by Mr Bantu Holomisa at Gallagher Convention Centre
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for the opportunity to interact with you today; I’m honoured to address this forum on the importance of good governance in engendering trust among the various stakeholders in society.
Let me state from the outset that the answer to this question is an emphatic YES!
Yesterday the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela in this conference gave a candid and concise assessment of poor state of governance in the public sector in South Africa. She called on people to refrain from using their connections as a means to access tenders. Even though much has been said and written about corruption in South Africa and many laws have been passed to fight corruption, corruption remains a serious problem in our country. Far too often, many top government officials and politicians have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
In addition, when allegations of corruption engulf once revered institutions, such as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Presidency, they weaken our ability to successfully crackdown on corruption. In the process they affect our international ratings.
It would, however, be mischievous and dishonest to suggest that corruption in government only started during the Zuma regime.
Many of you will recall that some of the most devastating corruption scandals go back as far as the Sarafina-2, Arms Deal, Oil Gate, Travel Gate, Chancellor House/Hitachi and Eskom Deal. The latter deal being a classical example of an institutionalised corruption.
Efforts have been made to determine the possible causes of corruption in South Africa. While we admit that there are many possible causes of corruption, we believe that at the heart of the problem is the tender system. In particular, it is the usurpation of the powers of accounting officers by politicians in this system. Since the advent of democracy we have seen an increasing number of political directives given to accounting officers on how to allocate tenders and to whom. To make matters worse, in many instances tenders are awarded to incompetent people, who either do shoddy work or leave it unfinished.
A case in point, not long ago former Human Settlements Minister, Tokyo Sexwale stated publicly that his Department was planning to demolish thousands of RDP houses that were not built properly and are a health hazard.
The Medupi tender was awarded to the ruling party investment arm without being subjected to an open to tender system. This means that in this deal the ruling party became both player and referee. After this scandal was revealed they had the nerve to tell the public that they have a right to do this.
These occur despite people being aware that they go against the principles of good governance.
We need to reverse this trend, Ladies and Gentlemen. We need to restore the power to make administrative decisions back to the accounting officers, and that politicians should confine themselves to do oversight work. What is also of grave concern is that when the media and the Public Protector expose incidents of corruption, nothing serious is done about it. Instead, the culprits get rewarded with redeployments and or promotions, which firmly entrenches the culture of corruption and impunity.
For examples one has to look no further than former Minister of Communications, Dina Pule and those who were found guilty in the Travel Gate scandal. This altogether necessitates a review of the programs and some of the governance systems we have been using. Put more accurately, we need to change the software. We need to move towards a mixed electoral system that draws from the strengths of both the proportional and constituency based electoral systems. In addition, our people should be allowed to directly elect their president. In addition the cabinet which has been nominated by that president should be a subject of scrutiny by the Parliament’s Ethics Committee before they are sworn in. Such a system will among other things make sure that the cabinet represents the population or at least the geographical spread of South Africa and that such individuals understand the field they are to enter.
A directly elected president would have no motivation to fill the cabinet with people from his/her home province, as is currently the case. This is a recipe for prompting ethnicity and unfair distribution of resources. These steps would, among others, help improve accountability. If the civil society and the public in general is going to fold their arms while these hyenas and predators continue to loot this country’s resources with impunity, they must know that our children will inherit an empty shell in the future.
I thank you.