The last seven days have been busy for Corruption Watch, with the mid-week release of Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index on the one hand, and a campaign by the organisation ahead of International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December 2012.
Local media made a lot of noise about the index – understandably so – as the country fell five places to number 69 out of 176 countries, with a score of 43, which is also the global average. Last year, South Africa ranked 64 out of 183 countries. In 2010, it ranked 54 out of 178 countries.
Bongi Mlangeni, Corruption Watch’s head of communications, wrote in City Press: “The evidence of corruption in the various sectors of government and in the business environment illustrates the deplorable truth that no one citizen is immune to the strong effects of corruption.”
Naturally, there was plenty of online debate and comment regarding the index, which was released on 5 December, and taking the opportunity this gave, Corruption Watch launched its latest public drive to get South Africans talking to government leaders about corruption.
A series of videos featuring nine young people affected by corruption on a daily basis, who address specific ministers in the government to ask for intervention, was just the beginning. The videos were featured by The Big Issue, which helps homeless, unemployed and socially marginalised people, and trade union federation Cosatu. Aljazeera.com, the online presence of the international news group, and Transparency International also hosted the series.
And ordinary South Africans who relate to the stories told by the youngsters have been encouraged by Corruption Watch to speak out about corrupt conduct.
The excitement, however, was far from over, as another video made headlines under the Corruption Watch banner. Created by the innovative Mdu Ntuli, of Mdu Comics, a cartoon series featuring corrupt tenderpreneur Bra Tjotjo first aired on the Corruption Watch website on Thursday 6 December.
Hot on the heels of the controversial Nkandla fish and chips ad that was banned by the SABC, Tjotjo’s Something Fishy was shared, tweeted, retweeted, emailed and talked about over the weekend.
While local news sites Times Live, IOL, Media Update and BizCommunity as well as the South African NGO Network introduced Bra Tjotjo to their readers, an open letter to President Jacob Zuma by Corruption Watch intern Kavisha Pillay led to even more feedback.
Through its The Stream social community platform, Al Jazeera featured Pillay’s letter, which first appeared in City Press on Sunday. Many of the comments from readers revealed their frustrated and cynical views of corruption and the culture of non-accountability that seems to govern in high-level government.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis, in an opinion piece that appeared in the Sunday Times on Sunday, reflected on the issue of public servants doing business with the government, and said the recommendation to stop the system by the Public Service Commission will form part of the 2013 agenda of the National Anti-Corruption Forum, of which Corruption Watch is part.