Keynote Address by the Minister for Public Service and Administration, Mr Senzo Mchunu at the Commemoration of International Anti-Corruption Day, held at Unisa Senate Hall, Pretoria
Programme Director, Professor Somadoda Fikeni
Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Advocate Richard Sizani
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms N Bekele-Thomas
Unisa Principal and Vice Rector, Professor Mandla Makhanya
Co-Chairperson of National Anti-Corruption Strategy, Messrs Robert McBride and D. Lewis
The commemoration of International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD) takes place at an appropriate time in our country as we are recommitting ourselves to fighting corruption, which is fast becoming one of the impediments to our march towards consolidating and basking in the glory brought about by democracy in 1994.
The IACD is celebrated annually on 9 December in recognition of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which was signed in Mexico in 2003. South Africa is one of the signatories to the Convention and ratified it in 2004. Basically, this means that all our anti-corruption legislation must fall in line with UNCAC. This year’s theme is ‘United Against Corruption: Building a Culture of Accountability for Sustainable Development.’
Impact of corruption
Transparency International describes corruption as ‘the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.’ It further states that corruption:
- is a major obstacle to democracy and the rule of law, as offices and institutions lose their legitimacy when they are misused for private advantage
- depletes national wealth
- corrodes the social fabric of society
- results in environmental degradation
Sustainable Development Goal 16 commits government to substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms. Chapter 14 of the National Development Plan (NDP) commits the country to a set of nation building goals to engender the knowledge of the Constitution and foster the values contained in it.
Our drive towards cleansing the State off corruption
In his State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa outlined seven priorities for this Sixth Administration, which are:
- Economic transformation and job creation
- Education, skills and health
- Consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services
- Spatial integration, human settlements and local government
- Social cohesion and safe communities
- A capable, ethical and developmental state
- A better Africa and World
The NDP provides a renewed impetus to corruption fighting efforts. The fight against corruption started occupying a prominent space on the country’s agenda in 1997, with the adoption of the Code of Conduct for the Public Service that serves as a guideline to Public Service employees.
The reality of the matter is that fighting corruption is one of the most daunting tasks, as it manifests itself in different forms. We therefore need to have a dynamic and continuous approach.
Corruption affects all sectors of society, hence the Government invited the business sector and civil society to the first National Anti-corruption Summit in 1999, which led to the formation of the National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF) in 2001. The NACF is a coalition formed between civil society, business and government with the aim of driving the national anti-corruption campaign, whose obecjtives, among others, are to contribute towards the establishment of a national consensus through the coordination of sectoral strategies against corruption and to advise government on the implementation of strategies to combat corruption.
It is concerning though that the intended good work of the NACF has not been executed since 2012, which is a period within which we have seen the marked increase of corruption in our country. The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and the Public Service Commission (PSC), from the side of Government, are the drivers of the NACF. The rationale for an overarching National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) is to rejuvenate a national dialogue and direct energy towards practical mechanisms to reduce corruption and improve ethical practice across sectors and amongst citizens in South Africa.
We also need to support coordination between government, business and civil society efforts to reduce corruption and improve accountability and ethical practice. Former Minister in the Presidency, Mr Jeff Radebe, launched the NACS Discussion Document in May 2017. This was followed by extensive public participation campaign in 2018 and 2019 with, among others, consultation sessions held in all nine provinces. Among other roleplayers consulted included Nedlac, business and civil society. Written inputs were also received from Corruption Watch (CW), Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) and Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC). Draft NACS comprises a strategy document, implementation plan and monitoring and evaluation framework.
The development of the NACS has since generated a lot of interest and support from all sectors, including the UN, which provided funding thereof.
We are so determined to ensure that we fight corruption with all our resources and might. Already we are beginning to see some arrests and prosecutions, including that of people holding senior positions in Government. This is a result of the hard work done by our law enforcement agencies to ensure that all those who broke the law do account for their actions. We owe it to the millions of South Africans who feel cheated and treated with disdain. The outcry among citizens is that nothing is being done and, as a people-centred Government, we cannot ignore such perceptions. I want to assure them that a lot is being done and results thereof will soon be visible as most of the investigations currently happening will be put on the court roll.
There is also a lot of good work done by commissions of inquiry into the affairs of the Public Investment Commission (PIC) and Commission on State Capture, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo, among others. We just want to ensure that we leave no stone unturned in uprooting corruption in our country.
In that vein, one welcomes the picket by mainly civil society organisations to voice their unhappiness about the perceived slow pace of dealing with state capture and corruption. Such activism is necessary to ensure that we good jealousy our hard-won democracy and constantly conscientise those in authority that they are not serving themselves, but the people.
We need to imrpove our standing globally
According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2018, South Africa scored 43 points out of 100 in terms of public sector corruption, with 0 indicating highly corrupt and 100 very clean. This is very worrying, hence President Ramaphosa declared in SONA that:
‘We need to ensure that public money stolen is returned and used to deliver services and much needed basic infrastructure to the poorest communities.’
Fighting corruption is not an easy task, as those who are beneficiaries are also fighting back and will do anything possible to ensure that they do not account for their actions. Sometimes whistleblowers are victimised, with some losing their jobs, business contracts and, in certain instances, their lives. However, we should not be deterred, but form a united front, working with law enforcement agencies. We must forge a partnership of anti-corruption crusaders and reclaim our country from greedy, self-serving individuals. We cannot allow a minority of criminals to dictate the agenda of multitudes of good-willed South Africans.
In the words of former President Nelson Mandela:
‘Those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty.’
16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children
On the 25th of November, President Ramaphosa launched the 16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, which ends on the 10th of December. As a society, we should make this a 365 days campaign. This period is just for highlighting the campaign’s importance. As a country, we are not doing well in ensuring that women and children are safe. As Government, we are issuing a stern warning and have demonstrated our resolve to punishing this abhorrant behaviour of ill-treating the vulnerable. We are handing down heavy sentences to transgressors, but we encourage communities to work with us by helping in curbing the behaviour. We must socialise our boys and make them understand that women are human beings like them, deserving of human rights as well. Communities must also understand that domestic violence is not a private matter. It must be prevented, stopped and reported to authorities.
Very soon, we will be entering the festive season. There is a lot of anti-social behaviour that gets associated with this period. It is against this background that one implores all of us to be considerate on the roads. Please do not drive under the influence of alcohol because you will cause accidents that could result in loss of lives and serious injuries. However, our law-enforcement agencies are ready to ensure that those who trangress receive the punishment they deserve. People must also not abuse alcohol, even if they are not driving. Let us have fun, but not at the expense of human lives and morality.
I therefore take this opportnuity and congratulate the PSC for holding such an important occasion. The fight against corruption should be carried out tirelessly, as criminals are always plotting new ways of carrying out their evil deeds.
Let me also wish you all the best during the festive period and a Happy New Year. May you use this period to strengthen relations with families and all your loved ones and come back next year rejuvinated to continue with the tasks of making our country a better place to live in.
I thank you!