Corruption Watch has reported on the good, the bad and the ugly sides of corruption over the past year. The good came from individuals and organisations that took a firm stand against corruption, despite the odds against them, the bad spent taxpayers' money for personal luxuries and the ugly went as far committing murder to cover up their corrupt ways. We ask you to vote for your top zero or hero for 2012.
We’ve simplified the process by outlining the most prominent stories we’ve covered this year and characters that have accompanied them so you can easily choose your best and worst.
Making headlines for all the wrong reasons this year have been Gauteng legislature’s speaker Lindiwe Maseko and Housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi.
First it was Maseko’s exorbitant shopping spree for groceries allegedly meant for her office, although several of the items seemed destined for personal use. Then it emerged that her daughter, Edna Maseko, partly owned the company contracted to cater for the legislature’s opening gala dinner in February this year.
We feel that Maseko and members of her family should not own firms that are an actual or potential service provider to the Gauteng legislature, and Maseko should either give up her interests in the company or she should give up her role in the legislature. Lindiwe Maseko as zero of the year?
Former Gauteng MEC of Local Government and Housing Humphrey Mmemezi landed in hot water for misusing his government-issued credit card for hotel stays, for not reporting a car accident to the Gauteng legislature and for using the same card to buy a R10 000 painting. He was found guilty of contravening the terms of the legislature’s code of conduct and ethics. He resigned as MEC in July, shortly before the verdict was announced. Mmemezi is also linked to an accident involving a West Rand teenager, Thomas Ferreira, who was hit by an official Gauteng government vehicle in November 2011. Humphrey Mmemezi as zero of the year?
Rustenburg municipality has provided us with some outstandingly brave heroes and some bloodthirsty and despicable zeroes.
After blowing the whistle on alleged corruption within the Rustenburg municipality in 2009, ANC councillor Moss Phakoe was murdered outside his home. This was a man who most probably thought he was serving the country when he handed his superiors a dossier of corruption and fraud allegations linking his colleagues within the municipality, but was instead gunned down in a hit masterminded by those he had exposed. Moss Phakoe as hero of the year?
The convicted killers of Moss Phakoe, former Rustenburg mayor Matthew Wolmarans and his driver Enoch Matshaba, who got 20 years and life sentences respectively for the murder. Matthew Wolmarans and Enoch Matshaba as zeroes of the year?
Meanwhile, Rustenburg municipality has continued to pay Wolmarans a monthly salary of R35 000 while he sits in jail for Phakoe’s murder. Rustenburg municipality as zero of the year?
Phakoe’s friend, Alfred Motsi, helped compile the dossier linking Wolmarans to 20 cases of corruption. In the years following Phakoe’s murder, Motsi went underground, where he continued his fight. His house was broken into a few times and his car tyres were punctured. Some documents and three laptops with vital information were also stolen from his house. He has had to get creative and store important documents in different places to ensure their safety. Alfred Motsi as hero of the year?
In April 2012 Corruption Watch released its Law for Sale report highlighting widespread corruption in the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD). The City of Johannesburg took our recommendations seriously and made it mandatory for every JMPD cop to wear a name tag, among a range of other improvements, to stamp out a culture of bribery and corruption within the department. City of Joburg as hero of the year?
Just a few days after Corruption Watch released its damning report, Ivory Park hawker Thato Mokobe* filmed metro cops assaulting local resident Andries Ndlovu. The hawker used his cellphone to record the attack and submitted the video to the Sunday Times via sms. The incident was covered extensively by the press countrywide, and Mokobe has now been recognised as one of many valiant citizens who are standing up against abusive cops. Thato Mokobe as hero of the year?
Our JMPD campaign wouldn’t have been as successful as it was had members of the public not come forward with their stories of rampant bribery and corruption on the city’s roads. Included in this group of heroes are hawkers like Jeffrey Neakonde, Kuben Govender and an unnamed informal trader from Pretoria. We salute all these brave individuals who have taken action against shady police and fought for what is right. South Africa’s corruption-busting public as hero of the year?
