Wednesday 22 August 2012

Religious Leaders Call to End Corruption

The Welcoming Speech given at the launch of ‘From Witness to Action: A Call to End Corruption’ launched by Religious Leaders in Cape Town on 22 August 2012. The Call is a response to the first Religious Leaders Anti-Corruption Summit, which was held on 13 June, and at which Faith Leaders heard testimonies from community witnesses, social justice activists, and the CEO of the Public Protector's Office on the mounting cost of corruption, and pledged to join the fight against corruption on behalf of all South Africans. The Call itself, and individual statements from Faith Community leaders and from witnesses at the 13 June Summit, are carried below.

I am delighted to welcome everyone today – especially my colleagues of the Western Cape Religious Leaders’ Forum and members of community organisations. I also want to say a few ‘thank you’s. Thank you to the Institute of Security Studies, who first challenged us as religious leaders to focus together on corruption, and how we overcome it. Second, thank you to The Money and Politics Project of the Open Society Foundation of South Africa – who picked up the idea and facilitated our June summit. Special gratitude goes to Gary Pienaar, Daniel Weeks, and Mandisa Dyantyi; and everyone on the planning committee, for all your hard work.

Today’s call, from witness to action – this call to end corruption – cannot happen in isolation from our day-to-day lives; or we will have failed miserably in our intentions. A well-known saying sums up the challenge we face: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men (and women) to do nothing.”

Corruption is evil – a corrosive cancer at the heart of our nation, infecting and affecting every part of society. It seriously damages how society operates – especially government and the public sector, at every level from national to local. It threatens to undermine, even destroy, our efforts to create a nation based on the ideals of the Freedom Charter; and one of the best Constitutions in the world.

These high aspirations, for which so many struggled for so long, even at the cost of their lives, are tossed aside and trashed whenever a bribe is offered, a backhander taken, a corner cut for gain, or positions given to the unqualified and undeserving. Those who care only for the unearned quick and easy buck are showing contempt to past heroes; today’s needy; and to our children and our children’s children.

The burden of corruption is vast. The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution has estimated perhaps 20% of GDP is lost to corruption. This means that for every R100 that should be spent on health, education, housing, social development, clean water and sanitation, R20 is lost. Imagine how your life would be diminished and derailed, if, for every R1000 you earn, you instead got only R800. But imagine too, how much more hospitals and schools could do, if, for every R80 they get now, they got an extra R20. The same is true for every area of national economic activity, from electricity generation to mending potholes.

This is what they ought to be receiving. This is what corruption is stealing from every man, woman, and child, in South Africa. No wonder service delivery is in disarray! This is why we are in Khayelitsha today: to stand in solidarity with such communities all over our country – who bear disproportionally the burden of corruption.

Our ‘call to end corruption’ is not merely to challenge government at all levels. It isn’t only about tenderpreneurs and fat cats, who we see on the television but never meet in real life. It is also to say no to corruption, and rule-bending, in all our lives.

When traffic fines disappear for a small payment, or road-worthy certificates are issued for vehicles that were never seen – well, this is corruption. When queues are jumped and strings pulled – even if no money changes hands – this too is generally corruption, or little different. So too is doing shoddy work; using inferior materials; leaving jobs unfinished; or otherwise not fully delivering what we have contracted and been paid to do.

At every level, the time has come to say ‘enough is enough’, and draw a line, and say we will not stand for it any more – not from government, nor from ourselves. In today’s call, we pledge ourselves, and our own communities (which embrace the majority of South Africans), to be part of the solution.
• In our teaching and preaching, prayer and worship, we will clearly and unashamedly declare that corruption, in whatever form, is always wrong.
• We will highlight its destructive impact, on communities, families, and individuals, so no-one fails to understand its effects.
• We will stand in solidarity with, and advocate for, communities who are most affected by corruption.
• We will partner civil society groups who share our goals.
• We will ensure our own institutions are vigilant in staying free of corruption.
• We will commend and encourage good and honest people and practices; and we will support and protect whistle-blowers.

We will challenge other Provinces and their faith communities to make similar commitments. And we promise to be unrelenting in proclaiming this call and in speaking truth to power – and, indeed, we must not be shy of speaking truth to friends, including those in power, when also required.

Dear friends, our country has too much potential and promise to allow corruption to deface and derail the vision for which so many struggled and died. Please join us in making our nation a place where leaders and citizens strive together for a more just and caring society for all.

