By South African Christian Leadership Initiative
Government has failed to respond to a memorandum of demands submitted to it during nationwide protest marches by the Unite Against Corruption (UAC) coalition, in spite of a personal commitment by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe to come up with a detailed reply, says the South African Christian Leadership Initiative.
UAC leaders today said they interpreted this non-response as either a denial of the seriousness of corruption, an absence of leadership or extreme arrogance. However, the coalition said it was still prepared to engage, should government want to commit to specific targets against corruption.
During the marches on September 30 and October 14, 2015, the coalition of more than 300 trade unions, civil society and faith groups gave government and business two months to respond to its demands. The Cape Chamber of Commerce & Industry submitted its reply on October 19. Government has not responded at all.
During the past week, the UAC wrote to Radebe requesting a response before 9 December, so it could be published as part of International Anti-Corruption Day activities on December 9. According to Mr Zwelinzima Vavi, veteran trade unionist, former General Secretary of Cosatu and one of the UAC leaders, the coalition had received nothing – “no calls, no meetings, nothing.”
No evidence of a turning tide
“There is no evidence that we are moving in the right direction,” Vavi said.
“We therefore plan to unite society around the issues that are being ignored. Leaders can expect to be held accountable to specific targets in 2016. Agency is moving back to ordinary people, who are refusing to pay bribes but demand services instead. We need more of these ordinary people around,” Vavi said.
Rev Moss Ntlha, Secretary General of The Evangelical Alliance of Southern Africa (TEASA) said that, after the protest marches, “the ANC said all the right things, but there were no specific promises. And the promise they did make – namely to respond – was not kept. Next year, specifically around the 2016 local government elections, we will demand specific commitments and mobilise the public to keep leaders accountable.
“Government is methodically and systematically destroying public confidence, faith and hope. It is failing the leadership test.”
Ntlha called on government to restore hope by displaying good leadership.
“We believe things can still be turned around. We are all for building accountability and trust. We can tear each other apart or we can work together to re-build what has been broken.”
Business response insubstantial
In a 1-page response Cape Chamber of Commerce & Industry Chairperson Janine Myburgh called corruption a “cancer in our society (that) aggravates the unemployment situation.” She said allegations that business is equally involved in corruption, were “disturbing.” The letter then calls for transparency but without committing to specifics.
Mark Heywood, Director of Section 27, described the business response as “welcome, but inadequate and insubstantial,” as it mostly points to government as the source of corruption.
NUMSA’s Head of Education and United Front member Dinga Sikwebu said there is a growing understanding amongst the public that corruption is not limited to the public sphere.
“Our members appreciate that corruption is linked to job losses; that corruption is not just a bribe you pay to the police.”
A government out of touch
Stephen Faulkner, interim convenor of the Nine Plus Unions, said Radebe missed a golden opportunity to engage with one of the largest coalitions of civil society in many years, and to show its identification with the concerns of ordinary South Africans.
“He has also missed his turn to put on record what government is actually prepared to do about corruption – especially in the light of the wastefulness highlighted in the latest Auditor General’s report. Corruption is resulting in poor people being denied even basic service delivery.”
The recent Global Corruption Barometer published by Transparency International, the Africa Survey 2015, found that 83% of South Africans believed corruption was increasing. This was 25% higher than that of 28 other surveyed countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Also, 79% of South Africans felt government was performing poorly in its efforts to combat corruption.
Citing these figures, David Lewis, Director of Corruption Watch, said “the public is obviously not out of touch with the seriousness of corruption.” He warned that unless government and business started acting against corruption, increasing distrust in formal democratic processes and key private sector institutions could be expected.
“This does not portend well for stability, economic growth or social cohesion. All of these are threatened by government’s non-responsiveness. People are becoming increasingly likely to make their voices heard by reporting corruption or by public demonstrations.”
A call for activism
Oya Hazel Gumede, Director at public sector legal advisory company Ashira Legal Advisors said the messages from government and business can only be interpreted as an abdication of responsibility.
“However, this is merely the outcome of the lack of a sufficiently strong and concerted effort by the citizenry. Government and business can only abdicate their responsibility if the citizens themselves have not taken their responsibility of effectively exercising their power to hold the leadership accountable as seriously as they can and should.”