South Africa at corruption tipping point: Madonsela

03 April 2012 - 17:57 By Sapa
Sanef chairman Mondli Makhanya and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela Picture: ELIZABETH SEJAKE
Sanef chairman Mondli Makhanya and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela Picture: ELIZABETH SEJAKE

South Africa is at a "tipping point" in its battle against "endemic" corruption, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said in Stellenbosch on Tuesday.

If corruption were not decisively dealt with it had the potential to "distort the economy and derail democracy", she said at the International Winelands Conference.

"We are at a tipping point and [former president Nelson Mandela's] warning that 'our hope for the future depends also on our resolution as a nation in dealing with the scourge of corruption', remains valid," Madonsela said.

"If we don't deal with corruption decisively it will not only impact on good governance, but has the potential to distort our economy and to derail democracy."

Corruption was "endemic in our country both in the public and private sectors".

Madonsela said South Africa needed selfless leadership and an end to impunity in its battle against maladministration and corruption.

Anti-corruption and anti-maladministration efforts would be useless while South Africa had "protected people" or "holy cows", she said.

"Ending impunity is a must, otherwise all anti-corruption and anti-maladministration efforts are useless," she said.

"There shouldn't be protected people or holy cows."

She said those warning about "the Tunisian option", where the government was overthrown after a public revolt, were not far off if corruption was not dealt with.

Corruption was the biggest factor undermining trust between the state and citizens, in addition to derailing service delivery.

She said the belief at the protectorate was that corruption and maladministration were generally intertwined and that service failure was often a result of corruption.

"We believe that public accountability is critical for good governance and effective combating of corruption," Madonselsa said.

It was important to strengthen whistle-blower protection and usage, while media freedom was also important.

"Without transparency, accountability is impossible. In this regard it's important to strengthen our whistle-blower protection and usage. Media freedom is also important."

Improperly awarded RDP houses were an example of service failure which came about as a result of corruption.

One old man had mentioned to her that public lists of who received RDP homes and when they applied for them were part of the solution.

She said she agreed and "perhaps" the same should be done in all government contracts and in grants.

"If you strike at maladministration, you score a major blow against corruption," she said.

"Ultimately, we need selfless, committed and unwavering leadership."