Let us set out eyes, our hearts, our wills upon this vision, this goal; and let us overcome all that stands in the way of this glorious future that can lie before us. And may God bless us as we work to make this vision concrete in our time. Amen

Statement following the 2012 Religious Leaders Anti-Corruption Summit in Cape Town

As members of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Baha’i, Brahma Kumari, and African Traditional religious communities represented in the Western Cape, we came together on 13 June 2012, at the invitation of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum, to look at corruption and its effects. This statement and programme of action comprise our response.

We recognise the threat posed by corruption

The corrupt pursuit of money and power is threatening our young democracy and robbing the poor of their basic needs and opportunities. Each year, corruption costs the South African economy hundreds of billions of rands. With half the population living in poverty and millions still without jobs, housing, electricity, adequate sanitation and medical care, the human cost of corruption is widely felt. Left unchecked, it poses a grave threat to South African democracy itself.

Corruption is not merely a material challenge affecting the political economy of South Africa (and the world), but also a spiritual, moral, and social concern. As the abuse of entrusted power arising from human weakness, it affects the way in which we organise our lives. Corruption, often based on greed, manifests itself horizontally across public and private sectors and vertically from the state and corporate elite on down to everyday citizens. It includes bribery, patronage, nepotism, embezzlement, influence peddling, partiality, absenteeism, late coming to work and abuse of public property.

Greed cuts through cultural, religious, and linguistic divisions, and is not limited to race, gender or age. Sound moral and ethical standards found in our Constitution are being compromised and abused. There is a growing sense of entitlement among rich and poor alike. Those who offer and receive a bribe are equally at fault. Indeed, we are all affected and we must all respond, inspired and guided by our faith traditions and by our common longing for compassionate community and fullness of life for all our sisters and brothers.

What we heard at the Summit shocked and inspired us

We came together to listen. We heard testimonies from community witnesses on corruption and its effects, especially on the poor. Again and again we were reminded of our responsibilities as religious leaders to give voice to the pain and suffering of our communities and offer hope.

Witnesses spoke of how corruption fuels the frustrations of many poor communities. We heard of the ways in which our common rules are unevenly applied and of shameful levels of service delivery due to incompetence and misuse of public resources. We heard of growing levels of despair in communities, which weaken social cohesion and destroy public trust, frequently leading to violence and lawlessness. We were reminded that the seeds of present-day corruption were planted in our colonial and apartheid past.

We were inspired by the efforts of many to root out corruption, ranging from state institutions such as the Public Protector to NGO’s, faith communities, and civil society, as well as international initiatives. We were encouraged by continuing efforts to demand public accountability, such as the call for an independent Commission of Inquiry into the Arms Deal, and the Right2Know Campaign. We took heart from seeing young people of good will who, in spite of their suffering, reach for the moral high ground and work for real change.

Context of corruption in South Africa

Corruption is a moral and spiritual issue which has its foundations in greed – personal and corporate.

Corruption is not limited to government; the private sector, civil society and our own religious bodies can and do experience corruption.

Corruption is not a new phenomenon; we inherited a legacy of corruption from colonialism and apartheid.

Corruption is global and is not confined to a certain political or economic system.

Corruption serves to compound inequality and injustice in almost every way.

Consequences of corruption in South Africa

Corruption undermines public trust and threatens the moral fabric of individuals and communities.

Corruption compromises our democratic rights and the ability of government to build a more just and equal society – we need only look at our education and health sectors at the moment. Mismanagement and incompetence, left unaddressed, become forms of corruption.

Corruption disproportionately affects the poorest and neediest communities, deepening their suffering and widening the divide between rich and poor.

Corruption causes communities to lose faith in the democratic system and leads some to violence (burning schools, clinics, libraries, etc), which only compounds their suffering and delays service delivery. While their anger are understandable, such violence is counterproductive and wrong.

Corruption enables people in leadership to profit from bad behaviour and to evade responsibility, thereby justifying “petty” corruption at all levels of society and creating a culture of impunity.

Corruption undermines the democratic will when political parties and public officials accept money or advantage in exchange for special favours and benefits.

Our response to corruption

We will not remain silent. We will raise our voices in unison: “Stop this theft from our people!”

We will, as a means to reconciliation, seek effective methods to rectify historical theft and corruption.

We will stand in solidarity with communities that suffer most and advocate on their behalf, so that none see the need to destroy what little they have to draw the attention of government to their plight.

We will partner with civil society groups who are doing similar work, supporting them and the communities they serve. If necessary, we will ‘march’ together again!

We will ensure that our own institutions are free of corruption and its insidious effects.

We will preach and teach in our own congregations the tenets of our faith traditions, all of which call us to be honest and just and to work to eliminate poverty, injustice and oppression of all forms.

