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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

Innovation the focus of 28th Sophia Gray Memorial Lecture
2016-09-06

Description: Stratford furniture design Tags: Stratford furniture design

Stratford never lost his passion for designing
furniture. Pictured here is some of his furniture
exhibited at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum.
Photo: Francois van Vuuren: iFlair Photography

Al Stratford, designer, inventor and architect, presented the 28th Sophia Gray Memorial Lecture on 25 August at the Reservoir at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein. The event, hosted by the Department of Architecture at the University of the Free State, was also the opening of an exhibition of Stratford’s work.

In his career of 40 years, Stratford has patented many products and won several awards in industrial design and architecture. He is known in South Africa for his development of innovative building technology such as the Winblok Precast Concrete Window System. In 2009 and 2010, he also served as president of the South African Institute of Architects.

The title of his lecture was: Reductive Innovation in Architecture. Throughout his career, Stratford endeavoured – through his designs and inventions – to apply the principle of “reduction” to the building material he used and technology he examined.

Stratford designs and builds smart buildings
Stratford says a home is the paradigm of self-expression. His career as architect started with the building of five houses in Gonubie, near East London. Everything he knew about architecture at that stage, he had taught himself by reading on the subject at the local library. Later on, he achieved great heights in his career by designing and building, among others, the Stratford Guesthouse; the sustainable and resourcefully designed campus buildings for the University of Fort Hare (an institutional building not utilising any electrical air-conditioning); the Edenvale Baptist Church; and a community hall.

His technology is widely used in the building industry

“The arrogance in me gets humiliated when I
see what other people and God has done.”


His technical drawing skills, acquired at an early age during his training as motor mechanic, are still practised years later, particularly in his inventions. Stratford is the inventor of technology commonly used in the building industry today. Of these, the Winblok window system which he patented in 1981, is one of his best known patents. The use of these windows is characteristic of many of the buildings he designed and built. Other technology he invented and patented, includes the Winstep stairs, the Windeck flooring system, and the StratFlex furniture technology.

Furniture designs win him awards
He likes to quote architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: “A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is easier.” Stratford started designing and manufacturing his own furniture and never lost this passion. In 2013, he won the Innovation Award at the Design Indaba for his “flat pack” furniture technology.

The humble Stratford – designer, inventor, industrialist, and architect – says he is simply playing around with God’s creation. “The arrogance in me gets humiliated when I see what other people and God has done.”

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