It is a well-known fact that a country where corruption reigns will fail in its endeavours to create a just and prosperous dispensation for its people. Corruption is not only bad for a government and reputation of the country but it is also detrimental to the growth of the economy, job creation and the country's overall development.
Most governments around the world are affected by corruption in one way or the other and South Africa is no exception. According to a 2006 report entitled Apartheid Grand Corruption: Assessing the Scale of Crimes of Profit During Racist Rule in South Africa from 1976 to 1994 by the Institute for Security Studies, corruption was a pervasive problem in all levels of government under apartheid to the extent that it could "inevitably serve to corrupt the new order", referring to the new democratic dispensation.
Corruption thrived in the apartheid state because it was kept hidden. However the new dispensation lifted restrictions on media, and they are free to play a watchdog role over government and the private sector. The changes introduced since 1994 according to Transparency International have helped reduce the country's vulnerability to political corruption. The country is also ranked 28th out of 167 countries surveyed in the 2011 Democracy Index, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
In 2009 President Jacob Zuma's administration took this fight against corruption to another level when it prioritised crime as one of the five priorities of government. His administration envisioned improving coordination among the anti-corruption bodies by establishing a Multi-Agency Working Group and Anti-Corruption Task Team that comprises of the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority including the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the Special Investigating Unit, National Treasury, the South African Revenue Service and Financial Intelligence Centre.
Speaking at the post-State of the Nation Address media briefing on the good progress the country has made since 2010, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe stated: "…237 persons have been arrested, 32 have convicted whilst only two have been acquitted and the other 203 accused persons are still before court…Criminal assets of 59 persons to the value of R816 million have already been frozen. Nearly R78 million has already been forfeited and returned to the state."
In recognition of the vital role South Africans can play in stamping out the scourge, government instituted the National Anti-Corruption Hotline that is managed by the Public Service Commission. According to President Jacob Zuma, 17 110 cases of alleged corruption have been reported since 2004 and successful investigations have led to the recovery of R330 million.
Additionally, Government is committed to a clean, accountable public service as government officials involved in corruption are dealt with irrespective of status or rank. "A total of 2 638 officials were found guilty of misconduct related to corrupt activities between 1 September 2004 and 31 August 2013. At the provincial level, a total of 1 728 officials were found guilty of misconduct related to corrupt activities whilst 910 officials were found guilty of misconduct for corrupt activities at national departments.
A total of 491 officials were suspended and 1 600 were dismissed from the Public Service. In other figures, 256 officials were fined three months' salary, 31 officials were demoted, 541 officials were given final written warnings and 210 officials were prosecuted," President Jacob Zuma said at a meeting with editors recently.
The Department of Public Service and Administration is working on wide-ranging initiatives that would deter public servants from committing corruption. It is implementing measures aimed at preventing public servants from doing business with government, and has created the School of Government to improve the public sector's performance and good governance.
All these initiatives will however amount to nothing if the public does not play their part; we encourage all South Africans to be vigilant and report the committing of such crimes to law enforcement agencies and Chapter 9 institutions. Without evidence and people being courageous enough to act as witnesses, the prosecuting team will not be able to prove the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt as required in criminal law.
We are however encouraged by findings from Global Corruption Barometer 2013 that shows that 89 per cent of South Africans said they are prepared to take a stand against corruption and do something about it. As government we look forward to seeing more cases being reported in future as we ramp up our effort to rid the country of corruption.
It is worth remembering though that committing corruption is a two way street, it involves a giver and recipient. Every time you offer a bribe to a public official or another person to act in certain way; such as giving you a tender, both of you have committed corruption and the act is punishable by law.
By the same token we all have a duty to report corruption. Our laws state that failure by a person who is in a position of authority who knows, or ought to reasonably have known that such a crime has been committed will be held liable.
Speaking after a lecture at the University of Johannesburg, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said, "On every transaction, there is government on one side and business on the other side. Government rarely does business with itself. When you have corrupt activity taking place, yes there will be a corrupt official maybe a corrupt politician but on the other side there is a business". The Minister on this occasion and many others reminded South Africans that we need to work together to fight this social problem.
"We need to fight the culture of corruption. A culture… of making easy money. Not having to think hard, work hard, be clever and find an innovative way of making money."
Government in this vein, calls on all sectors in South Africa to not turn a blind eye to corruption, or in any way encourage it taking place because if we do so, we are ultimately doing our country a disservice and threatening the future South Africa we want to build for our children.
Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)