South Africans of all ages and walks of life are committing to a non-corrupt society by signing Corruption Watch’s anti-corruption pledge – a clear indication that “we’ve had enough”, said one contributor from Johannesburg, Andre Botha.
Signing the pledge is a way of turning “gatvol” into “let’s fix this”, showing you have taken a stand against corruption. It’s a small thing, but adding your name to the list in the battle against such practices is an important first step, according to the organisation.
“The pledge is not the last word in fighting corruption. It is the first. It is an expression of solidarity with others living in South Africa who reject the notion that nothing can be done to fight corruption,” said Corruption Watch director David Lewis.
“Remember: one voice can quickly become a choir.”
‘Something has to be done’
Botha, 21, who works in a trade, has never been a direct victim of corruption, but sees the effects of it every day.
“Most South Africans are just trying to make an honest buck, and it’s unfair that a few are benefitting through corruption at the expense of the many.”
“I mean look at government and how much corruption and fraud we are seeing there. The organisations set up to look into that fraud are often being investigated for fraud themselves. Something has to be done because it’s not going to get better on its own.”
Police abuse of their considerable powers compelled Daniel Duda, a 21-year-old Johannesburg resident, to sign the pledge. He said youngsters in his suburb are often the targets of police corruption and abuse.
“It’s important to sign the pledge to send a clear message to the police that they cannot simply abuse their power in that way. It’s time people stood up and took a position.”
He is hoping his pledge will encourage others his age to commit to proactively fight corruption.
Gae van Schalkwyk, 69, who lives on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, said she felt overwhelmed by what she was reading in the papers and hearing on TV.
“I felt this was my contribution in making the world a slightly better place. There are some big voices leading this project like Cosatu head Zwelinzima Vavi and I feel they can make a real difference with public support.”
Esau Moloko, 58, who lives in Gauteng, was inspired to sign the pledge after he contacted Corruption Watch with a graft-related query and received a detailed response.
Moloko, who has worked in the auditing environment for many years, said: “I have raised this lack of accountability for years with different authorities, and no one has ever bothered to respond or take note. I thought I was probably wasting my time when I wrote in, and was amazed when I received a prompt response saying the issue … was being looked at.
“I was encouraged to see there is an organisation out there that’s sincere about rooting out corruption,” he added.
KwaZulu-Natal resident Jacqui Osz, 44, who has also pledged her support, said she wishes Corruption Watch had been around in January 2011, as it may have helped empower her and her colleagues who worked for a small faith-based organisation.
The organisation with church links receives a number of subsidies from the departments of social development, arts and culture and the local metro municipality, among others.
When complaints started coming in of misused funds and, in some cases, allegations of fraud, “we had no idea where to turn”, Osz said.
“The element of corruption here is that public officials allowed the misspending of public funds to take place without checking it. So they [the government officials] would be guilty of corruption and the NGO officials would be guilty of theft,” said Lewis.
“In this case both parties would be guilty of corruption if they had somehow connived in the misspending of funds,” he added.
Helping those at the coal face
This small organisation was not unionised. It often falls upon the unions – some Cosatu-related and some independent – to expose corruption through members or shop stewards.
In the cases of the SABC and the Post Office, it was information gathered from staff and union members that was key in exposing graft.
Misspent funds, nepotism and questionable contracts were highlighted at the public broadcaster, thanks to information from two media-based unions. This prompted the damning Auditor-General report that galvanised parliament to take action three years ago.
The result was greater demands for accountability to parliament and regular report-back meetings. At the same time Treasury, who was considering further SABC loans, demanded a timeline for reforms and evidence of stricter accountability measures.
Post Office unions raised the flag in mid-2011 about the rental deal for the new head office in Centurion. This pushed for an investigation into the matter, despite the organisation insisting the deal complied with all legal and public service requirements governing such transactions.
The Post Office was forced to launch an internal inquiry and to make the findings public. It emerged that some aspects of the contract were questionable and aspects of it were sent to the police and Public Protector for further investigation.
In October 2011 then COO John Wentzel’s contract was terminated, but other staff are still being investigated.
“It’s often the people at the coal face of these organisations who have the information that can make a difference and it’s important they get assistance,” Osz said.
• You can sign the pledge online or via SMS by sending the word “PLEDGE” followed by your first and last names to the number 45142. The SMS costs R1.