Nelson Mandela Foundation chairman Professor Njabulo Ndebele has laid into governement, accusing it of abdicated its duties and responsibilities. Picture: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Johannesburg - The scourge of corruption and the perceived reluctance from law enforcement to act against transgressors shows that the South African government has relinquished its official duties and now steals from its own people, Nelson Mandela Foundation chairperson Professor Njabulo Ndebele said on Friday.

Addressing the African National Congress (ANC) consultative conference organised by the party's stalwarts and veterans, Ndebele said he was speaking on his own behalf and "carried no mandate".

"The scourge of corruption in South Africa today has gone far from being a matter of law and order. The notion of law and order applies to a state process where the vast majority of population respects the rule of law...and where law enforcement agencies enforce the same law by dealing firmly with theft, violence and threat to peace.

"What is happening today is that the government, elected to act accordingly and support and promote law and order and constitutional rule, in several aspects of its conduct, has abdicated that responsibility...it has itself become a thief that steals," Ndebele said to a loud applause from delegates.

The government, led by the African National Congress (ANC) since 1994, has become an instrument that protects itself from the consequences of its own transgressions, he added.

Formal terms used in government structures such as security cluster, national joint operational committee, justice, crime and prevention security cluster and national key points were "a cloak behind which criminal transgressions against the state can take place with impunity". 

"Government can therefore disturb the peace, commit violence against those who stand up against it and would not enforce the law and penalties against itself."

Ndebele said it was necessary for South Africans to rescue their country and themselves from the ''parallel secret security state'' which he said has consolidated in the last ten years into an "organised criminal order defrauding the state".

That criminal order, he said, has infiltrated the civil service and other constitutional institutions of governance. It performed "outward gestures of legitimacy, but with a diminishing public trust in the legitimacy of its actions".

The governing party was capable of being forgotten in the same way the National Party of the apartheid era has been forgotten he added.

''Legacies do come and go. The predominantly Afrikaner National Party believed it would be there until Jesus comes. It was once a dominant feature of politics with its brutal impact on South Africans. It would, however, be a moment filled with anxiety on many to begin to visualise a moment the ANC is no longer in power...how the ANC behaves today in Parliament may be laying the groundwork for how it could be treated in future."

ANC leaders at the conference include former president Thabo Mbeki, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Lechesa Tsenoli, former finance ministers Trevor Manuel and Pravin Gordhan, and SA Communist Party (SACP) secretary Blade Nzimande.