Corruption, which is the misuse of public office for an individual’s private gain, is getting too common in South Africa. It is essential that the government address this issue, else it can pose a severe threat such that it will become part and parcel of an average citizen’s everyday life in South Africa. The moment this occurs among the citizens of the society, there is hardly any other way to remove it from their midst. Corruption in South Africa includes privately using public properties or assets as well as bribery and nepotism. There are various types of corruption observed in South Africa; three prevalent forms are tenderpreneurism, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) fronting, and petty corruption.
A tenderpreneur is someone who enriches himself/herself in the course of awarding government tender contracts. This act of awarding these contracts is mostly done through personal associates and corrupt acquaintances, even though complete bribery could occur, often involving an elected official, a political appointee, or his/her relations holding such interests concurrently. Enriching oneself is frequently achieved through overpricing, substandard workmanship, and unnecessary advances known as commissions.
BEE-fronting neglects the policy governing Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), where people who meet the prerequisite requirements are given a seat on the board of a company. These people have no decision-making power in making the company succeed but just in getting government contracts as far as BEE is concerned.
Similarly, petty corruption is rampant in South Africa, especially in the public service domain. Petty corruption, otherwise known as small-scale or administrative corruption, is the day-by-day corruption between citizens and established public institutions. Petty corruption has to do with bribery linked to the discharge of an existing set of laws. It is the misuse of power in day-to-day situations, as seen in “Quiet corruption” and “Everyday corruption.” In the case of “quiet corruption,” public servants intentionally disregard their legitimate duties to offer public services or goods that will benefit them. ‘Quiet’ corruption does not necessarily involve the exchange of money; but, it involves those who provide public services like the doctors, nurses, teachers, or other officials, bending the rules to favour their private benefits by not reporting for work at the expected time.
On the other hand, “everyday corruption” is a type of corruption practiced by ordinary citizens each passing day. A road traffic official could demand a bribe to prevent handing a ticket for beating the “Red” light or driving above the speed limit. In other words, it means a government official insisting on a fee for not carrying out a service that has already been paid for by the government. A government official appointing his/her relatives or acquaintances for a public position is also part of everyday corruption. The use of public funds meant for developmental projects, for instance, to purchase a house, cars, or household furniture and the likes are common everyday corruption practices.
In all these, the pertinent question is, “Whose work is it to confront corruption in South Africa? The responsibilities of confronting corruption rest on both the citizens and the government of South Africa.
Responsibilities of the Citizens in Confronting Corruption in South Africa
The citizens’ responsibilities are in two ways, the passive and the active confrontation of corruption; the two ought to go hand in hand if confronting corruption will be effective from the citizens’ side. The passive confrontation of corruption in South Africa on the citizens’ part has to do with the citizens’ discipline and determination not to be involved in any type of corruption no matter how big or small and however tempting the offer might be. This citizens’ discipline and determination is the first step that centers on the citizens’ moral obligation to confront corruption. The active confrontation of corruption in South Africa by the citizens is whistleblowing, which is taking the bull by the horn to report any individual, group, or company involved in corruption of any type at various levels. For the citizens to do this effectively, there has to be proper protection for them by the government.
Responsibilities of the Government in Confronting Corruption in South Africa
Established Independent Institutions generally handle the confrontation of corruption by the government. One of such institution is the Department of Public Service and Administration. Another is The Public Protector, which was set up by the constitution to support and defend democracy; therefore, it’s role in fighting corruption cannot be over emphasized. The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), known popularly as the Hawks, is another institution that captures organized crime, economic crime, and corruption. South Africa has a clear structure and legislation which details corruption initiatives. The Prevention and Combating of Corruption Act (PCCA) make corruption illegal both in the public and private sectors. Apart from this, the act goes further to codify certain offenses to make it easier for courts to use the legislation. This act particularly frowns at money laundering, abuse of power, bribery, and extortion while allowing public officials to bring such offenses to appropriate institutions’ attention. The only negative side is that, just like many corruption regulations in South Africa, the act is weakly executed, and there is no defense mechanism in place for whistleblowers.
The responsibilities of the Government in Confronting Corruption in South Africa for a long-lasting effect includes but not limited to the following;
First and foremost is to create awareness for every South African to see corruption as a national emergency. Seeing corruption as a national emergency would prevent the idea of defending and, in some cases denying corruption, which is prevalent in some individuals, private, public, government, and political circles.
Secondly, political parties must officially discipline the bad conduct of their leaders and members while rewarding excellent behavior at the same time. Corrupt leaders and public servants, no matter how powerful they may be in the party, must be brought to book and, if necessary, sacked publicly. This is the only way that government can restore the citizens’ confidence and therefore earn their loyalty to follow the regulations as well. The government must uphold merit, competence, moral character, and genuine commitment against favouritism and nepotism in public service.
Thirdly, the enhancement of each institution’s ability to independently combat corruption involves giving the necessary legal backing to each institution, such as the enactment of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Activities Act of 2004. This does not deprive them of the autonomy they need to handle corruption accordingly.
Fourthly, the government needs to establish an independent institution specifically saddled to follow up on reports of corruption. There are numerous corruption cases exposed every day; however, there is no structure that enables the state to bring the perpetrators to book. This is especially so when such people enjoy the protection of some powerful politicians. The police station or the Public Protector is usually the first point of call when they witness corruption cases. The independent institutions, which could either be private or civil society-led, will make sure the police and other public watchdogs pursue corruption cases exposed either in the media or by whistleblowers to a logical end.
Lastly, the government should not compromise the protection of whistleblowers at any cost. A whistleblower’s life is always threatened, except the government puts structures in place to protect and secure their lives, it will be difficult to fight corruption effectively. There is currently a public perception that the whistleblower has more tendency to be prosecuted rather than the reported corrupt person due to the backing given to the corrupt people by powerful politicians. This situation must not continue. There is a need to endorse a whistleblower protection law to shield the concerned individuals and their families from criminals who can easily jeopardize their lives.
Dr. Lizzy Oluwatoyin Ofusori is a postdoctoral research fellow at the School of Management, IT and Public Governance, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban. She writes in her capacity.