Moral Call Collective Engages ANC Leadership on Rampant COVID-19 Corruption

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On Monday 24 August 2020 a delegation of organisations calling for societal action against COVID-19 corruption met with the National Officials of the African National Congress (ANC) led by party president, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa. 

 

The delegation, led by the South African Council of Churches (SACC), comprises five other organisations, namely, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Foundation for Human Rights and the Council for the Advancement of South African Constitution (CASAC).  

These entities had jointly issued  a ‘moral call' to all who live in South Africa to become vigilant and active citizens, and support the democratic project by rejecting corruption and unethical behaviour. 

A portion of the statement reads:

“There comes a time when the moral depravity of some in positions of authority, and in the private sector, undermine the very notion of nationhood and the underlying value of public service. We are compelled to assert: This is not how we shall be known as a nation. We refuse to allow corrupt networks in different provinces to go about their criminal activity, trampling on the rights of honest and law-abiding people.” 

 

This statement prompted the governing party to request the dialogue with the ‘Moral Call’ Collective.  In its message to the ANC leadership the Collective called for three things: transparency, accountability and ethical governance.

The Collective challenged the ANC leadership, saying:

“The governing party leadership appears compromised within itself,” and asserted that 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. 

Such a breakdown at the level of Government and ANC leadership “prepares the ground for the moral decay of the rest of society, resulting in the rule of law being undermined.”  

The Collective called on the governing party and all political parties in South Africa to enter into a covenant based on a public commitment to accountability, responsiveness and openness. 

The Collective quoted former President Nelson Mandela’s words when he said:

“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.”

 

In holding the governing party accountable for some of its recent decisions, the Collective questioned how the ANC could reconcile the quest for public trust with the decision to reinstate the VBS-implicated people in Limpopo; and how the ANC can commit to “the fight against corruption while elevating a leader who is facing corruption charges to a provincial legislature”.

Citing the recent public statement by Secretary General, Ace Magashule, saying,

“Tell me of one leader of the ANC who’s not done business with government,” the Collective exclaimed: “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.”

 

Challenging Mr Magashule’s much-publicised position that there is no law against family members exercising their constitutional right to do business with Government, the Collective pointed to the existing provisions in the Public Administration Management Act and related Regulations preventing politically exposed persons from doing business with Government.

The Collective added:

“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.”

 

On this Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana of the SACC said:

“St. Paul writes that, ‘All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.’ Imagine a pastor who leads a church, his wife with the tender to make the church uniforms, his daughter with the tender for the rental of the music instruments, and his son with the transport tender to move the choir around or supply the bibles. It might indeed be their right to do this, but it would call into question the genuineness of intentions and detract from the integrity of the leadership; there lies the ethical challenge!”

 

Calling for accountability and consequences for corruption and crime, the Collective called for the establishment and capacitation of an independent investigative and prosecutorial body, accelerated with clear timeframes. This, together with the much-needed resource provision and capacitation of all law enforcement institutions, should be expedited as part of the necessary measures to enhance public confidence.

Morale is low and cynicism is deep. South Africans need to see demonstrable consequences for the looting that has taken place. 

In a frank exchange of views, the ANC leadership showed openness to engage on all issues, reiterating what it said was the party’s own attempts at tackling corruption. 

A follow-up meeting will take place between the Collective and the Government, as the delegation asserted that the issues of concern are directed towards governmental issues instead of internal party political issues.

Closing on a positive note, the Collective said that the COVID-19 pandemic had awakened the world to the massive structural inequalities “both within and between nations.”

The meeting shared the sentiment that this awakening presents a moment “for fundamental renewal within countries and between the countries of the world.”

As such, the good news for renewing South Africa is that a national effort at addressing social and economic inequalities post COVID-19 will precipitate the addressing of their root causes, one of which is corruption at the hands of government.

This may augur well in restoring the dignity of South Africa in its own eyes as well as in the eyes of the world.

The Collective put forward that this could again be an opportunity for the Government to do right by its people. 

Some members of the Collective have already begun implementing projects and programmes that will contribute to the national healing process so desperately required. These organisations will make further announcements in due course.

As members of civil society, and as ordinary South Africans, we dare not shirk our responsibilities to fix our beloved nation’s soul.

Brief Message for National Officials of the ANC  
SACC & Foundations Delegations on COVID-19 Corruption  
August 24, 2020 
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 Governments 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 weve 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 speaks to 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 peoples 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 
whos 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. 
 
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. 
 
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. 
 
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. 
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