Today, 9 December, is International Anti-Corruption Day. The day aims to raise public awareness of corruption and what people can do to fight it. This year’s theme is Zero Corruption – 100% Development, meaning that corruption is a barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, because it diverts funds away from desperately needed facilities and into people’s pockets, and this must stop.
This week we celebrate all those who have taken that decision to fight and expose corruption, whether they have made their identities known, or prefer to remain anonymous. We'll be publishing a new series of personal accounts of whistleblowing from now until the end of the week, to show that anyone can be a whistleblower.
But it takes courage – to stand up for what you believe is right, and act not only for the sake of your own conscience but for the ultimate good of hundreds, maybe thousands of people.
At the same time you’re aware that your life may never be the same again. However, you take a deep breath and do it anyway, because you can’t bear to see people getting away with corruption.
This is the thread that joins all the people profiled in this series. Their motivations are diverse and interesting, and all are compelling.
Except for one, who is married to a whistleblower, none of them just happened to become whistleblowers – for various reasons they all made a deliberate and conscious decision to stand up for what’s right.
Some were appalled at the quality of education at their schools, others were outraged that nothing was being done to curb corruption, and yet others could simply not stand by and let the perpetrators get away with their crimes. They were driven by a common purpose – to make a difference.
Introducing our whistleblowers
Cecilia Sililo-Tshishonga isn’t a whistleblower, but she’s married to one. Her husband Mike exposed corruption in the national justice department. His career ended because of it, and so did his wife’s. But she believed in the rightness of his cause, and she stood by him, even though it ultimately affected their two young sons.
Learners at Moshesh Senior Secondary School in the Eastern Cape were so concerned for their future, and that of their fellow students, that they took on the education department, wanting to hold them accountable for the lack of textbooks and other learning materials.
Another whistleblower from the domain of education is Chris Setusha, a teacher at Mmutle High School in Hammanskraal. He initially wished to remain anonymous when he reported to Corruption Watch various incidents of abuse of power by his principal. In the interests of showing his community that ordinary citizens have a big role to play in fighting corruption, Setusha has revealed his identity and now aims to lead by example.
The late Moss Phakoe was hailed as a true revolutionary, a man who refused to compromise what he fought for by seeking personal gain. He uncovered corruption in the municipality where he worked and was met with indifference when he took the evidence to regional, provincial and national authorities in the ANC. He was evidently considered a threat, and was gunned down outside his home.
These four stories form the first part of what will ultimately be a seven-part series, and have been published on our website. The other three stories will follow in the new year.
Still to come
The quality of education was also the driving force for a teacher at Thubelihle Intermediate School in Soweto, who wanted to expose the principal and the chairperson of the school governing board for having a corrupt relationship that was to the detriment of her pupils.
Money was definitely not the motivating factor, in the case of Greg Dinwoodie – he exposed corruption involving a paltry R2 000. He was more interested in seeing justice done than in making a huge profit or getting the business at any cost.
If you are aware that corruption is happening and you do nothing about it, then you too are guilty – this is the view of the anonymous whistleblower who exposed alleged dodgy dealings in a R30-million tender awarded to NGO Mvula Trust.
Our whistleblower series aims to show that ordinary people can make a difference, whether you go it alone or get a group of like-minded people to support you. We salute those who have come forward, publicly or anonymously, as well as those who have made the right decision, but haven’t yet found that last ounce of courage to act.