Civil society organisations say corruption amnesty is ‘good and practical’
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Durban - Civil society organisations have come out in support of former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s controversial proposal that low level officials implicated in acts of corruption be granted amnesty in exchange for their co-operation.
However, an anti-corruption body and a political analyst have rejected the idea, saying the time for amnesty has passed and those implicated should be jailed.
Madonsela set the cat among the pigeons this week when she called for amnesty for some officials who played a minor role in acts of corruption.
Speaking on SAFM on Monday and then again on Radio 702, Madonsela said the amnesty should be for the enablers who are junior in the food chain and who participated in corruption because they were under pressure.
“I want to explain though that my engagement targeted those who had played a minor role. I know people have responded on my timeline saying I want to give my friends in the ANC a free pass.
“My interest is not the politicians, it’s clerks, it’s the public servants that were corrupted. Once you have been corrupted you need to be given an opportunity to self-identify and be rehabilitated because if you are not rehabilitated and you are still in the system, they might continue to steal as an insurance for when things go wrong,” she said.
Madonsela said those granted amnesty would be expected to pay the money back or whatever gratification they had received.
David Lewis of Corruption Watch described the idea as good and practical.
“We are never going to be able to prosecute all the cases of corruption. Very often even the low level people are involved in high level corruption.
“Provided that the conditions are right, they agree to tell the truth, there is an argument for this and could free up the resources for the police and prosecutors to go after the big guys,” said Lewis.
Wayne Duvenage of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse said the idea had its merits but would need to be carefully thought out and implemented.
“There is so much corruption at the moment that if we can do something like this, where people reveal all the details in exchange for amnesty and if they fail, they do not get amnesty,” said Duvenage.
He said such a move could help with recovering what was stolen and catch people who might otherwise have escaped punishment.
“If we do not do something like this, it could take years and years to hold people accountable,” he said.
Political analyst Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana said such a move could undermine efforts to fight corruption.
“If you listened to the testimonies of the Zondo Commission you hear of how brazen the looting was as many of these people believed nothing would happen to them and indeed for nine years nothing happened to them,” he said.
He said instead of amnesty there could be plea bargains because there were individuals who were put under pressure by their superiors to engage in corruption.
Advocate Paul Hoffman of Accountability Now said the culture of corruption in South Africa was so deeply embedded that people seem to believe they were entitled to the taxpayer’s money and that they will get away with it.
“For accountability to be enforced, the law should deal with all those that have been implicated in corruption.”