We thank you Secretary General Magashule, for inviting us on behalf of the National Officials of the ANC. As joint signatories to our statement we strongly debated whether it was the right thing to come and meet with the ANC, when for us, the central issues are about Government and governance, rather than the governing party.
This is because we all make a firm distinction between the Government and the governing party. Therefore it is appropriate to indicate that we would like to have the opportunity soonest, to meet with the Executive of Government on these matters, about which we are here to engage as a courtesy to the leadership of the governing party. You indicated in your invitation that you wish to discuss our joint statement, which we consider a moral call.
There are a number of things that have led us to this point, with the strain of the pandemic bringing us all to the brink. Like many South Africans, we fully supported the Government’s actions to combat COVID-19, but were completely shocked at its lack of preparedness for what was anticipated by the President when he announced the lockdown for the first time, and spoke strongly against any acts of corruption in the usage of COVID-19 funds.
It was equally shocking that it took media and other whistle blowing reports to activate the belated measures needed to close the door after the horse had already bolted. The SACC in turn reached out to the various organisations, including those that bear the names of struggle icons, those that serve in the interests of human rights and those established to protect and advance the Constitution. Our aim was not to create or to be in conflict with the Government, but to express our outrage and also to offer our hand of support for the State through the recommendations that we made. It was also to speak to people, to ask them to become vigilant and active citizens, and support the democratic project by rejecting corruption and unethical behaviour.
The primary driver was, as we’ve said, a moral call and the impact of that call on how the Government as a constitutional institution, fulfills in practice, its constitutional obligations to the citizens of South Africa. The moral call and the principle of constitutional obligation are vital. Our call as reflected in the statement we issued speaksto a deep and countrywide outrage and anger at the high levels of corruption being reported variously in the media and on the ground in communities.
At the heart of it, is the collapse of the social contract between the Government and the people in the State as embodied in the constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Such a contract is bound by trust and accountability. Of special outrage is the public conclusion, backed by strong evidence-based allegations in the media that the governing party leadership appears compromised within itself. If this observation is not corrected with robust evidence, then the public conclusion might inevitably stand, that both the moral premise and the constitutional imperative are at risk, and are both in danger of collapsing. A break down at the level of the Executive or the top leadership of the governing party which leads national government, prepares the ground for the moral decay of the rest of society, resulting in the rule of law being undermined. We acknowledge the public letter of the ANC President to members published yesterday.
In the letter the President points out that the ANC has been unable to take decisive “actions that will end corruption once and for all”; and acknowledges that the people’s trust cannot be won back “if we continue to allow cadres who are charged with criminal conduct for corruption to occupy positions of responsibility within government and our movement.”
We wonder how the ANC can reconcile the quest for public trust with the decision to reinstate the VBS implicated people in Limpopo. We wonder how the ANC expects to be taken seriously in the fight against corruption while elevating a leader facing corruption charges to the provincial legislature.
Is there perhaps another explanation for this? We wonder, and we think the answer might be in that perhaps everyone has their skeletons to protect. When the Secretary General of the ANC says, “Tell me of one leader of the ANC who’s not done business with government”, we are left aghast by the revelation that all ANC leaders, whether in the official public service or not, are doing business with Government. Should South Africans be expected to invest trust in that environment? That is the big question. It is noteworthy that the Secretary General has also been quoted as proposing that there should be a law that prevents politically connected people from doing business with Government and the State. While such a law might be welcome, we wish to make two points.
First, that we have heard it said by members of the ANC that there already exists a provision preventing politically exposed persons from doing business with Government. This finds expression in section 8 of the Public Administration Management Act and related Regulations.1 We would urge for a widespread dissemination and strict implementation of that provision. Second, we would expect a party with its roots as a liberation movement to espouse and adhere to the highest ethical values and principles based on selfless service; a living conscience that frowns upon any tendency for its leaders and their families and relatives, to seek to benefit from the State that they voluntarily offer to serve.
But this matter is not one that should be left in the hands of the governing party and the government only. We are calling on all South Africans to make their voices heard in calling for Government accountability.
Chapter 10 of the Constitution, expressed in the 1997 Batho Pele principles of the Mandela Government calls for governance with openness and transparency, value for money, and for services to be provided “impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias”. 1 8. (1) In this section and in section 9, ‘‘employee’’ includes persons contemplated in section 12A of the Public Service Act and a person performing similar functions in a municipality.
(2) An employee may not— (a) conduct business with the State; or (b) be a director of a public or private company conducting business with the State. (3) A contravention of subsection (2)— (a) is an offence, and any person found guilty of the offence is liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years or both such fine and imprisonment; and (b) constitute serious misconduct which may result in the termination of employment by the employer.
In the furtherance of the constitutional imperative and the moral premises on which it is based, we highlight THREE PRINCIPLES. Firstly, we call for transparency. We welcome moves by provincial governments to open their books and we call for this to be regularised; but it should not only publish the names of the entities concerned, but it should include details of their directors and shareholders.
Applying such transparency immediately to COVID-19 procurement processes as a start, will lay a foundation for future, sustainable best practice. The default position of Government should be to make all information publicly available unless there is good reason for it not to be disclosed. Section 32 of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution provides exactly for such disclosure of information.
In 1996 Mandela said: We were mindful from the very start, of the importance of accountability to democracy. Our experience had made us acutely aware of the possible dangers of a government that is neither transparent nor accountable.
To this end our Constitution contains several mechanisms to ensure that government will not be part of the problem, but part of the solution Thus, secondly, we call for increased accountability. The establishment of a truly independent investigative and prosecutorial body must be accelerated, and be well capacitated; with clear timeframes, which will greatly enhance public confidence. Indeed, all law enforcement institutions share in the desperate need for resource provision and capacitation. Thirdly, to rebuild the broken trust between the Government and the People of South Africa, we call for a new social contract between the government and the people who elected them.
The governing party and all political parties in South Africa must enter into a covenant based on a public commitment to accountability, responsiveness and openness. Public trust cannot be taken for granted purely on the basis of electoral outcomes; our constitution behoves us to engender a participatory democracy in which the people continuously guide the hands of their elected representatives. It is through such mechanisms that public trust is built and sustained.
We believe that South Africans can work with the Government if it genuinely re-asserts the principles of Batho Pele in the public service, and providing for ordinary people outside of government to be a part of this – for they indeed, are the owners of the State, of which the Government that your party is privileged to lead, is a servant for the time being. The issues that prompted our moral call, and that inform our remarks today, are indeed governmental issues. We appreciate the courtesy opportunity to meet the National Officials of the governing party, to discuss our concerns, which are the concerns of most South Africans. For, the culture that you cultivate has a direct impact on the trajectory of the country. We hope that you will share with us your plans to get South Africa out of the current quagmire.
Finally, we observe that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a global awareness, that the history of current predominant systems of both national and global governance has produced massive structural inequalities both within and between the nations of the world. This global realisation has presented an historic moment for fundamental renewal within countries and between the countries of the world.
The South African contribution to this renewal will restore the dignity of South Africa in its own eyes as well as in the eyes of the world. This could again be our moment to do right by our people. Thank you for your attention.