Rhodes University has become the first education institution in South Africa to publicly sign the Corruption Watch pledge to fight bribery and corruption.
The pledge signing ceremony, on 24 May, was initiated and hosted by the vice-chancellor’s office, in collaboration with Corruption Watch.
Speaking at the event, Vice-Chancellor Dr Salim Badat said pervasive corruption in the country, from petty bribes to large-scale deals, had led to the looting of public coffers which would ultimately hinder development and democracy in South Africa.
Therefore, Rhodes University pledged to fight corruption and lead by example in creating ethical leadership, Badat added.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis delivered a public lecture at the event, stressing the important role youth can play in leading a social movement against corruption in South Africa.
“There are already disturbing indicators that young people are falling into the trap of believing that corruption provides an easy way out of difficult situations,” he said.
“Corruption is a problem that is not only directly exacerbating the material poverty of a great many already disadvantaged South African communities, but is also responsible for a massive erosion of trust between, on the one hand, the public, and on the other, their elected representatives and those who are employed to serve the public.”
Lewis added that corruption was a serious threat to the rule of law and expressed concern at the fact that it was difficult to break corruption, especially when it began on the ground and extended up the ladder and into other elements of the police force.
“This is but one reason why the controversy around General Richard Mdluli is so significant,” he said, adding that Corruption Watch would be intervening on the Mdluli matter.
“Precisely because if the top leaders cannot be seen as honest and accountable individuals, how can we expect a system to demonstrate those qualities?”
Many of the complaints received by Corruption Watch are directed at small town municipal authorities and business people, Lewis added.
“Corruption in these places appears to follow a particular pattern, starting with rampant nepotism in the appointment of key officials who then cream off the local budget both for their own enrichment and in order to pay back those who have secured their appointment.”
Small towns are going to be a big focus of Corruption Watch, Lewis stressed. He encouraged all attendees at the ceremony to visit the organisation’s website and report their experiences.
The evening’s event ended with the vice-chancellor, head of council, both deputy vice-chancellors and the president of the student representative council signing the Corruption Watch pledge, after which all the students and other faculty members did the same.