South Africa is not corrupt, says Public Protector Thuli Madonsela

15 October 2014

South Africa is not a corrupt country, but like other nations, it is a country that is fighting the scourge of corruption and other crimes that are a threat to the rule of law, according to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

Speaking at the 35th International Crime Stoppers Conference on Tuesday, 14 October, Madonsela said she is often asked whether South Africa is a corrupt country.

“My response is always: No, we are certainly not a corrupt country. Like many other nations, we are a country that has a problem of corruption. I must add that we are a country that is built to fight and is resolutely fighting corruption and other crimes and threats to the rule of law,’ she said in her speech delivered to delegates attending the conference which runs from 12 to 15 October at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

South Africa ranks fourth after Mauritius, Cape Verde and Botswana in terms of the 2014 Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance which provides an annual assessment of the quality of governance in 52 African countries, according to Madonsela. “This is good and we should build on it, going forward,’ she said, adding that South Africa’s success in this area is a result of a multi-pronged approach to promoting good governance, including combatting corruption.

“We have a sound constitutional and legal framework with a complimentary arsenal of anti-corruption safeguards that we have established since the dawn of our 20-year-old democracy.’

South Africa’s Constitution lays the foundation for good governance, and lays out the dos and don’ts for those entrusted with public power, Madonsela said. “Constitutional imperatives include open democracy, public accountability, the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law.’

Regarding legislation, Madonsela said South Africa has the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act, the Prevention of Organized Crime Act, the Financial Intelligence Centre Act and the Public Protector Act, all helping curtail transgressions in the country.

Besides the Public Protector, there are other “watchdogs’ like the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (also known as the Hawks), the Independent Police Investigation Directorate, the Asset Forfeiture Unit, the Special Investigating Unit, and the Anti-corruption Coordinating Committee under the Department of Public Service and Administration, among others.

“We also have independent constitutional institutions with administrative oversight powers, which include the Public Protector, the Auditor-General and the Independent Electoral Commission and the Public Service Commission. Human Rights bodies such as the South African Human Rights Commission also play a role in fostering integrity by limiting discretion of decision-makers through enforcing human rights,’ said Madonsela.

On the issue of corruption per se, Madonsela said this menace is a societal than rather than governmental problem. “I’m sure that it is our common belief that if there was no corrupt individual in society, there would be none in the public sector. There would also be no corruption in the private sector,’ she said.

South Africa’s fourth position on the 2014 Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance is commendable, but the country can improve on this, according to Madonsela. She said South Africans needs take the following steps:

  • Respect the Constitution and the rule of law, with the understanding that not a single one of us is above the law.
  • Ensure that no one, especially those exercising public power and control over state resources, escapes scrutiny and accountability.
  • Shun and deal with retail or small acts of corruption as it fosters a culture of acceptance of wrong. We need to shun corruption wherever it surfaces.
  • Report corruption.
  • Form a united front against corruption
  • Protect whistle blowers since they are a critical part of the solution.

Madonsela said to succeed against crime all cracks must be closed and one of those cracks is impunity. “If criminals know they can play the system to evade accountability, more will do the same, and before we realize what’s happening the rule of law will be undermined,’ she said.

SAinfo reporter