File photo: Cosatu's spokesperson, Patrick Craven.

 Cape Town - Plans to name and shame government officials found guilty of corruption are a major step in the war against corruption, Cosatu said on Monday.

“Making the names public will make potential offenders think twice before ripping off their fellow South Africans if they know that their family, friends, and neighbours will find out what they have done,” Congress of SA Trade Unions spokesman Patrick Craven said in a statement.

Cosatu also applauded the good progress the government's anti-corruption task team had made since 2010.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe told reporters on Sunday that 237 corrupt officials had been arrested in the past three years, and 32 had been convicted. Only two had been acquitted and another 203 cases were still before the courts.

The criminal assets of 59 people, to the value of R816 million, had already been frozen, and nearly R78m had been forfeited to the state.

The task team, working with the department of rural development and land reform, had recovered three farms valued at R59m, which were lost through acts of corruption. A further five farms, valued at R74m, had been frozen and should be recovered soon.

Craven said Cosatu hoped this momentum would be maintained and that the tide of corruption and theft from the public purse had finally been turned.

“We also hope that this new tough approach will not be confined to public servants, but the business people they collaborate with and also elected representatives at every level who are found guilty of corruption or fraud.”

Cosatu pledged to do everything possible to help the minister publicise the names, and would work closely with CorruptionWatch to keep the government well-informed of allegations from Cosatu members and the public, he said.

In his briefing on Sunday, Radebe said the officials would be named and shamed so society would know who the “rotten apples” were.

In the next few days, all the names of people who had been convicted in cases of corruption, and all those whose assets had either been frozen or forfeited to the state, would be published.

He said officials were “working out the details” of whether to use electronic media, newspapers, radio or television to publish the information.

“We want to ensure the public is conscious of what has happened, because for some time, when people talk about corruption, it's just a number. We now want to do this in a meaningful way,” Radebe said. - Sapa