Archbishop hails 'model public servant' Petersen at #Justice4Vernie rally
The Archbishop of Cape Town has backed calls for the state capture commission to investigate the 2011 death of former correctional services commissioner Vernie Petersen.
In a recorded message played at the #Justice4Vernie rally in St George’s Cathedral on Saturday, Thabo Makgoba said the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town celebrated the memory of Petersen, particularly the way in which he had resisted corruption.
The campaign in support of Petersen began after Dennis Bloem, a former ANC MP, testified at the commission chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo in February.
Bloem, now the Cope spokesperson, said Petersen tried to clean up correctional services but was moved to the sport and recreation department. He then became ill and suffered a "sudden and unexplained" death in February 2011.
A statement from #Justice4Vernie, launched by Petersen’s family and friends after Bloem’s testimony, said Petersen had fought corruption at correctional services and clashed with then minister Ngconde Balfour over the extension of a catering contract with Bosasa.
"After several clashes with Balfour and the senior management, Vernie was moved to the department of sport and recreation," the statement said.
Petersen and his family then received death threats during an "awful period ... they had to endure simply because he did the right thing".
In his message to the rally on Saturday, Makgoba said Petersen had worked on the diocese’s social responsibility board during the liberation struggle, and gone on to become "an equally dedicated ... model public servant".
He added: "[He was ] committed to the proposition that the people’s money should be spent on the people’s welfare, and not to enrich a few, no matter how admirable the role of those few may have been during the 'old' struggle."
Makgoba said he was sad to note how Petersen had clashed with Balfour, another former social responsibility board member, but he did not want to rush to judgment before Balfour had had an opportunity to testify before Zondo.
“But allow me just to note for the record the particular pain that we have all experienced in recent years, when we have seen too many comrades in the old struggle part ways as they have faced the difficult task of transitioning from fighting against the system to trying to transform it to serve all the people of South Africa," said Makgoba.
“This task, and the growth of the corruption and bad governance that have penetrated so deeply into the heart of our new democracy, constitute a call to all of us to rededicate ourselves to the noblest objectives of the struggle, in short to embark on what I call the ‘new’ struggle.”
Speakers at the rally were expected to include former finance minister Trevor Manuel and former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke.