Civil society groups and activists are calling on public to support Anti-Corruption Week Picture: Supplied
Civil society groups and activists are calling on public to support Anti-Corruption Week Picture: Supplied

Wear orange overalls in the fight against corruption

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Nov 13, 2021

Share this article:

Nearly 30 civil society and activist groups are calling on South Africans to stand up against corruption in Anti-Corruption Week from December 3-10.

Yesterday, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation held a picket in Johannesburg as an activation ahead of the planned week. All the groups are planning pickets, awareness drives and information sessions, which will culminate on December 10, International Human Rights Day.

In a media release sent out by Defend Our Democracy this week, the groups said that apart from highlighting PPE corruption within the health sector during the Covid pandemic, “we will also be shining the spotlight on how corruption affects water provision, energy supply, municipal services and the lives of honest public servants and whistle-blowers”.

This week load shedding and water stoppages disrupted daily lives across the country, heavily impacting the business sector, while Twitter was abuzz when activist Athol Williams fled the country, saying he feared for his life. Williams had testified at the state capture inquiry and said this week: “If I stayed at home, there was a good chance I would be silenced, so I left.”

This year, whistle-blower and senior Gauteng health department official Babita Deokaran was shot multiple times when returning home after taking her child to school.

The civil society release stated: “As South Africa emerges from a local government election in which many citizens chose not to vote, there is a need to re-engage the public around participatory democracy, holding public representatives accountable, and playing an active role in advocating for clean and ethical governance.

“We all know that corruption is a problem in South Africa, but we need to understand the sheer extent of it in order to tackle it efficiently.

“Send a message to those who are corrupt: ’We are watching you, and we will no longer sit by while you plunder what belongs to the people’,” read the statement, urging the public to “Go Orange” during Anti-Corruption Week, symbolising the orange overalls that the corrupt must wear in jail.

Yesterday, Zaakirah Vadi from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said whistle-blowers and honest public servants were put under severe pressure.

“We are asking the government to strengthen protection for whistle-blowers, and we have had numerous engagements with civil society and the government on this.

“We want the public to show support for whistle-blowers who have the moral courage to stand up, and then they are painted in a negative light. Communities need to laud them and support them, such as inviting them to community meetings,” she said, adding that whistle-blowers faced not only threats and intimidation but also loss of income and poor publicity, making it difficult for a whistle-blower to find new employment.

“We’ve had instances where those who are deeply implicated in corruption are lauded, while a whistle-blower is not accepted in the same space,” said Vadi.

The corporate sector must also implement effective whistle-blower policies.

“We hope the Anti-Corruption Week will be a ray of hope and a platform where people of South Africa can effectively channel their anger and which will result in change. This campaign is the beginning and is about inspiring hope,” said Vadi.

Pops Rampersad, from the Active Citizens Movement (ACM), said the organisation had played an active role in supporting whistle-blowers who were core to exposing corruption in the public or private sector.

“We have been engaging with government and hope to have a meeting before the year-end.

“We hope the state capture report will throw light on the extent of corruption and whether the government will take steps to protect whistle-blowers. That is our main call to every South African to protect whistle-blowers and to not only protect but to support them.

“I’m in contact with whistle-blowers daily, and what they go through is very traumatic. Society cannot be silent anymore,” said Rampersad.

KZN violence monitor and analyst Mary de Haas said: “Corruption kills because it is built into all levels of governance, including SOEs, gobbling up money meant for poor people who then don’t have proper housing, water, sanitation or even a clean environment.

“It also kills through murder because it is so easy to kill corruption fighters. The use of hitmen is institutionalised, especially in the taxi industry, and that is further corruption where there is no political will to deal with it.”

Co-ordinator of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), Des D’Sa, said: “Corruption is so deep. We desperately need active citizenry. Nothing short of that can help.

“People are now interested only in easy money, not service to humanity. Humanity has gone out the window.”

Anonymous tip-offs are used globally in the fight against corruption with various platforms and apps available to whistle-blowers, such as Real411 or the new BDO Tip-Offs for use in the private or public sector.

BDO head of forensics Annemari Krugel said apps to report corruption should ensure the whistle-blower’s anonymity.

She said anonymous communication should enable a simple report or with a moderator, while photographs, documents and other evidence should be simple to upload for a whistle-blower without being identified.

Reports on corruption can also be made on websites such as Corruption Watch at corruptionwatch.org.za/report.

To make your pledge against corruption, register your Anti-Corruption Week activation or to get more information, go to www.defendourdemocracy.co.za.

The Independent on Saturday

Share this article: