.

We've almost reached a point where corruption can been regarded as a national threat. It has become a national threat because of the government's inability to detect it, stop it and put the culprits where they belong.

A "real national threat" is a reality that does not allow a state the capacity to promote the pursuit and realisation of the fundamental needs and vital interests of people and society. Put simply, national security combines economic, political, environmental, health, nutritional, community, and personal securities.

The state has a moral and political obligation to follow the dictates of the existing constitution that guarantees that all these securities will be fulfilled. Eliminating corruption at all levels of society is a key prerequisite for this fulfilment to remain a tangible reality.

There is comprehensive legislation and a number of efficient organs of the state, but the sad reality is that the weaknesses of the South African state in the anti-corruption terrain in terms of strategies and are too visible to be ignored.

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It is evident that the vast majority of state institutions do not comprehend or plan and implement defensive, offensive measures and actions, many of which are found in the legislation, as well as rules and regulations released by the Treasury, the Auditor General, the Public Service Commission, national government departments and the leadership of a number of provincial governments. Merely acknowledging that corruption exists will not eradicate it.

The intriguing variety of issues such as power relations and dynamics at all layers of the state machinery, where personal and family financial interests are underlined by greed, avarice coupled with strategic and tactical moves for betraying the will of the people, undermine the government's capacity in resource allocation and service delivery. Communities can see, feel and describe these realities and their anger, frustration and disillusionment result in protest actions.

It is never too late to re-ignite the struggle (not fight) against corruption going beyond commissions of inquiry, forensic investigations, plotting in "think tanks" in all ministries and/or rejuvenating existing structures and talk shops. For the struggle to succeed (after 2019 that is, because at present such initiatives might "create instabilities"), it needs to rise to new levels and demands strategic and comprehensive arrangements and implementable initiatives that are multi-dimensional like the scourge.

This cycle means that research, training and investigation are needed in combatting corruption and how to achieve it. It is through such initiatives that guidance and leadership are the foundations of the planning and implementation of defensive and offensive strategies, mechanisms and measures. Prevention, detection and punishment result through these mechanisms.

Overall, corruption cannot be eliminated without a strong understanding and knowledge of its sociological, economic and political roots. Knowledge, understanding and strict enforcement of solid organisational systems can only be achieved through ethical behaviour and honest and transparent leadership.

These elements cannot flourish and be implemented without strong political will, effective law enforcement, efficient and corruption-free judiciary and an independent and active civil society.

- Professor Evangelos Mantzaris is an extraordinary professor and senior researcher at the Anti-Corruption Centre for Education and Research at Stellenbosch University (ACCERUS).

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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