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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

Stem cell research and human cloning: legal and ethical focal points
2004-07-29

   

(Summary of the inaugural lecture of Prof Hennie Oosthuizen, from the Department of Criminal and Medical Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of the Free State.)

 

In the light of stem cell research, research on embryo’s and human cloning it will be fatal for legal advisors and researchers in South Africa to ignore the benefits that new bio-medical development, through research, contain for this country.

Legal advisors across the world have various views on stem cell research and human cloning. In the USA there is no legislation that regulates stem cell research but a number of States adopted legislation that approves stem cell research. The British Parlement gave permission for research on embryonic stem cells, but determined that it must be monitored closely and the European Union is of the opinion that it will open a door for race purification and commercial exploitation of human beings.

In South Africa the Bill on National Health makes provision for therapeutical and non therapeutical research. It also makes provision for therapeutical embryonical stem cell research on fetuses, which is not older than 14 days, as well as for therapeutical cloning under certain circumstances subject to the approval of the Minister. The Bill prohibits reproductive cloning.

Research on human embrio’s is a very controversial issue, here and in the rest of the world.

Researchers believe that the use of stem cell therapy could help to side-step the rejection of newly transplanted organs and tissue and if a bank for stem cell could be built, the shortage of organs for transplants would become something of the past. Stem cells could also be used for healing of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and spinal injuries.

Sources from which stem cells are obtained could also lead to further ethical issues. Stem cells are harvested from mature human cells and embryonic stem cells. Another source to be utilised is to take egg cells from the ovaries of aborted fetuses. This will be morally unacceptable for those against abortions. Linking a financial incentive to that could become more of a controversial issue because the woman’s decision to abort could be influenced. The ideal would be to rather use human fetus tissue from spontaneous abortions or extra-uterine pregnancies than induced abortions.

The potential to obtain stem cells from the blood of the umbilical cord, bone-marrow and fetus tissue and for these cells to arrange themselves is known for quite some time. Blood from the umbilical cord contains many stem cells, which is the origin of the body’s immune and blood system. It is beneficial to bank the blood of a newborn baby’s umbilical cord. Through stem cell transplants the baby or another family member’s life could be saved from future illnesses such as anemia, leukemia and metabolic storing disabilities as well as certain generic immuno disabilities.

The possibility to withdraw stem cells from human embrio’s and to grow them is more useable because it has more treatment possibilities.

With the birth of Dolly the sheep, communities strongly expressed their concern about the possibility that a new cloning technique such as the replacement of the core of a cell will be used in human reproduction. Embryonic splitting and core replacement are two well known techniques that are associated with the cloning process.

I differentiate between reproductive cloning – to create a cloned human embryo with the aim to bring about a pregnancy of a child that is identical to another individual – and therapeutically cloning – to create a cloned human embryo for research purposes and for healing human illnesses.

Worldwide people are debating whether to proceed with therapeutical cloning. There are people for and against it. The biggest ethical objection against therapeutical cloning is the termination of the development of a potential human being.

Children born from cloning will differ from each other. Factors such as the uterus environment and the environment in which the child is growing up will play a role. Cloning create unique children that will grow up to be unique individuals, just like me and you that will develop into a person, just like you and me. If we understand this scientific fact, most arguments against human cloning will disappear.

Infertility can be treated through in vitro conception. This process does not work for everyone. For some cloning is a revolutionary treatment method because it is the only method that does not require patients to produce sperm and egg cells. The same arguments that were used against in vitro conception in the past are now being used against cloning. It is years later and in vitro cloning is generally applied and accepted by society. I am of the opinion that the same will happen with regard to human cloning.

There is an argument that cloning must be prohibited because it is unsafe. Distorted ideas in this regard were proven wrong. Are these distorted ideas justified to question the safety of cloning and the cloning process you may ask. The answer, according to me, is a definite no. Human cloning does have many advantages. That includes assistance with infertility, prevention of Down Syndrome and recovery from leukemia.

 

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