THE African National Congress (ANC) has a "heroic" tradition of leadership and integrity, yet dishonesty has found a home within its ranks, the party’s treasurer-general, Mathews Phosa, said on Monday.
The ANC is expected to discuss ethical issues at its conference next week in Mangaung — including corruption which has worsened under President Jacob Zuma’s leadership. In the 2012 Transparency International index, measuring perceived levels of corruption in the public sector, South Africa dropped five places, ranking 69th of 176 countries surveyed.
Speaking at an anti-corruption workshop in Pretoria, Mr Phosa said questions relating to ethics were at the heart of the ANC’s discussions about organisational renewal. It was "terrifying" that fraud and corruption were becoming more prevalent.
"Where, in our heroic tradition of leadership and integrity, does dishonesty find a home?" he asked. "I think the issues should be debated in those commissions (at the ANC conference) and in a very frank manner."
At its 2007 conference, the ANC resolved that it had to provide leadership to society in the fight against corruption.
Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi — who was on Monday appointed as chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Forum — told the workshop that corruption remained endemic in South Africa despite the ANC’s "fine resolutions". The forum is a civil society initiative established in 2001 to combat and prevent corruption, build integrity and raise awareness.
Mr Vavi said he would never turn his back on telling the truth, but was "scared" following renewed death threats. This was the second time in two years that he had received threats and he had reported both cases to "high offices", but without any feedback.
"This is the hazard of speaking truth to power," Mr Vavi said.
Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said on Monday that police crime intelligence boss Maj-Gen Chris Ngcobo had summoned Mr Vavi to an urgent meeting on September 28 where he gave him details of the plot. Iranian intelligence officials had apparently bribed one of Mr Vavi’s bodyguards to disclose his travel arrangements.
It was planned that a member of a nongovernmental organisation that worked closely with Cosatu would use the information to try to find an opportunity to poison him.
Mr Phosa praised Mr Vavi, telling the workshop that he was "unafraid to say what he believes (and) he was not cowed by power, position and authority — even when there are allegations of death threats against him".
As National Anti-Corruption Forum chairman, Mr Vavi said his pledge was to get every government worker and manager — and leaders of government, business and civil society — involved in the fight against corruption. "As long as we are seen to be too scared and unwilling to challenge the growing power of the few who continue to damage the image of political organisations, business (and) civil society formations, and, more worryingly, government, all of them will continue to be discredited."
Mr Vavi was instrumental in the formation of Corruption Watch — a Cosatu initiative that allows members of the public to report incidents of corruption anonymously.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said at the workshop that the public perception that the "big fish" get away with corruption was not wholly unfounded. In some cases, it was "difficult to believe that there is no lack of will to take action".
The reported R250m spent on upgrading Mr Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla was highlighted at the workshop as an example of high-profile and powerful individuals being shielded when public funds were misspent.
Mr Lewis said the furore around Nkandla would not go away until a proper explanation was provided.
Clifford Collings, South African Revenue Service group executive for anticorruption and security, said despite measures enacted to fight corruption, "when leadership fails then everything is going to fail".
Deputy Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo told the workshop that the government’s anticorruption strategies had often not been implemented. Implementation was the responsibility of both the private sector and the government.
"If we work in silos, we (will) not be able to deal with some of the ills of our society," Ms Dlodlo said.