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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

Renowned writer for Africa Day
2012-05-31

 

Attending the lecture were, from left: Dr Choice Makhetha, Vice-Rector: External Relations; Prof Kwandiwe Kondlo, Director of the Centre for Africa Studies;Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong'o; Prof Lucius Botes, Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities, and Prof Andre Keet, Director of the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice..
Photo: Stephen Collett
25 May 2012

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Lecture: THE BLACKNESS OF BLACK: Africa in the World Today

Audio of the lecture

Profile of Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o (pdf format)

“Flowers are all different, yet no flower claims to be more of a flower than the other.” With these words Kenyan writer and one of the continent's most celebrated authors, Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o, delivered the tenth annual Africa Day Memorial lecture on 25 May 2012 in the University of the Free State's (UFS) Odeion Theatre on the Bloemfontein Campus. The lecture was hosted by the Centre for Africa Studies.

Long before Prof. wa Thiong’o was led inside the venue by a praise singer, chairs were filled and people were shown to an adjoining room to follow the lecture. Others, some on the university's Qwaqwa Campus, followed via live streaming.

In his speech titled the Blackness of Black: Africa in the world today, Prof. wa Thiong’o looked at the standing of Africa in the world today. He highlighted the plight of those of African descent who are judged “based on a negative profile of blackness”.

Prof. wa Thiong’o recalled a humiliating experience at a hotel in San Francisco in the United States, where a staff member questioned him being a guest of the hotel. He shared a similar experience in New Jersey, where he and his wife were thought to be recipients of welfare cheques. He said this was far deeper than overt racism.

“The certainty is based on a negative profile of blackness taken so much for granted as normal that it no longer creates a doubt.”

Prof. wa Thiong’o said the self certainty that black is negative is not confined to white perception of black only.

“The biggest sin, then, is not that certain groups of white people, and even the West as a whole, may have a negative view of blackness embedded in their psyche, the real sin is that the black bourgeoisie in Africa and the world should contribute to that negativity and even embrace it by becoming participants or shareholders in a multibillion industry built on black negativity.”

“Africa has to review the roots of the current imbalance of power: it started in the colonisation of the body. Africa has to reclaim the black body with all its blackness as the starting point in our plunge into and negotiations with the world.”

Prof. wa Thiong’o concluded by saying that Africa must rediscover and reconnect with Kwame Nkrumah’s dreams of a politically and economically united Africa.

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