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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

‘Your capacity for change is limitless’
2013-09-13

 

Ready for the world - students taking part in the 2013 Leadership for Change programme getting ready to travel to universities in the USA, Europe and Asia.
Photo: Johan Roux
12 September 2013

 “You will change this campus, city, country, continent and the world, because you have the capacity for greatness,” Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State (UFS), said.

He addressed the 2013 group of first-year students in the Leadership for Change programme at a farewell function before they will leave for universities abroad. The first 104 students from the 2013 total of 144 will depart on 18 September and return on 3 October 2013. The second group of 40 students will be abroad from 11 to 25 January 2014. The students are from the Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa Campuses. They will be accompanied by mentors from the UFS.

The students will visit 17 universities in the USA, Europe and Asia.

The first 71 first-year students in the Leadership for Change programme were sent abroad for two weeks in September 2010 to get intense exposure to the academic, social, cultural and residential lives of students in the USA. In 2011 the student number more than doubled and universities in Europe were included. In July 2012 the programme brought students from around the globe to the UFS for the Global Leadership Summit.

Prof Jansen inspired the young leaders, saying, “If you learn leadership values in your four years of study, a change will come. Build the new value system and take it into the country. Your capacity for change is limitless.”

He encouraged them to learn to know the stranger, not only abroad, but also the beggar at the street corner. “Learn to be comfortable with the beggar, as well as with the professor in the classroom.”

A stringent evaluation and training programme preceded the group’s visit abroad, and Prof Jansen could not formulate their achievement better: “I cannot tell you how proud I am of you.”

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