16 October 2020 | Story Andre Damons | Photo Supplied
Prof Thuli Madonsela; Mr Moeletsi Mbeki; Prof Philippe Burger; and Prof Bonang Mohale, were the panellists on Thursdays during the third discussion in the 2020 University of the Free State (UFS) Thought-Leader Webinar Series.

South Africa should not wait until corrupt leaders have been found guilty in a criminal court, they should be removed from power because they are unethical. This is what the constitution says. 

This is according to Prof Thuli Madonsela, Law Trust Chair in Social Justice at Stellenbosch University and one of Thursday’s (15 October 2020) panellist during the third discussion in the 2020 University of the Free State (UFS) Thought-Leader Webinar Series, themed 'Post-COVID-19, Post-Crisis', which focused on politics in South Africa.

The other panellists included Mr Moeletsi Mbeki, Deputy Chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs, Prof Philippe Burger, UFS Pro-Vice-Chancellor: Poverty, Inequality and Economic Development, and Prof Bonang Mohale, Chairman: Bidvest Group and Chancellor of the UFS.

Social justice is important

According to Prof Madonsela, social justice is important if South Africa wants to make progress regarding corruption. The corrupt are now mobilising the very people from whom they have stolen to support them. They are using the fact that good governance is not affecting the poor or disrupting inequality, and they are even the scapegoats for good governance cementing the inequality of the past, she said.

“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. We have to stop saying that we are going to deal with people and remove them from power once they have been found guilty in a criminal court.” 

“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. Above all, we must use social justice as a means of growing as a country, as a people, to achieve sustainable development,” said Prof Madonsela.

We replaced the good guys with the bad

Prof Mohale said a bigger issue that South Africans are confronted with today, is that we have been warned about this by other African compatriots – we have been warned that the ruling ANC will do what other ruling parties have done in other African countries. 

“South Africa needs a viable opposition to keep the good guys in check. We made our own mistakes as South Africans and we assumed that because our leaders spent years on Robben Island, they were incorruptible, that they 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,” said Prof Mohale.

According to him, we will only start believing that this 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, coupled with reducing the public sector wage bill. We need to continue to focus on not fixing the SOEs. 

“If we don’t grow the economy, we will talk about redistribution of poverty and not redistribution of wealth. We need to create jobs in large numbers.”

Mr 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.”

Investments needed

According to Prof Burger, 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 growth plan must be green, with plans for urban infrastructure to contain the growing urban population.

“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.” 

“There is also the increasing need for investment; private sector investment must increase, 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.”

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