Corruption will destroy the country’s economy by 2020, Vavi warns

Former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi speaks at the KZN Lean Conference held at Hilton College.
Former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi speaks at the KZN Lean Conference held at Hilton College.
Ian Carbutt

Pietermaritzburg - South Africans will find themselves drowning like migrants fleeing the Middle East and Africa in the near future if they do not act against corruption.

This claim was made by former Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who was addressing the KwaZulu-Natal Lean conference yesterday at Hilton.

Vavi told the delegates that if corruption continued at this rate, by 2020 the country’s economy would have collapsed.

“By then, there would be nothing left. We will be moving in different directions and drowning while seeking better opportunities,” he said.

Still exhausted by the Unite Against Corruption march, Vavi said corruption was everywhere in the country.

“Even churches are not spared corruption. I saw some members of a church kicking each other in court. It is all because of corruption,” said Vavi.

Having led the Pretoria march on Wednesday, Vavi was left disappointed by the speech of the minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, who accepted the memorandum.

“He prepared what he was going to say before even seeing the demands of the marchers — that arrogance of typing the minutes of the meeting before the meeting has even started,” said Vavi.

He said corruption in tender fraud was fast getting out of control.

“Former minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan said in his 2012 budget speech that SA was losing about R25-35 billion of infrastructure budget in each financial year to tender fraud. That is beyond theft, it is taking,” said Vavi.

“It has become increasingly difficult to do business with the state without greasing the hand of the corrupt gatekeeper.”

Vavi lobbied the business people to join the fight against corruption.

“If you are scared that you might become unpopular with gatekeepers and lose tenders, well there will be no tenders in 20 years because the economy would have collapsed,” he said.

“Soon the gatekeepers are going to ask you for a 50% share of the profit. At the moment we have heard that they are asking people for a 20% or 30% share,” said Vavi.

With golden handshakes becoming common in state-owned institutions, Vavi said he was happy to be part of the team challenging them in court.

“At the NPA [National Prosecution Authority] we lost R17,3 million in a golden handshake for someone who got a report that said he was good at what he was doing,” said Vavi.

He blamed cadre deployment for the latest scandals at South African Airways, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

Vavi said there was no point in talking about transformation if only a few are going to benefit from it.

“You can not tell me it’s transformation if it’s going to be hijacked to build an elite and sideline the marginalised black majority,” he said.

Vavi said there was no use in the country having the public protector if there were no mechanisms to enforce her recommendations. “Look at the R246 million that was lost in Nkandla, how much was recovered?”

He also called for the protection of whistleblowers.

“We have been asking why whistleblowers are getting killed in Mpumalanga. We need to protect them, otherwise people will become too scared to report corrupt activities,” he said.

Vavi said he was disappointed by the level for the disrespect for the rule of law in the country.

“We are becoming a country of disorder. We do not respect pedestrians. We pay bribes to get our driver’s licences. We are law breakers, comrades,” he said

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