We will highlight the effects of corruption in our communities, families and individual lives when we preach and teach, thereby developing the consciences of our members.

We will commend the many good and honest people, serving in government and elsewhere, who work with integrity and compassion – they deserve our encouragement and support.

We will join in protecting the rights of ‘whistle blowers’ who seek to uncover dishonesty and corruption wherever they exist, and we will celebrate small victories in the fight against corruption.

We will share this call with our local faith communities and encourage them to develop local inter-faith networks to advocate and mobilise against the scourge of corruption.

We will call on other provinces to host similar anti-corruption events so that this crisis can be addressed on a national level by all our faith communities.

Religious Leaders Anti-Corruption Summit, 13th June 2012 in Cape Town

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Church of Southern Africa:
“Corruption, by its very nature, is always wrong… It is not only criminal, it is wicked. It is not only illegal, it is immoral… We must stand up and declare this, loud and clear. We must educate our own people.
“ If we are not part of the solution, then the likelihood its hat we are part of the problem.”

Archbishop Stephen Brislin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cape Town:
“It is clear that Faith Communities need to work together. We share core values and together we have a spiritual wealth that can overcome this great evil. Also, we should work with organisations which, even though their motivation may not be faith, are based on the same values and share similar goals”

Imam Dr Rashied Omar, Claremont Main Road Mosque:
“Unless the moral values and behavioral patterns that define a society are altruistic and caring, [our] Constitution and Bill of Rights will remain an unrealized dream. Our challenge is to make concrete and practical suggestions as to how we can undertake this challenging task of social reform.”

Mr Mickey Glass, Union of Orthodox Synagogues of South Africa:
“In a decent society, people work to redress deprivation, especially on behalf of marginalised groups… We have been found wanting.
“God who gave us the gift of freedom challenges us to enhance the freedom of others.”

Pst Xola Skosana, Way of Life Church:
“Religious people must not just point the finger at others but also at ourselves. We all participate in this society that is corrupt at its core.
“Separate development in the form of townships is corruption; it cannot be called anything else.”

Rev Alan Storey, Central Methodist Church:
“Corruption is about acquiring that which is not yours. The scriptures tell us that the earth and everything in it belongs to God… If our religious communities cannot confess that it is wrong to have [much when others have nothing], we have no hope for this country.”

Rev Siyabulela Gidi, South African Council of Churches:
“We declare apartheid to be a sin and evil; it is time for us to declare corruption a sin and evil…
“This is the one enemy that can lead the country to be united. We call for a united liberation front against this scourge!”

Dr Kobus Gerber, General Secretary, Dutch Reformed Church:
”As faith communities, we need to take hands and form a common public theology, a common faith perspective to address [corruption]… Moral regeneration is not the job of the state, it’s our job…
“We are faced with a second liberation struggle, a struggle for the soul of this nation.”

Religious Leaders Anti-Corruption Summit, 13th June 2012 in Cape Town

Themba Mthethwa, Chief Executive Officer, Office of the Public Protector:
“The power to turn the tide against maladministration and corruption lies in our collective hands. We must stop criticizing and take responsibility for corruption.
“Together we are more powerful than the forces of corruption and maladministration, which are evil.”

Hennie van Vuuren, Institute for Security Studies:
“Corruption is a gross violation of human rights; it steals from the poor, entrenches the rich, robs people of opportunities... Only if we look at corruption as a system, as a whole, will we be able to deal with it effectively. We must understand the systemic nature of corruption and develop an appetite for action.”

Lawson Naidoo, Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution:
“Service delivery is distorted [by corruption]. A few benefit at the expense of many, reinforcing existing socioeconomic inequality… The South African Constitution says that human rights must be protected, but pervasive corruption leads to systemic human rights violations.”

Nkwame Cedile, Right2Know Campaign:
“It is only in hell where people burn one another, and I am living in hell, in the townships. Our indifference to what is happening in the townships, our silence is corruption and fraud.
“This is a direct indictment of the Freedom Charter.”

Kate Lefko-Everett, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation:
“People’s perceptions of the extent of corruption…have the potential to erode citizen confidence in the fairness and rightness of government. When people are living in conditions of poverty, inequality, and injustice corruption can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.”

Angy Peter and Joel Bregman, Social Justice Coalition:
“The Social Justice Coalition encounters corruption daily in our fight for basic sanitation in Khayelitsha.”
“Corruption is like we are in a cell. You can't go anywhere and not see it… There is no way out.”
“We get many promises but no answers… How can you fight corruption if you are corrupt?”