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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

Living proof of transformation
2012-07-20

 Prof. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela (middle) facilitated a dialogue with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Prof. Mark Solms on the Transformation in the Solms-Delta Wine Estate.
Photo: Johan Roux

18 July 2012

“We have the capacity to make a success of South Africa. We have incredible people who refuse to leave the country and want to make a difference.” This is according to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who was speaking at the University of the Free State (UFS) today.

Dr Tutu took part in a dialogue with Prof. Mark Solms, owner of the Solms-Delta wine estate in Franschhoek.Prof. Solms is also an A-rated scholar and the Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town.The theme of the dialogue was “Living Reconciliation: Winds of Change in Franschhoek and Transformation at Solms-Delta Wine Estate”.

Prof. Solms led an initiative to transform the lives of farm workers on the estate through the Wijn-de Caab Trust. This initiative was extended to empower the wider community of farm dwellers when Prof. Solms co-founded the Delta Trust and the Franschhoek Valley Transformation Charter.

The dialogue was the second in the Dialogue between Science and Society series and was facilitated by Prof. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Senior research professor on Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation at the UFS. The Dialogue series aims to inspire new ways of thinking about responsible citizenship. It also highlights the unique and important ways of engaging with the critical issues of social equality, social justice, social transformation and reconciliation in South Africa.This morning Dr Tutu said the work done in the Franschhoek community is proof that people cannot prosper alone if others are also not prospering. “We belong together. Why did it take us so long to realise it? South Africans have the capacity to make South Africa a better place. It is unacceptable that people go hungry and go to school under trees. It is unacceptable that they still have no books in the third term, and that the pass rate is 30%.

“Is this why we struggled, why people died? We want to go to our graves smiling… we will not be allowed peace and stability if we do not attend to the problems.”

Prof. Solms said the miracle of the political transformation did not trickle down to the people. A lot has been done, but much more needs to be done. “It can only be done by us. It is not the government’s responsibility. The way we live as a result of apartheid is that we are a deeply divided society. We must recognise this and do something to change it.”

He encouraged people to think “small”. An individual cannot change the whole country, but the changes in his community are there to see.

Dr Tutu also congratulated the UFS on becoming a truly South African university, recognising the transformation of the past few years.

The dialogue was presented at the Global Leadership Summit that 250 students and academic leaders from 21 international universities are participating in. The summit runs until Friday 20 July 2012.
 

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