Anti-corruption dialogue: SA is not a poor country – it’s poorly managed, say experts

University of the Free State chancellor and President of Business Unity South Africa Professor Bonang Mohale. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

University of the Free State chancellor and President of Business Unity South Africa Professor Bonang Mohale. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Oct 20, 2021


Cape Town - “We all begin to die the day that we are silent about the things that matter.”

These were the sentiments of University of the Free State chancellor and president of Business Unity South Africa Professor Bonang Mohale who on Tuesday afternoon moderated a high-level dialogue on the establishment of a National Anti-Corruption Agency for South Africa.

Hosted by the Inclusive Society Institute (ISI), the dialogue which included civil society, activists and policy groups, was based on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s proposed establishment of a National Anti-Corruption Council (NACC) for the country.

The ISI and the Anti-Corruption Centre for Education and Research (Accerus) of Stellenbosch, through its School of Public Leadership, partnered to research the realities of international and African Advisory Councils against corruption and to produce a report which will be handed to the public policymakers as a contribution to policy development.

The report seeks to make recommendations on the desirability of the NACC.

Mohale maintained South Africa is not a poor country, but rather poorly managed.

“Twenty-seven years into democracy and even three-and-a-half years into the sixth administration, it is clear that state capture is still continuing despite the gigantic efforts of the president.

“The thieves that we found as part of the cabinet are still there and have not been dealt with,” Mohale said.

In a country with 60.1 million South Africans, on average collecting R1.4 trillion through the SA Revenue Services, Mohale said there is “absolutely no reason” why people should go to bed hungry because there is more than enough money to go around.

He described the country as a middle-income country, not a poor country.

“When we see the people who call themselves our leaders stealing the R500m socio-economic stimulus as a response to the pandemic, we know that we still have a long way to go – hence the need for this National Anti-Corruption Council,” Mohale said. “State capture is worse than corruption. It is far worse than bribery, stealing and cheating.”

The lead researcher of the Inclusive Society Institute, Professor Evangelis Mantzaris, who is also involved in compiling the report, said no single body can defeat corruption.

“Political will and the right personnel will allow us to move forward. The most fundamental attitude is to actually upgrade what exists in the anti-corruption agencies,” he said.

Mantzaris said no one could fight against corruption without the strong support of society, communities and the government and all its institutions.

Mantzaris added the report will be “very comprehensive” and provide 10 recommendations.

Drago Kos, who currently chairs the OECD working group on bribery in international business transactions, is a co-chair of Mena – OECD Business Integrity Network, and a member of International Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (IACAB), among others, questioned whether South Africa has anti-corruption fatigue as the country has 14 anti-corruption agencies.

Kos said political will and the right personnel are necessary, but also clearly defined powers and resources.

“We don’t need agency number 15.”

Dr Abiola Makinwa. a senior lecturer in Commercial Law with a special focus on Anti-Corruption Law and Policy at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands, said there is a need for a radical new approach.

“What has worked? Take focus away from punishment to prevention. This is a growing trend. There is a need for proper diagnosis. New modus operandi. What lessons can be gleaned from best practises across the world?”

Professor Pregala Solosh Pillay, who is the vice-dean at the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University and director of the Anti-Corruption Centre for Education and Research of Stellenbosch University (Accerus) said corruption robs the poor. Pillay added that 25% of African states’ GDP is lost to corruption.

The former head of the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority, Willie Hofmeyr, highlighted the country needed to know that law enforcement’s hands were clean.

“Law enforcement has been contaminated. Every commissioner of police since 2000 has been removed for criminal charges. We are not giving enough attention to prevention.”

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