Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
"South Africa has never experienced any democracy until 1994 and no South African or any formation in our society can stand to claim monopoly to know more than all of us as South Africans."
This was Government’s response to the launch of a debate on corruption by the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) earlier this year. One wonders exactly what it means.
This type of vague and angry rhetoric emphasizes how bumbling Government’s commitment has been to addressing this most serious threat to our democracy.
I agree with CASAC that "An act of corruption is a crime against us all", and it is a crime that has become endemic in South Africa.
I shall therefore be participating in CASAC’s Red Card Corruption Pledge Rally next month, in the hopes of raising the volume on the public debate to a level that our Government can no longer ignore.
Unfortunately, Government seems able to ignore a great deal more than ordinary citizens can. We have all been surprised that the Public Protector’s Report was not on the agenda for discussion at this week’s Cabinet Lekgotla. We have yet to hear a pronouncement on how President Zuma is going to deal with the Public Protector’s finding of maladministration against the National Commissioner of Police and the Minister of Public Works that became public knowledge two weeks ago.
Whenever Government becomes self-conscious over the issue of corruption, it points out the many anti-corruption initiatives it has taken, from setting up an Inter-Ministerial Committee to setting "specific and very ambitious targets". But all these repetitions of Government’s commitment to fighting corruption only highlight the jarring disconnect when it fails to act or even respond when influential figures are caught red-handed.
Cabinet Spokesperson Mr Jimmy Manyi admitted that by going public with her Report, the Public Protector caught Cabinet on the back foot. He has since been pulled from making public statements on this matter and only the newly appointed Presidential Spokesperson, Mr Mac Maharaj, is allowed to tell us how and if it is moving forward.
Unfortunately, Mr Maharaj is making quick work of creating obfuscation, telling journalists yesterday that President Zuma had acted in terms of the law in extending the term of office of the Chief Justice. CASAC did not agree, and neither did the Justice Alliance of South Africa, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand or Freedom Under Law, who all brought a legal challenge of unconstitutionality. IFP MP Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini supported the challenge as amicus curiae, a friend of the court.
The Constitutional Court has not yet rendered its judgment, which makes pronouncements on this matter premature. One wonders why Government is so quick to speak out of turn, but so slow to speak when the ball is thrown into their court. And the ball is definitely in their court on the Public Protector’s Report. We are waiting to see their play.
Corruption is not an inevitable evil in governance. I led the erstwhile KwaZulu Government for eighteen years and never once was an allegation of corruption ever levelled against my administration. Officials knew that I would not tolerate corrupt practices. The IFP has administered the shoestring budget of KwaZulu, and the billions of KwaZulu Natal, and we have never changed our policy of absolute integrity.
I have warned before that the fish rots from the head. If the President fails to act decisively on the recommendations of the Public Protector, corruption within the SAPS and the Department of Public Works will receive a booster shot. People tend to do what they see others doing, particularly if others get away with it, and particularly if they are in leadership positions.
But it is not only the SAPS and Public Works that will be affected. The integrity of our entire Government will be decided based on the integrity of the President to act against corruption. Words without action are worse than meaningless; they arouse suspicion and distrust.
That will do little to foster the social compact. Corruption is indeed the greatest threat to our democracy, but it is through a lack of integrity in leadership that the threat will escalate.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Liezl van der Merwe, Press Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, on 082 729 2510.