South Africans can help draft the new plan to combat graft

11 June 2017 - 02:00 By Mbongiseni Buthelezi

There is a way for ordinary South Africans to join the fight against corruption, writes Mbongiseni ButheleziLast month, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe launched the national anticorruption strategy discussion document.The launch was meant to start a public consultation process that will lead to the development, adoption and implementation of a comprehensive strategy for combating corruption in South Africa.This is an important process that should be taken seriously by all of us — individuals, trade unions, political parties, business, the government itself and especially state employees.The document contains proposals for building a robust anticorruption architecture. It is accompanied by a comprehensive analysis of the current state of anticorruption measures.These documents have been launched into a public space saturated with discussions about corruption.Just two days before the launch, South Africa learnt that Brian Molefe was returning to Eskom as CEO, having left under a cloud related to his dealings with the Gupta brothers.That decision has since been rescinded.It is critical that South Africans get involved in fighting corruption. The mounting number of revelations of how "state capture" has proceeded over the years at various state-owned enterprises has rightly caused great alarm.We also know that the rot is not limited to SOEs.It is in many little things: the issuing of driver's licences and the "cooldrink" money many pay to avoid paying speeding fines.It is in the little sweeteners many of our relatives have had to pay to get registered for social grants, to doctors who certify them incapable of working and to officials who fast-track their registration.It extends right up to mega-tenders in construction and IT in both the public and private sectors.Developing a national anticorruption strategy over the coming months is an opportunity for all of us to contribute to building the country we want when it comes to how law-enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute malfeasance.This includes discussing how the top leadership of institutions is chosen and what role the public should play. Corruption Watch's Bua Mzansi campaign to encourage greater public participation in selecting the public protector last year is a starting point for assessing public involvement.The discussion document proposes that a national anticorruption strategy should be built around nine pillars.One pillar is public awareness and participation in rooting out corrupt activities. Others include building a public service that is professional and insulated from political interference, improving how government wrongdoing is managed, strengthening governance and oversight mechanisms in the government, and creating programmes to reduce corruption in vulnerable sectors, especially justice and crime prevention.The document is intended to start a conversation. The proposals are accompanied by a roadmap for the consultation process and development of the final strategy.But it is concerning that the launch is already well behind the proposed schedule. The document was due to be launched on December 9 2016, but was only launched on May 14 this year. When asked at the launch when the final strategy can be expected, Radebe said August or September.Journalists have rightly been sceptical of this ambitious and costly government project. For it to be effective, there needs to be thorough engagement between the government, business, civil society and ordinary people. The government also needs to commit a substantial budget to it upfront.Unless enough time and money are committed, we are in danger of ending up with another government process that does not get any buy-in from society and another government document that gathers dust on a shelf.The responsibility lies with all South Africans to make sure that a national strategy is developed. This needs to be part of a larger process of reforming the state to make it more capable of serving all of us, especially those who need it the most. We cannot leave the task to the government alone.• Buthelezi is head of research at the Public Affairs Research Institute

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