Firstly, before I can continue about the prevalence of corruption in South Africa, it is crucial to explain this crimes resurgence. It is also important to note that corruption did not only show its ugly head now because of Covid-19, but it is something that has been in existence for a much more extended period. Several high-profile cases come into mind, including VBS, Eskom, Prasa, Bosasa, KPMG, Steinhoff, etc.
It remained true regarding the above-highlighted cases because there has been nothing to have been ventilated in our courts. Those involved in these companies downfall were also not held responsible and accountable for their actions.
What must happen for those responsible for their unethical or unbecoming behaviour?
As we were waiting for our local courts to make their pronouncements on the above cases, 2020 presented us with a new pandemic. It was something new that we had never experienced before, not only in South Africa but around the globe. Therefore, this pandemic required all the governments to take a stand and protect their economies and citizens. South African government has not been immune, Covid-19 has therefore needed our government to pay a much more prominent role in the marketplace to combat the pandemic and providing economic life to its citizens and businesses.
The lockdown was a necessary step, as we all know that since March this year (2020), the governments’ lockdown was to be implemented to combat the Covid-19 impact. Therefore, we have seen various economical packages developed by our government and banking institutions to protect our economy and especially citizenry in this challenging time.
This newly expanded role by the national government has also increased our government vulnerability to fraud and corruption. Little did we know that this massive investment to protect or revitalize our economy would present us with this new reality of crime. This rise in corruption cases has, therefore, also highlighted the Importance of more robust governance. The more reliable management was proven to be essential to ensure that all the unnecessary costs are likely to be eliminated.
Blatant abuse of power
It has also proven not to be easy to eliminate the so-called blatant abuse of power and get government finance into a new position of corruption-free by the senior government officials. The government officials are task to protect the countries taxpayers against this blatant abuse of public funds. We need to be uncomfortable with what is happening, especially with the increasing corruption and apparent violation of government funds.
It was amusing to hear a very senior government official publicly declaring that some people must be protected for their actions and not prosecuted. This statement by a senior official was uncalled for, and it needed severe criticism from all, including government, society leaders, within his political party, and other political formations. To stop unethical behaviour in a society, we need to be bold, tell the uncomfortable truth, and ensure that all those responsible are held accountable.
It is important that the financial institutions to play an important role in reporting all those suspicious transactions to the respective authorities, without their help, we will not be able to help this war against corruption. The authorities need to act quickly and fast to arrest this apparent abuse of power.
Changing role of government officials and their families
We need to take a stand around the exposed families and decide what role they need to take in this changing business landscape. Can they continue to be the beneficiary of the government contracts without due processes followed?
Our history has proven this to be a dangerous place to be in as a country. We need to think of the Guptas’ and Bosasa, as an example. We are all aware of the former or current presidents’ family’s involvement in government-related contracts and their consequences for the national government.
I can’t be right or correct that the sons or daughters of the most prominent people in South Africa are given government-related contracts without us as citizenry raising questions about the fairness of the award of those contracts. Therefore, all those connected families and the deals that have given to them must be a public disclosure, necessary to strengthen the governance process.
The President’s stand against this continued practice was essential because of its ability to erode public trust; and all the government efforts to curb this increasing corruption problem in South Africa. The absence of a much healthier control environment has exposed our government finances to these new predators. Recently, we had to go for the IMF loan and fill the big hole left by the Covid-19 response.
The Minister of Finance
The Minister of Finance has recently suggested that the companies that continued to benefit from this Covid-19 government tenders must be publicly known. Though it is going to increase the costs by our government, I also support this move as the continued publication of the names that have been awarded government contracts, will assist in giving rise to a new culture of accountability and to improve the more robust control environment.
It must not stop there; it is also essential that all the directors involved in wrongdoing should be blacklisted and face the consequences of the law. Finally, the elimination of corruption is crucially important because of its ability to undermine our efforts as a country to respond effectively to this pandemic and to deepen the economic impact.