SA verging on “dysfunctional”


South Africa is on the verge of joining the ranks of dysfunctional states as the effects of corruption debilitate all spheres of life, the chairman of a constitutional watchdog says. But Minister in the Presidency for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation Collins Chabane rejected the view.

“In the changing circumstances of our times, a conservative assault on the Constitution from some of the most powerful in our society threatens to fatally undermine our capacity to overcome poverty and inequality,” Sipho Pityana, the chairman of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) said in a statement. “It is now beyond doubt that corruption and patronage are so pervasive, rampant and crippling in our society that we are on the verge of being deemed a dysfunctional state…”

Pityana, a former director general of foreign affairs and labour, said a study by CASAC had found three potentially crippling legal and institutional weaknesses in South Africa — a lack of effective monitoring and enforcement agencies, no institution with a clear mandate to drive educational campaigns on corruption and no “true” independence for organisations tasked with fighting corruption. CASAC, he said, was proposing “a dedicated, independent agency” that would be responsible and accountable for the investigation of corrupt activities alongside “pro-active preventive measures” such as education of the public.

Pityana said the agency would need significant political support to ensure that it was well funded, the South African Press Association reported. “If there is truly no political will to address corruption, no mechanism existing or proposed can succeed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister in The Presidency, Collins Chabane as the chairman of the Anti-Corruption Inter-Ministerial Committee in a statement welcomed “any initiative by any sector of our society which will help rid the country of the scourge of corruption.” Minister Chabane further reiterates that any such initiative should be within the framework of the laws of our country. “Government has prioritised the fight against corruption as one of the five priorities. Government further remains committed to fight corruption and continues to have confidence in institutions of state charged with the responsibility to fight corruption” said Chabane. “Government would like to call on all South Africans who have any information that can assist in the fight against corruption to submit such information to the relevant institutions.”

BuaNews adds Chabane said though government had interacted with Casac members and agreed with many of their aims, it did not agree with the “rhetoric”, specifically the emotive language expressed by CASAC chair Sipho Pityana. “Government believes that CASAC’s intentions are not that of trying to build a democracy we all live by. CASAC, we believe understands and appreciates our constitutional democracy and know very well that they should report any allegations of corruption to the relevant institutions for investigation,” he said.

Chabane detailed several initiatives the government has been involved with in recent years to fight corruption. These, he said, included the setting up in 2009 of a multi-agency working group by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to crack down on tender fraud, as well as the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee on corruption by President Jacob Zuma, also in 2009. Gordhan’s working group had, among other things, introduced heavy penalties of up to double the value of contract for suppliers involved in tender fraud and also allowed for the recovery of losses from corruption from officials who are responsible, BuaNews added.

The inter-ministerial committee on corruption has this year alone resulted in 14 people being arrested, with more than R260 million worth of assets frozen, said Chabane. He said the Department of Public Service and Administration had set up a special anti-corruption unit in November last year to ensure that effective disciplinary action is taken in important corruption cases.

Added to this the Department of Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs is currently implementing a number of legal and other changes to prevent corruption in local government.

Chabane said President Jacob Zuma had also signed a number of proclamations authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate suspected corruption in government departments and institutions.