23 August 2020
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s online rally held on Friday, 21 August 2020, saw a cross-sectoral call for societal mobilisation against C19 corruption.
The ‘Stop C19 Corruption’ rally featured speakers across several provinces, from labour, business, civil society and the faith-based sector. They addressed hundreds of participants, making the call for greater accountability and transparency around Covid-19 procurement.
The rally followed a recent moral call by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and several foundations against C19 corruption.
Speaking at the rally, former Public Protector and founder of the Thuma Foundation, Thuli Madonsela, said that civil society needed to make the fight against C19 corruption sustainable. She called for a “united front” so that civil society could consistently check that “democracy is doing what it is supposed to be doing”.
“Society needs to stand up and protect democracy because corruption is a threat,” she said.
Madonsela stated that government needed to be working closely with civil society. “We have to request a civil society meeting with the President. At that meeting, we should demand an end to the barricade where the President and government are on one side and the rest of us are on the other.”
The call for societal mobilisation was echoed by Kathrada Foundation Board Chairperson, Derek Hanekom, and the SACC’s Rev Frank Chikane. They noted that the rally was held on what would have been struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada’s 91st birthday, and a day after the 37th anniversary of the establishment of the United Democratic Front (UDF).
Hanekom said that the “responsibility to our democracy requires us to do more than simply looking at the state of affairs”. He said that in 1983 when the UDF was formed, there was a realisation that society needed to be mobilised to confront apartheid. He added that there is a similar realisation today, about the need to collectively confront corruption.
Rev Chikane said, “We must make sure that the people of South Africa are so organised that, no corrupt person will have a place to hide.”
Faith leaders including Moulana Abdul Khaliq Allie from the Muslim Judicial Council, Brij Maharaj from the South African Hindu Maha Sabha and Rabbi Sa’ar Shaked added their voices of condemnation to the scourge of corruption.
Other speakers included Prof Billy Ramakgopa from the Progressive Health Forum, who highlighted the impact of Covid-19 corruption on the health system, and activist Joanie Fredericks, whose account of hunger and poverty in communities contrasted starkly with the millions alleged to have been looted by ‘covidpreneurs’ during the pandemic.
From the business sector, Sandile Zungu of the Black Business Council said that corruption in South Africa is on “steroids”.
“Quite frankly, corruption is a huge threat to the cause of broad based black economic empowerment. It robs legitimate black business of opportunities to do business with their own government,” he said.
Saftu’s Zwelinzima Vavi highlighted the role of the private sector in price inflation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Business Unity South Africa’s Cas Coovadia stated that business organisations should sanction corporates involved in corruption.
Bonang Mohale from Business Leadership South Africa indicated that confidence and trust needed to be restored, whistleblowers protected and honest public servants supported to report corruption.
Fedusa’s Riefdah Ajam said that whistleblowers are often vilified, while the corrupt within the public and private sector are glorified due to their networks, and through populist rhetoric.
Despite the challenges that whistleblowers face, Cynthia Stimpel – herself a former whistleblower – urged public servants to come forward to expose the rot. She quoted American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King: “The time is always right to do the right thing.”
From the civil society sphere, Nkosinathi Biko of the Steve Biko Foundation said that those implicated must be held to account. OUTA’s Stefanie Fick shared the sentiment, demanding that “we need the corrupt to be prosecuted”.
Mkhuseli Jack from Citizens Against Corruption Forum called for the naming and shaming of the corrupt. He added, “We must reject the notion that the sharing of our wealth will be the preserve of our leaders and their families.”
Lawson Naidoo from the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution called on civil society to scrutinise all Covid-19 contracts as information is made public.
Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva from the 70s Group urged South Africans to ensure accountability and justice in the fight against C19 corruption.
The Active Citizen Movement’s Yashica Padia shared some practical ideas on how people could show their support, indicating that their organsiation has started a campaign encouraging the public to don orange masks every Friday. The masks symbolise the orange overalls that Covid-19 looters should be wearing.
The Kathrada Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton indicated that following the rally, a series of other activities against C19 corruption by various organisations will be taking place and that details will be communicated in due course.
Issued by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation
For interviews, contact:
082 373 1143