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05 April 2022 | Story Lunga Luthuli
Combat corruption in SA
Prof Sethulego Matebesi, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, and Prof John Mubangizi, Dean of the Faculty of Law, during the launch of the UFS Student Essay Writing Competition at the Council Chambers on the Bloemfontein Campus.

Speaking at the launch of the University of the Free State’s Essay Writing Competition on Monday 4 April 2022, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof Francis Petersen, said: “Corruption erodes the social fabric of our society, it inhibits South Africa’s developmental agenda.”

“We are all aware of the widespread corruption in South Africa, not only in government, but also in other sectors of the economy. As an institution, we want to publicly declare that the University of the Free State stands against corruption,” he said.

The ‘Combating Corruption in South Africa’ competition will have entrants writing essays to offer thoughts on corruption and how it can be combated. The competition is open to all registered postgraduate students and final-year undergraduate students in all disciplines and faculties.

Entrants in the competition will write about issues that include an understanding of corruption, why corruption is a challenge in South Africa, possible responses to corruption nationally, the establishment of a Chapter Nine Integrity Commission, and how universities – especially the UFS – could respond effectively to corruption.

Prof Petersen said: “We want to challenge the levels of corruption happening in the society, and with this initiative, universities and partners have a responsibility to speak the truth to power and enhance accountability. We are proposing a meaningful and practical initiative that could reduce or eliminate corruption in our society.”

The initiative is a partnership between the UFS, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC), Corruption Watch, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), and Accountability Now.

Lawson Naidoo, Executive Secretary of CASAC, said: “Corruption has undermined democracy and the constitutional foundations. It has eroded state institutions and the body politics in the country. The hardest hit is the poor and vulnerable.” 

Advocate Stefanie Fick, Head of Legal Affairs at OUTA, said the effects of corruption need to be highlighted – “why we have a high unemployment rate, why we are behind in building more schools and infrastructure. All that points back to corruption”.

Recognising partners, Prof Petersen said the UFS cannot do this alone, “we need partnerships, collaborate, and co-create”. He said: “Our students are the future professionals and leaders. They need to play a meaningful role and assist in changing the mindset of what society should look like. The proposals we are hoping to get from the competition are a level of awareness to show that – as the university and for the society – we are coming with a different thinking that is impacting the way we deal with corruption.”

Advocate Paul Hoffman, Director and Head of Projects at Accountability Now congratulated the UFS on a worthy initiative and said he hoped that the participants will be enriched by the experience.

He said: “We still do not have effective and efficient anti-corruption state machinery in South Africa, as can be seen by the phenomenon of state capture and COVID-19.” 

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