Participants follow proceedings during the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Picture: Michael Tewelde/Xinhua

Johannesburg – The African Union (AU) is focusing this week’s 30th summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on ‘Winning the fight against corruption: a sustainable path to Africa’s transformation’ – an issue close to the heart of South Africans.

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has been appointed to lead this fight after he based his 2015 presidential campaign on rooting out corruption in Nigeria.

 “The AU has several instruments at its disposal to set norms and standards when it comes to corruption, notably the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC) that came into effect in 2006,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, a consultant with Pretoria’s Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

“So far 38 countries have ratified the convention. Its implementation is supposed to be monitored by the AU Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC), which is also tasked with supporting member states in preventing and eradicating corruption,” added Vaudran who further pointed out that South Africa could be an example to the continent.

Corruption – an issue that has dogged the South African government and the rest of the country under President Jacob Zuma – was one of the deciding factors in the African National Congress (ANC) electing Cyril Ramaphosa as the new president of the African National Congress (ANC) in December.

Following his electoral victory, and his promises to root out corruption and state capture, a mood of optimism has prevailed in the country in addition to renewed international confidence in the possibility of improved investment opportunities in South Africa.

Recently the rand climbed to an all-time high of over R12 to the greenback - since 2015 - as part of this new confidence.

African News Agency (ANA) reported from the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, that Ramaphosa’s “new position has been a magnet for investors and world leaders who are keen to hear his position on the country’s future direction”.

And just weeks after his election, the fight against corruption is gaining momentum

“After months of inaction – former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into state capture was released way back in November 2016 – investigators are for the first time taking steps against those named in the report,” ISS's Louw-Vaudran wrote on Wednesday.

 “The state’s Asset Forfeiture Unit, for example, says it is trying to recover R50 billion siphoned off in corrupt deals and is pursuing 17 related cases,” she added.

“Only last week the unit ordered that R1.6 billion be seized from auditors McKinsey and Trillian, a company owned by the infamous Gupta family – accused of large-scale corrupt practices involving Zuma and his family.”

Should South Africa’s fight against endemic corruption succeed, this could have a domino effect on the continent.

Africa already has a number of institutions to employ in the anti-corruption fight, including the African Tax Administration Forum and the African Parliamentarians Network against Corruption and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa also launched several initiatives in addition to supporting AU initiatives.

Budding signs of other African countries taking up the fight include Angola’s newly elected President João Lourenço firing the children of former leader José Eduardo dos Santos from powerful positions, in an endeavour to eliminate corruption and nepotism that have been part and parcel of a country where the majority live in dire poverty despite Angola’s massive oil reserves.

In South Africa’s case the next few weeks are critical when the Hawks crime-fighting unit appoints a new head, simultaneously as wrangling over the appointment of a new head of the National Prosecuting Authority continues.

African News Agency/ANA