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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

'South Africa: Another Great Year for the Corrupt?'

'There are at least seven areas that remain particularly vulnerable to corruption and emerging scandal in 2007:

Ø     The Arms Deal:  The Billion Rand back-hander allegedly paid by British arms peddlers is old news that has been given new life by recent investigations in London. The arms deal remains the defining corruption drama in a democratic South Africa and this is likely to be the year of another trial for Jacob Zuma, with indications that others will also be implicated. Anti-corruption agencies need to be given capacity, and to assert themselves politically, in order to cast their net wider if we are ever to achieve closure on a saga that has bruised almost all our democratic institutions.

Ø     Soccer World Cup: After the arms industry, construction is one of the world's most corrupt sectors – and there are no doubt contractors (big and small) who are licking their lips at what the 2010 World Cup holds in store: a massive budget (R15billion) that may already be moving upwards and enormous pressure to spend. It's a recipe for disaster. If South Africa is going to get it right, then we need to ensure that World Cup project is a beacon of integrity. The first step may be to recognise that very soon we could be facing a real problem that requires extra checks and balances to avoid inflated bills and jobs for pals that are effectively subsidised by the poor.

Ø     Service Delivery: A fundamentally more important project than 2010 or arms purchases is the access that all citizens have to basic services. The lure of lucrative tenders is great and here elements within the economic and political elite will continue to steal from the poor in order to further fuel the consumer boom. Three remedies to focus on in 2007 are: the implementation of minimum anti-corruption capacity within local and provincial government; swift response and sanctions for managers of those departments that receive qualified audits and; policy to both sanction civil servants who don't disclose their assets and strictly regulate the almost 50,000 civil servants who have business interests outside of government.

Ø     Democracy Inc.: Money buys politics. In the wake of Oilgate the media has not even started to unravel the Chancellor House front companies for fear of what this may reveal. Until the private funding of political parties is regulated expect more scandal to emerge, involving undemocratic regimes, fronts for political parties and corporate donors exhibiting an unhealthy taste for self-interest. The lack of interest shown by political parties in regulation will only be rewarded by dwindling party membership and voter turnout.

Ø     Business - as usual: White-collar crime costs the economy more than R50 billion a year. The private sector needs to take a long hard look in its own backyard at who contributes to the high-levels of crime and impunity in the country. The ghost of Brett Kebble will continue to haunt us in 2007 and his epitaph as a "great South African" has no doubt spurred others to follow in the footsteps of this rogue capitalist. Support for the investigation and prosecution of corruption and white collar crime in the private sector is key – almost fifteen years after the first King Code on Corporate Governance was released it is abundantly clear that self-regulation primarily serves the personal interests of the consultants who promote it. Law-makers produced a big stick in 2004 with a new corruption Act, but this has been poorly enforced, leaving the register of tender defaulters practically empty, seeing few prosecutions of domestic corporate corruption and none of South African corporates involved in bribe payments abroad. Increasing South African interest in the continent's natural resources and consumer markets must mean that domestic business is either virtuous or a blind eye is being turned to the bribery of foreign public officials.

Ø     Parliament: Can Parliament deal with corrupt politicians in the way it dealt with a former Chief Whip alleged to be a sex pest in late 2006? We are likely to see a final few sparks before the Travelgate scandal peters out. However, the institution has a lot of ground to regain if is to fulfil the function of top oversight institution in the country. The recent announcement of a R350 million banqueting hall for Parliament will do little to assist that cause. The committee of veteran politicians and analysts that meets this year to recommend ways in which Parliament can regain its integrity is a start. However, it will take real political will to get the institution through the rapids.

Ø     Apartheid's spoils: Research by civil society identifying billions of rand lost to corruption under apartheid drew little more than polite smiles from the Executive in the past year. The death of PW Botha underscores the fact that members of the old regime will take these secrets with them to the grave. We would do well to take note of Chile's prosecution of ex dictator Augusta Pinochet on corruption charges before his death. To combat impunity we must tackle it where it all starts.'

(Hennie van Vuuren, ISS, 18 January 2007)

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.