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COSATU Today  |  COSATU Speeches

COSATU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi’s, address to the COSATU Anti-Corruption March, Polokwane

13 December 2011

Thank you very much for your participation in this historic march to unite all activists of not only COSATU but of the Alliance as whole, as prepare to go to the festive season, to return to the Premier’s office to say we do not like corruption, because corruption is a programme of the elite in society to steal from the poor.

Let us state the following facts for all and sundry to be clear about:

  • This march has nothing to do with the forthcoming ANC Provincial Conference taking place this coming weekend. We are not a bullet than can be hired by any faction to pursue narrow factional activities. This is not a factional activity; it is a march against corruption and abuse of political power.
  • This is not a march against the ANC! The days when some in the movement could want to present any expression of genuine concern including against corruption as being anti-ANC belong to the past. The Alliance is united on the need to fight against the scourge of corruption. We have adopted a common programme and throughout 2012 we shall be marching shoulder-to-shoulder against not only corruption but on a range of other issues contained in our common programme to advance fundamental transformation of our society. The ANC is everywhere and we are the ANC! The ANC is absolutely opposed to corruption and fighting corruption is one of the government’s five priorities. The ANC is not equal to tenderpreneurs – we are here to defeat the agenda of tenderpreneurs and to strengthen the ANC’s hand in a battle against selflessness and greed.

The Alliance as whole agrees that corruption has become endemic in South Africa. There will be no better life for all unless we defeat corruption and those hell-bent on driving a programme to enrich themselves.

The Minister of Finance two years ago revealed that government was investigating tender fraud amounting to R25 billion!

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has given the City Press an insight into the extent of the problem. It currently has almost 1 000 individual investigations under way. Almost 600 of these relate to procurement, and involve contracts worth more than R9 billion. Alongside this, the unit is investigating 360 conflicts of interest on contracts, valued at R3.5 billion.

Unless we scale up our campaign against the scourge of corruption we face a danger that no-one will be able to do business with the state without greasing the hands of corrupt gatekeepers, who demand bribes, and who, unless they are stopped, may systematically use their power to control large areas of the economy.

Factions these days are formed not around different ideologies or political views, but access to government power that brings its leaders closer to state tenders. Honest and talented individuals who cannot play this dirty game of ‘survival of the fittest’ get sidelined and fall by the wayside, as the slate politics, based on the ‘winner takes all’ mentality, imposes the worst, most inefficient and corrupt individuals on us. This leads to mediocrity and chaos.

Last week, national government was forced to intervene and take over the running of 5 departments in Limpopo, the Health Department in Gauteng and the Department and Roads and Transport in the Free State. That is what factions do to the people.

The mistake we keep on making over and over again in our politics of divisions is to keep on replacing a corrupt faction with another equally corrupt faction which, as soon as they occupy office, embraces the ‘it`s our time to eat’ mantra.

In COSATU we long ago reached a consensus amongst ourselves that as long the current economic system – capitalism - is in place, with its ‘me first’ mentality, we will find it difficult to root out corruption. Capitalism breeds corruption because as a system it is a corrupt, in that it allows the surplus value to be appropriated by a tiny class of property owners whilst the real producers of that wealth earn a pittance.

Capitalism has always been run on the basis of the survival of the fittest, where the principle of ‘dog-eats-dog’ and ‘me-first’ applies. Whilst workers’ universal slogan is “an injury to one is an injury to all” the capitalist mentality daily practises: “an injury to one is an opportunity to another”. These slogans represent an important difference in approach to the struggle against corruption.

This death of consciousness and conscience makes us to tolerate a situation where a small minority enjoys the best healthcare facilities whilst the majority have to contend with overcrowded, under-staffed and under-resourced public hospitals where they die en masse from preventable diseases.

The death of social and political consciousness and conscience makes us not to roll up our sleeves and do something about the crisis in the education system. Some of our children learn in de-humanising conditions - schools without toilets, no fencing, no libraries, mud schools, no laboratories, no windows, over-crowded classes, etc.

The ‘me first’ culture is killing the human solidarity and social consciousness of many, including those who led the very struggle for the emancipation of our people. This new culture has engulfed our cadres and in the process threatens the finest traditions of our liberation movement – selflessness, honesty and integrity. Next year on 8th January we shall be celebrating 100 years of these traditions.

Secondly we cannot defeat corruption and abuse of power when we have weak organisations and institutions. We need a mixture of a strong ANC that is active in and outside of the state, a strong, ideologically alert and independent COSATU, a rock solid trade union movement buttressed by an equally strong, pro-working class civil society, a robust and pro-poor religious sector, a strong and transformative judiciary, a diversified and robust media that always defends the poor in the face of the rich and weak in the face of the strong, and consistently advocates for an end to social and economic injustice, and a strong democratic state that advances the interests of the poor.

It is through the existence of all these, working in complementary ways, that we stand a chance to reverse the catastrophe in our hands.

Thirdly as long as there is that overlap between business and political office corruption will strive and get out of hand. COSATU has urged that we must eliminate any possibility of a conflict of interest between leadership and business. We have said that if a political and or trade union leader has a family in business – the family must not be allowed to do business with either government or the trade unions.

Fourthly there are a number of steps already agreed upon which will remain a pipe dream until we build a strong organisation underpinned by the values that have guaranteed the ANC its first 100 years – selflessness, integrity and honesty.

These are the steps which have been agreed upon already but won’t happen until we succeed building our movement at all levels in particular at the grass roots:

The Anti-Corruption Task Team, established by President Jacob Zuma to fast-track high-priority corruption investigations and prosecutions, and to ensure full cooperation across law enforcement entities, and the Multi-Agency Working Group set up by the Treasury to deal with irregularities in government procurement systems, focusing on closing systems’ gaps as well as detecting and investigating irregularities.

We are happy that the Receiver of Revenue is conducting targeted lifestyle audits on those suspected of dodging their tax responsibilities. These are valuable weapons to help us identify, prosecute and punish those involved in corruption, but also to exonerate the innocent majority.

COSATU leaders have already agreed to undergo lifestyle audits to encourage better cooperation from all. We reiterate our call that all political and business leaders must agree to conduct a life style audit as part of a deliberate campaign to assure the public that the majority can explain their bank balances and wealth.

If one day we were to wake up in a new society where just these steps had been rigorously taken forward without any fear and favour and without any regard to factions, then South Africa would be a better place.

Lastly let us emphasize again if political or trade union positions are seen as the means to enrich oneself it is little surprise that comrades murder each other to win positions which have become a stepping stone to wealth.

The politics of patronage is destroying the self-sacrificing and service ethic that characterised the movement for decades. It is a cancer eating slowly at all components of the mass democratic movement from branch to national level.

The succession of corruption scandals and the spread of the capitalist culture of greed and self-enrichment are threatening to unravel the fabric of society and undermine all the great progress we have made. We must eradicate this cancer before it is too late.

Thank you for listening

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
Braamfontein
2017

P.O.Box 1019
Johannesburg
South Africa

Tel: +27 11 339-4911/24
Fax: +27 11 339-5080 / 6940
Mobile: +27 82 821 7456
E-Mail: patrick@cosatu.org.za

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