By David Jacobs
The scourge of corruption has become all-pervasive and no country is spared from it. Like the mythical Hydra of Greek mythology, it has many heads, and chopping one off simply spawns another.
Yearly, nations around the world reflect on the omnipresent nature of corruption during International Anti-Corruption Day. Speaking at the commemoration Deputy President Paul Mashatile said that we should be vigilant in how we address corruption. “It is a persistent problem that inhibits development, fairness, and equality in our society,” he said.
As government, we are determined to redouble our efforts to root out the cancer of corruption that has plagued our society. During the shameful state capture era, we witnessed first-hand how corruption thrives when integrity is replaced with greed or short-term gain.
The painful lessons we have learned from this dark chapter in our young democracy are a constant reminder that we must never allow corruption to be rationalised as the norm or arrive at a situation where people say ‘but everybody does it’.
We are resolute that corruption in any form or on any scale leads to devastating consequences for our nation. It perpetuates an endless cycle that deprives citizens of quality service delivery and undermines confidence in the institutions that are supposed to serve them.
As Government, we are resolute in fighting corruption and dealing harshly with those who partake in it. We also know that this fight requires concrete actions and not just words. We have therefore made the fight against corruption one of our top priorities.
In November 2020, we adopted the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2020–2030. Consisting of six key strategic pillars it calls on us to do more in the fight against corruption. It promotes active citizenry and professionalism in all spheres of society. It emphasises the need for enhanced governance and oversight, while acknowledging the need to improve the transparency and credibility of the public procurement system.
The work of the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council, an inter-sectoral partnership that fights fraud and corruption through advocacy and action has also been key in supporting anti-corruption and anti-crime initiatives.
Importantly we have also moved to implement the recommendations of the State Capture Commission, to strengthen the work of government and to prevent a recurrence of past abuses.
A key recommendation from the State Capture Commission was to strengthen support for whistle blowers. Many of the ills that have been uncovered were made possible by brave individuals who were willing to stand up, often at great personal cost.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has therefore moved to reform the Protected Disclosures Act and Witness Protection Act. Recommended changes include criminalising threats against whistle-blowers and offering state protection to whistle-blowers and their families when needed.
There has also been major progress in bringing the corrupt to book through the work of the Fusion Centre, which was established in May 2020 by the Anti-Corruption Task Team and the National Priority Committee on Organised Crime. The centre is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative effort by all corruption-fighting agencies that are actively involved in the prevention and combating of corruption.
Through the work of the Fusion Centre, 556 cases and incidents of fraud, maladministration, tax evasion and corruption involving 168 accused persons were investigated. Additionally 51 persons and 43 entities were convicted for various crimes, including corruption, fraud, tax evasion, money laundering and others; and 48 cases are still in court.
However, the scourge of corruption persists, and if left unchecked it will spread like a cancer. This fight has never been just about government and ending it will require the participation of everyone.
The ongoing battle against corruption requires active citizens across society, including government, labour, civil society, academia, and business. We can reclaim our country by working together and everyone has an important role to play in our nation’s fight against corruption.
The success of our fight against corruption depends on the involvement of all citizens and all parts of society, and you can report corruption anonymously. We encourage everyone to report any wrongdoing that you may be aware of to the National Anti-Corruption Hotline on 0800 701 701.
We do not need Herculean strength to defeat the Hydra of corruption. If you see something, say something, use your power and report instances of corruption. If we all stand together those, who are corrupt will have no place to hide.
David Jacobs is GCIS Chief Director: Cluster Communication