South Africa: Minister Jackson Mthembu - Debate in National Assembly On Anti-Corruption

press release

Speech by the Minister in The Presidency, Jackson Mthembu (MP) during a debate in the National Assembly on anti-corruption, Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

Hon Speaker,

Hon Deputy President,

Hon Members,

Good afternoon,

The 2019 ANC Election Manifesto which is the mandate by South Africans to the sixth democratic government clearly identified that corruption has negative consequences on our economy and society, impacting on the integrity of our institutions, our leaders and undermining the very moral and ethical basis of our young democracy.

President Ramaphosa as both leader of the ANC and of Government, reaffirmed that ethical and moral leadership in the public sector, the private sector and within society in general, remains critical if ourcollective fight against corruption is to succeed.

Based on the ANC's 54th Conference Resolutions, the Manifesto and the NEC statements, the ANC has given priority to the integrity of public representatives, of public institutions and that of the private sector. The ANC Government has taken firm action to deal decisively with the problems of corruption, state capture and related misconducts that have not only given rise to a public outcry but have also impacted negatively on the economy and society. This includes instituting measures to allow for prosecution in cases where there is prima-faci evidence of wrongdoing at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture. We are responding to the demand of society to spare no effort in uprooting corruption in the public service, the corporate sector and within society in general.

Corruption also diverts much-needed resources necessary to improve access to essential services into the pockets of a few that are greedy and heartless. As the ANC and Government, we have already joined all of South Africa and all of the World to condemn in the strongest possible terms the corrupt behavior that reared its ugly head during the COVID19 pandemic which is causing an unprecedented threat to life and livelihood of humanity, since the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. The WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom described this corruption, including that related to Personal Protective Equipment, as murderous, and we agree.

Cabinet remains resolved to leave no stone unturned as we strengthen controls, ensure early detection and institute consequence management beyond the COVID-19 resources. Cabinet further affirmed the independence of law enforcement agents and that they must execute their duties to our nation without prejudice, fear or favor as custodians of the laws of our country. We thank the many honest public servants and citizens that are cooperating with Law Enforcement Agencies to bring perpetrators to book so they face the full might of the law. As reported to the Standing Committee on Public accounts (SCOPA) by the Hawks, significant progress has been made to ensure that every cent stolen is recovered.

Honorable Members, COVID-19 is still with us. Having eased lockdown restrictions from level 5 to now level 1, the threat of a second surge that is hitting other nations elsewhere, lurks above our land. Every effort and every resource earmarked for the fight against the pandemic cannot be allowed to be diverted by a few amongst us without full consequences, including recouping such resources back to the state.

Overall the South African response against COVID-19, led from the front by President Ramaphosa, has been lauded as decisive and impactful, including by the World Health Organization Director General. As we work to reconstruct and recover our economy, we must build on this formidable effort we mounted together as a nation across party political divide, across public and private sectors and across the provinces and the districts of our country. The progress registered to date must inspire us to remain focused as we tackle corruption and some of the ills that raised ugly heads including violence against women and children, alcohol abuse and racism.

Working together as a nation,

We flattened the curve early on and readied the health system to save lives. By 25th October 2020, the recovery rate in South Africa averaged at 90% compared to the global average of 73,7% and the case fatality rate at 2,6% compared to the global average of 2,7%.

More facilities, beds, equipment and medication were added for isolation, quarantine and treatment, including ICU beds;

We capacitated our laboratory system in the public and private sectors and waged a massive trace and test screening and testing program;

We trained and mobilized our health workers who remain the pride of our nation, as we faced a surge of over 13 000 daily infections;

We joined the African and Global community in efforts of solidarity, medical scientific research, innovations and humanitarian outreach;

We put up a massive 500 billion social and economic relief package to save lives and livelihoods.

Through the resilience of our people, today our infection rates, whilst still considered high, have decreased from over 13 000 at the peak of the pandemic. As of yesterday, new infections were standing at 891, a massive improvement from 13 000 infections.

We are encouraged that measures to ensure a zero tolerance to corruption are beginning to be effective and impactful. Cabinet remain seized with the comprehensive efforts to ensure we all succeed in this regard. The collaborative efforts of law enforcement agencies culminated with the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Task Team to serve as a platform to prevent, detect early, intelligence-led investigations, prosecute and recover assets relating to corruption in respect to COVID-19 relief, to counter the detrimental public health, social and impact of the pandemic.

Government has committed amongst others:

Strengthening the criminal justice system to recover stolen public funds, including those in offshore tax havens, the multi-agency approach of law-enforcement agents has instituted and already resulted in investigations, arrests, freezing of assets and prosecutions. There are 179 cases under investigation with 6 cases involving 19 accused already in court. There are 64 bank accounts that have been frozen and an estimated R100 million in the process of being recovered by various agents including the asset forfeiture unit, SARS and SIU.

Stepping up and acting against private companies, financial services and agents that facilitate tax avoidance and illicit financial flows, profit shifting, illegal imports and import fraud, thereby robbing the country of tax revenue. In addition to measures instituted by SARS, the Competitions Commission at the DTI subjected a number of companies that were violating the COVID19 regulations to consequences.

Ensuring compliance through lifestyle audits and vetting as well as financial monitoring, to curb corruption. We can report that compliance to guidelines on lifestyle audits is done with 77% of departments at national and provincial levels assessed to be fully compliant as Cabinet insists on not tolerating partial compliance.

Measures are taken to enforce Compliance with Section 8 of the Public Administration Management Act (PAM Act) as well as Regulation 13 (c) of the 2016 Public Service Regulations to prohibit Public servants to do business with Government.

Systems are being developed to ensure a more transparent and more open tender system as mitigation against fraud, bribery and corruption. Treasury issued PFMA and MFMA directives on emergency procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic disaster, developed a price-reference list for essential commodities and was instructed by Cabinet to avail for public scrutiny lists of all services procured during the COVID-19 pandemic disaster and made available to the Inter-Ministerial Committee appointed by President Ramaphosa for further scrutiny.

Building and strengthen social compact on anti-corruption that will include initiatives that discourage those that turn a blind-eye to corruption remains critical. NEDLAC has also been a platform for this compact.

This path the ANC has taken of cleansing the Public Service, the Private Sector and Society of corruption and corrupt elements, is an irreversible path that must create more opportunity to focus on the socio-economic reconstruction and economic recovery agenda. Too many of our people suffer from hunger and poverty, too many of our youth are unemployed including those whose education we have funded, too much is lost in our economy from inequality.

H.E. President Cyril Ramaphosa, reiterated the resolve of the sixth administration to leave no stone unturned and to spare no effort in preempting, tackling and building resilience against these ills and rebuilding

trust and collaboration with stakeholders and citizens to emerge victorious as we live our collective vision of a South Africa that provides hope and delivers a better life for all our people as envisaged in the National Democratic Plan Vision 2030, our Constitution and the Freedom Charter.

The governing party itself is determined to restore the trust with the nation and to rebuild a capable, ethical and developmental state. Whilst mindful that corruption is a global challenge, South Africa works with Regional and International institutions to advance our course and speed up our potential to succeed. Let us join hands as a people to usher in a period of a caring and more just society, free of poverty and inequality and to defeat not only the COVID-19 pandemic but the social ills that we confront like corruption, as we build a better life for all.

I thank you.

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