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13 October 2020 | Story Prof John Mubangizi | Photo Sonia du Toit
Prof John C Mubangizi is Dean: Faculty of Law, University of the Free State.

South Africans are sick and tired of corruption. They are angry, frustrated and despondent. And they have every reason to be. South Africa has many problems: crime, unemployment, poverty, gender-based violence, inequality, low economic growth and now – in common with many other countries – COVID-19. The list goes on and on. What makes corruption the biggest threat among all these is that it cuts across all of them and impacts on their gravity in different ways. 

The South African Constitution envisages a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. The way things are going, that society is never likely to happen. That is because corruption has been, and continues to be, the greatest threat to any possibility of realising that constitutional dream. In South Africa, like everywhere else where corruption is rampant, it occurs both in the public and private sectors, where it affects democracy and human rights by deteriorating institutions and diminishing public trust in government. It impairs the ability of government to fulfil its obligations and ensure accountability in the delivery of economic and social services like healthcare, education, clean water, housing, and social security. This is because corruption diverts funds into private pockets – which impedes delivery of services – thereby perpetuating poverty, inequality, injustice and unfairness. The problem is aggravated when government is the main culprit. “Government” here, of course, refers to the dictionary meaning of the term, namely, “the group of people with the authority to govern a country or state”.

Corruption existed in ancient Egypt, China and Greece

There are those who argue that corruption is as old as mankind and, therefore, it is here to stay. Indeed, corruption is known to have existed in ancient Egypt, ancient China and ancient Greece. In Robert Bolt’s 16th Century play A Man for All Seasons, Richard Rich’s opening remark is “But every man has his price.” In the 1836 play The Government Inspector, Nikolai Gogol cleverly satirised the human greed, stupidity and extensive political corruption in Imperial Russia at the time. And in a recent article in The Conversation (28 August 2020), Steven Friedman wonders why South Africans express shock at corruption when “it is perhaps the country’s oldest tradition.” He locates the advent of corruption in South Africa at the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652, through to the ensuing colonialism and apartheid. He argues that in reality, “corruption has been a constant feature of South African political life for much of the past 350 years. It is deeply embedded and it will take a concerted effort, over years, not days, to defeat it”. 

Agreed, but does it have to be that way? At the time of Jan van Riebeeck and during the 350 years of colonialism and apartheid, we did not have the legal framework that we have now. Here is a brief overview of that framework.

Read full article here

Opinion article by Professor John C Mubangizi, Dean: Faculty of Law, University of the Free State


News Archive

SA must appoint competent judges
2009-05-08

 

At the inaugural lecture are, from the left: Prof. Teuns Verschoor, Acting Rector of the UFS, Judge Farlam and Prof. Johan Henning, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the UFS.

Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Ian Farlam has called on the South African government to appoint and continue to appoint competent, fair and experienced judicial officers to sit in the country’s courts.

He also emphasised the need to have an efficient and highly respected appellate division, which rightly enjoys the confidence of all.

Judge Farlam was speaking at the University of the Free State (UFS) where he delivered his inaugural lecture as Extraordinary Professor in Roman Law, Legal History and Comparative Law in the Faculty of Law.

He said there were important lessons that emanated from the study of legal history in the Free State, particularly including the lesson that there were courageous jurists who spoke up for what they believed to be right, and a legislature who listened and did the right thing when required.

“This is part of our South African heritage which is largely forgotten – even by those whose predecessors were directly responsible for it. It is something which they and the rest of us can remember with pride,” Judge Farlam said.

Addressing the topic, Cox and Constitutionalism: Aspects of Free State Legal History, Judge Farlam used the murder trial of Charles Cox, who was accused of killing his wife and both daughters, to illustrate several key points of legal history.

Cox was eventually found guilty and executed, however, the trial caused a deep rift between the Afrikaans and English speaking communities in the Free State.

Judge Farlam also emphasised that the Free State Constitution embodied the principle of constitutionalism, with the result that the Free State was a state where the Constitution and not the legislature was sovereign. He said it was unfortunate that this valuable principle was eliminated in the Free State after the Boer War and said that it took 94 years before it was reinstated.

Judge Farlam added, “Who knows what suffering and tragedy might not have been avoided if, instead of the Westminster system, which was patently unsuited to South African conditions, we had gone into Union in 1910 with what one can describe as the better Trekker tradition, the tradition of constitutionalism that the wise burghers of the Free State chose in 1854 to take over into their Constitution from what we would call today the constitutional best practice of their time?”

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison 
Tel: 051 401 2584 
Cell: 083 645 2454 
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za
8 May 2009
             

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