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By Linda Ensor
First published in Business Day

The private sector, including legal and auditing firms, has been complicit in facilitating the illegal removal of money out of the country, says Prof Ivor Chipkin, director of the University of Witwatersrand Public Affairs Research Institute.

Chipkin made a submission to Parliament’s portfolio committee of public enterprises, which conducted a hearing this week as part of the lead-up to its inquiry into the affairs of Eskom and other state-owned entities, and state capture.

Chipkin said there had been a profound weakening of state institutions and a generalisation of criminality across the state and not only in national departments. The ability of state institutions to perform their mandates had deteriorated largely because they were politicised.

Civil society a sign of hope

Chipkin was heartened, however, by the growing political will of civil society and political parties to fight corruption.

South African Council of Churches (SACC) general secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana told MPs the rot of corruption had become rampant and reached deep into communities around the country. People did not see the need to become educated because there were other ways to make money, he said.

Councillors and candidates for councillor positions were being murdered because of the promise of money and whistle-blowers feared for their lives.

The bishop told committee members during the preparatory hearing ahead of its inquiry into corruption at state-owned enterprises that it had become “commonplace” to find money in “inappropriate ways”.

Corruption at top leadership level defined the culture for lower levels of society and this could not be easily reversed. Corruption was not confined to the political and government spheres. “There is a much broader decline in moral values,” Mpumlwana said.

The SACC obtained a sense of the pervasiveness of corruption during its “unburdening process” which allowed those who had participated in or witnessed corruption to tell their stories confidentially to a panel.

SACC chairman in the Western Cape Rev Pieter Grove warned of the danger of corruption going so far it could no longer be stopped. “We are at a critical stage and if we don’t act we will slip down the slope of becoming a mafia state.”

The inquiry is scheduled to begin in August.