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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

Academics receive award from SA Academy for Science and Art
2009-07-02

 
The South African Academy for Science and Art recently celebrated its centenary year on the Main Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) in Bloemfontein. Academics involved with the UFS received awards during the academy’s recent awards ceremony. A Centenary Medal was awarded to Prof. François Retief, former Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, for his achievement in the medical sciences over an extended period. The NT Steyn Medal was awarded to Prof. Andries Stulting from the Department of Ophthalmology at the UFS for achievements in the Technical and Natural Sciences and Prof. Albie van Schalkwyk, formerly from the UFS’s Department of Music, received the Huberte Rupert Prize for Classical Music.

According to Prof. Hennie van Coller, Head of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French at the UFS and also Chairperson of the Academy, the centenary celebrations were a highlight in the existence of the academy. “For the first time in years there was a mood of optimism that could not be restrained by any differences between the attendees. Political hatchets were buried and members from different racial groups took hands for the road ahead. The continuous themes were that of excellence, which may not be sacrificed,” he said.

In his address as Chairman, Prof. van Coller emphasised that the specific niche of the Academy (the development of the higher function of Afrikaans) should not limit the organisation to also be involved in Afrikaans at grassroots level (especially rural brown people and suburban white people) who often had to deal with poverty and illiteracy and who battled for survival. The Academy had to act as facilitator and offer its expertise to people like those.

At the awards ceremony of the South African Academy for Science and Art were, from the left: Mr Jaco Jacobs, who received the Elsabe Steenberg Prize for translated Children’s and Youth Literature in Afrikaans, Prof. Hennie van Coller and Prof. François Retief.
Photo: Stephen Collett

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