South Africans should not wait until corrupt leaders have been found guilty in a criminal court, they should be removed from power because they are unethical, says the country’s former public protector, Thuli Madonsela.

“We have to remove them when they are unethical, because that’s what the constitution says. When it comes to the rule of law, we have to make sure that we adapt our law to the challenges of the times so that people don’t get away on technicalities.”

Madonsela was a panellist during the 2020 University of the Free State (UFS) Thought-Leader Webinar Series which focused on corruption, governance and ethics in South Africa.

The panel included Moeletsi Mbeki, deputy chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs; Professor Philippe Burger, UFS Pro-Vice-Chancellor: Poverty, Inequality and Economic Development; and Professor Bonang Mohale, Chairman: Bidvest Group and Chancellor of the UFS. The discussion was moderated by veteran journalist Max du Preez.

“If we want South Africa to do better using the opportunities presented by Covid-19, we will have to do better on three fronts: social justice, ethical governance and rule of law.”

Redistribution of poverty 

Mohale said the bigger issue that South Africans are confronted with today is that we have been warned about this by other African compatriots in that South Africa needed a viable opposition to keep the ruling party in check. 

He believes South Africans made a mistake in assuming that because our leaders spent years on Robben Island, they were incorruptible and will make good leaders.

’’We also thought that we could extrapolate their skills into running a modern, rapidly growing, globalising economy. What is being revealed in the Zondo Commission shows not only a high level of incompetence, industrial scale looting, but that we have actually replaced the good guys with the bad guys.” 

Mohale said South Africans will only start believing that the ANC  government is serious when the “State Capture miscreants are sent to jail” and when the country embarks on a much-needed systemic, deep structural reform.  

If we don’t grow the economy, he said, “we will talk about redistribution of poverty and not redistribution of wealth.” 

Specific growth plan needed

Burger pointed out that urban growth is set to increase by 2035, which will lead to a need for investment in the growth and development of urban areas. 

“The question is who will finance it – government cannot finance it due to the huge wage bill which it needs to cut. If government cannot finance it, then there will be the need for private investment – for this to occur, the growth plan needs to be specific.” 

He said there’s also the increasing need for investment; particularly from the private sector. 

“The growth plan must include details of how stumbling blocks facing the country will be removed, and more details are needed on who will do what, by when, and at what cost.”

Mbeki said Covid-19 reduced the resources that are already scarce.

“That is where the crisis comes in. Covid-19 reduces the resources and it creates a crisis within the coalition, because now all of a sudden they have fewer resources; they didn’t have time to adjust, how they are going to distribute this resources among themselves, let alone among the broader society.”

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Presh JM Reporter

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