Recent media reports on the Seriti Commission’s report and the Constitutional Court judgement and the Public Protector’s report on Nkandla, to name but a few, reveal an unacceptable state of affairs where public finances have been grossly mismanaged. The good news is that civil society in South Africa has not been silent in watching these unprecedented events unfold. Corruption Watch, an anti-corruption organisation based in Johannesburg, has been at the forefront in the fight against corruption in the public sector.
One of the founding values of democratic South Africa is ‘the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law’. The World Justice Project defines ‘rule of law’ as ‘the process by which the laws [in a democracy] are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient’. This means that the level of a country’s democracy is determined by its adherence to the basic principles in which all people – regardless of their economic or political status – are subject to equal legal rules.
South Africa is in the middle of controversies relating to the South African Revenue Service, the Hawks, the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, the National Treasury, and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). There are also serious tensions within the government and the ruling African National Congress. South African government bonds have lost money for investors as bond yields have increased. This could get worse if Gordhan is to be replaced by someone who is less trusted by investors.
Thursday, 15 September 2016, was a bad day for South Africa’s public sector. First, two of the country’s most senior legal officials were struck off the roll of advocates, the High Court having found them unfit for office. Then, a very senior revenue official was suspended, after various unexplained payments, running into more than a million rands, were made to his bank account. Finally, late in the afternoon, the long-overdue financial statements of South African Airways (SAA) for 2014/15 were tabled in Parliament, revealing an annual loss of well over R4 billion.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (92) is famous for quirky responses when asked why he has stayed in power since 1980. Asked by journalists whether it isn’t time he said farewell to the people of Zimbabwe, he replied: ‘Why, where are they going?’
On a serious note, he also angrily told journalists who asked about his decades-long presidency: ‘Have you ever asked the Queen that question, or is it just for African leaders?’ According to Mugabe: ‘Only God who appointed me can remove me’.
President Jacob Zuma says that while he supports his embattled Finance Minster‚ Pravin Gordhan, his hands are tied when it comes to intervening between the Hawks and the minister.
Helen Suzman Foundation’s Piet Olivier points out that while the president cannot interfere with specific investigations or prosecutions‚ he has plenty of power to oversee the Hawks.
According to Tessa Hochfeld, welfare services in South Africa are delivered both by the state and by non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Hochfeld points out that this is common in developing countries where states rely on NGO support to deliver welfare services due to capacity and funding limitations.
However, she says the quality of services available has been eroded over the last five years, especially in the NGO sector which is increasingly financially embattled.
She adds: “Community needs have long outstripped available programmes, which are shrinking.”
The results of Zambia’s historic five-ballot election are threatening to plunge the country into a constitutional crisis. This month, the opposition filed a petition in the Constitutional Court challenging the validity of the results. The poll was a crucial test for Zambia’s new constitution, which was amended and adopted earlier this year.
When an elite crime-fighting unit investigates a member of Cabinet, what does the rule of law require? In South Africa the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) have been circling Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex (LGBTI) in Uganda is still considered a western concept, however, non-governmental organisations are working to educate the public on homosexual issues.