Cosatu wants ban on mixing work with business

2012-01-26 13:15
Sabelo Ndlangisa
Cosatu is planning to campaign for a ban on civil servants and their family members doing business with government.

Secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi said this would be done at the ANC’s policy conference in June.

Speaking at the launch of Cosatu’s graft-busting body, Corruption Watch, at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg today, Vavi said unless citizens were empowered and independent institutions were built, South Africa would not succeed in defeating corruption.

He said leadership contestation had become a battle for control of the public purse strings.

“Our political life is also getting polluted. Some corrupt politicians and officials build political support by bribing people to back their factions, which are no longer based on ideological differences but on who has the biggest treasure chest to dole out favours,” he said.

“Leadership contestation is changing from being about the battle of ideas into battles for control of the public purse strings. This will destroy the democratic traditions of our movement and lead to paralysis and disunity.

“Worst of all is the growing evidence that corruption is becoming literally a matter of life and death, as people are being intimidated or even killed for exposing and preventing corruption,” he said.

Corruption Watch will be headed by former Competition Tribunal commissioner and ex-trade unionist David Lewis, and its board includes former home affairs director-general Mavuso Msimang, education expert Mary Metcalfe and retired Constitutional Court Judge Kate O’Regan.

Vavi decried what he called the squandering of R100 million in textile workers’ pension money, saying those who are implicated should be brought to justice. He also lamented the wastage of R20 billion in public funds, highlighted by the Auditor-General last week.

“The loss of such huge sums of money has a devastating impact on the economy. Billions of rands, which could and should have been spent on improving our healthcare and education systems, promoting economic growth and creating jobs and providing basic services to our poorest communities, are being squandered,” he said.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said government had put in place policies, laws and institutions to combat graft, adding that during apartheid corruption was hidden.

However, he acknowledged that corruption was still a problem, citing the electronic theft of R42 million from the Post Office as an example. He said cybercrime often involved an inside job.

He said corruption was a criminal act that stole the fruit of the liberation struggle and should be declared a common enemy the way apartheid was.

“We must not allow our revolutionary agenda to be subverted by a few corrupt officials,” Radebe said.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said an active citizenship was key in the fight against the scourge of corruption.

She said graft was a societal problem – not merely a public sector problem.

An initiative such as Corruption Watch was central in uprooting corruption, she said.

“An initiative such as this could not have come at a better time. Corruption poses a threat to the rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution,” she said.

She said those who stole from the poor go to the poor for their defence.

The participants and board members signed a pledge committing to be “responsible and honest citizens”, and to act responsibly in their dealings with government.

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