Declaration of the National Conference to intensify the fight against corruption

31 August 2020

We, the undersigned organisations, met virtually on Friday, 28 August 2020.

We salute dedicated frontline workers for their loyalty in serving the people selflessly in the effort to contain the spread of, and treat the patients affected by coronavirus (Covid-19). The rate of infection and fatalities in South Africa would be higher, were it not of the selfless efforts of the dedicated frontline workers.

On Thursday, 27 August 2020, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa totalled 615 701, of whom 13 502 passed away, translating into a death rate of 2.2 per cent. There were 76 957 confirmed, active cases reported, with the affected patients were receiving treatment. Of the total number of confirmed Covid-19 positive cases since the first was detected in the country on 5 March 2020, 525 242 patients recovered, translating into a recovery rate of 85.3 per cent.

There are many frontline workers who contracted Covid-19 in the line of duty, or in the course of their movement between home and work to save the lives of patients. Others have passed away because of the infection, meaning that they have given their own lives in the struggle to save the lives of others; the struggle against death; the struggle to protect the supreme right to life.

We express our sincere condolences to the families of the frontline workers and all the families that lost their loved ones because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

As if the total losses of life we have experienced as a people were not enough, corrupt individuals identified Covid-19 as a frontier to enrich themselves. While the global community and our nation focused on overcoming the deadly disease, corrupt public and private sector elements shamelessly embarked on looting public resources and other corrupt activities. These included, but were not limited to subverting and manipulating procurement processes, inflating prices, supplying sub-standard materials and personal protective equipment, and throwing materials and equipment into rivers, streams, bush, and so on, also contaminating the environment and further exposing life to risk.

We are determined to roll back the corrupt connection between private wealth accumulation and the public service. The nexus of corruption involves, on the one hand, private sector elements seeking favours or establishing ‘political connections’ with corrupt leaders and officials in the government, state institutions and entities. On the other, there are elements in the government, state institutions and entities, who establish ‘business connections’ with corrupt directors, managers and other sections in the private sector, to facilitate favours and further other corrupt deeds. The greed of private wealth accumulation at the expense of the people is at the centre of corruption. In the state and its entities, corruption is concentrated in tenders, procurement or supply chain management.

Looting of public resources has included the destruction of public infrastructure, such as rail and electric power networks. The theft of tracks and cables in the rail and electric power networks has become entrenched, with a lot of damage caused. Replacement parts and new stocks of components were stolen over a long period, and are still being stolen from Eskom and Prasa infrastructure networks and inventories, as well as from other public entities. Unless we clamp down on corruption, end looting, theft and other forms of criminality prevalent in many of our communities, South Africa will sink deeper into decay. This cannot be allowed.

We therefore call for decisive action:

  1. Government and Parliament must take urgent measures to enhance oversight mechanisms and prevent any further fruitless and wasteful expenditure, stop the looting of state resources, and ensure the speedy prosecution of those implicated in Covid-19, state capture and other corruption.
  2. Strengthen intelligence systems to proactively clamp down on theft and the destruction of public infrastructure across the entire state and at all spheres of government.
  3. Build and deploy capable state capacity to investigate all areas where such theft and destruction has taken place, and bring the perpetrators to book.
  4. The evidence gathered at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture must be used, without further delay, to prosecute those implicated in corruption and other forms of wrongdoing.
  5. Those found guilty of corruption must be sentenced to the severest terms and wear orange overalls—the assets that they have acquired from corrupt acts must be seized by the state through asset forfeiture processes.
  6. Individuals facing serious corruption or criminal charges must, until their names are cleared, step aside voluntarily or be removed from positions of responsibility in political parties, in civil society and non-governmental organisations, in public office, in government departments and the entire state establishment, including state agencies and public entities, and across the economy.
  7. Integrity-based action must be taken against those facing serious allegations of corruption or criminality, without either waiting for charges to be preferred in courts or hiding behind the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty. 
  8. The state must conduct lifestyle audits as a matter of urgency, and regularly at all spheres of the government, targeting accounting authorities, officials involved in tender or procurement processes, and leaders, among others.       
  9. Decisively end price inflation, collusion and private sector capture of state or public authorities, officials and leaders, among others.
  10. Review the corruption-prone tender system to close the loopholes and build the internal capacity of the state to serve the people competently at all levels.

Supported by a number of organizations and individuals that includes the following undersigned:

  1. South African Communist Party (SACP)
  2. Congress of South African Trade Unions
  3. The Liliesleaf Trust 
  4. Young Communist League of SA
  5. Cosatu Young Workers
  6. Joe Slovo Foundation
  7. Harry Gwala Foundation
  8. MK National Council
  9. Financial Sector Campaign Coalition
  10. NEDLAC Community Constituency Covid-19 Front