Limpopo’s education meltdown
This year the Limpopo textbook crisis dominated news headlines for months, bringing with it a good share of heroes and zeroes as the province’s school pupils went for more than half a year without textbooks.
Solly Tshitangano was a public servant at the time of the crisis. He jeopardised his job, reputation, and safety by exposing the truth. Tshitshango took a brave stand against the rot infesting in the Limpopo education department and blew the whistle on a questionable multimillion-rand textbook contract awarded to EduSolutions, which has connections to heavy weights in the ANC. Solly Tshitangano as hero of the year?
Civil society organisation Section27 engaged in a bitter, extended court battle this year to force both the national and provincial departments of education to get textbooks to the Limpopo’s affected pupils and ensure a catch-up plan was in place for those who had fallen behind due to a lack of learning materials. Section27 has also been working tirelessly to ensure timeous textbook delivery for 2013 so 2012’s disaster is never repeated. Section27 as hero of the year?
In an interview with the SABC this year, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga stated she was not responsible for delivering textbooks in Limpopo and could not be blamed for the situation.
The minister further stated that “I don’t even know what is happening in classes.” This is a serious problem. In October Motshekga came under fire yet again for squandering taxpayers’ money on placing a defensive advert in weekend newspapers to gloat about a recent court outcome in the battle it had been locked in with Section27. We think that focusing on this instead of ensuring all outstanding textbooks were delivered to Limpopo schools is zero behaviour. Angie Motshekga as zero of the year?
In late September City Press reported that the Department of Public Works had approved a budget of over R200-million to revamp President Jacob Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal. The proposed renovations included the building of helipads, sports fields, underground bunkers and fencing the entire complex.
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi tried to justify the expenditure by saying Zuma had started a big upgrade on Nkandla around the same time as government had become involved.
The minister was hesitant to release further details stating it was illegal and would endanger the safety of the President, although it was revealed in parliament that the spending on Zuma’s Nkandla residence would take up two-thirds of the entire budget for all special and prestige projects, costing far more than the budget for inner city regeneration and making government buildings more accessible for the disabled.
Nxesi has also been condemned for invoking the apartheid-era National Key Points Act to avoid any answering questions on Nkandla. Department of Public Works as zero of the year?
At the heart of the Nkandla saga is Zuma denying that public funds were used for the main renovations and that the only money spent by government were for the security features – advised as necessary upgrades. "All the buildings and every room we use in that residence was built by ourselves as family, and not by government," says Zuma.
The Mail &Guardian revealed that Zuma was given “exhaustive details” about the progress at the Nkandla complex as early as November 2010, but in parliament the president said he was unaware of the scale of the project. Documents show that the total construction budget for Nkandla escalated from R111.3-million in 2010 to R248-million in 2012. President Jacob Zuma as zero of the year?
2012 has been marred by government officials misusing public funds for their own personal benefit. However, we are grateful to the Public Protector who works tirelessly to investigate these cases of corruption.
Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson was found to have spent state funds to book airline tickets from Sweden for her two children and their au pair while holidaying there. The minister had been on official business in that country, and at the end of that extended the trip with a holiday for her family. According to Joemat-Pettersson, it was false information that she received while there from her former chief of staff to return to South Africa immediately under President Jacob Zuma’s instructions. She was under the impression that the government would foot the bill for the flights, which cost taxpayers over R150 000.
Joemat-Pettersson has also been slammed for using the public purse to stay at trendy Johannesburg hotels, at a cost of around R600 000, again to the taxpayer. Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson as zero of the year?
Earlier this year, Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, spoke at the launch of Corruption Watch and we salute her for taking a firm stand against corruption and promoting an active civil society.
Madonsela’s team has worked vigorously throughout the year to expose cases that involved corruption in tender procurement, the misappropriation of public funds and other issues. One of the cases which were investigated was minister Joemat-Pettersson’s misuse of the public purse. Madonsela found that the minister had violated the ethics code in the ministerial handbook and requested that she be reprimanded. She also put forth that the minister pay back the money that was used for the airline tickets from Sweden. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela as hero of the year?