Monday 6 February 2023

Reforming Criminal Justice Administration in South Africa

 Reforming Criminal Justice Administration in South Africa

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Closing remarks 

6th February 2023

Accountability Now @ University of Cape Town Law Faculty 

Distinguished Judges,


Campaigners for human rights and clean government,

Sponsors of this event:

Thank you for the privilege of inviting me to join those who are giving closing remarks to this important forum. 

I am here to deliver a simple message, one that I've been preaching since it became clear that too many of our leaders had become sell-outs to the struggle against apartheid, tempted by the lure of quick wealth to put us on the road to a failed state.

As I said during the Zuma administration, “It sometimes feels as if some of our leaders stopped their fight for a new South Africa at the point at which they joined the ranks of those who corruptly and immorally amassed wealth under colonialism and apartheid.”

The root of our problems lies in the scandalous gap between the rich and the poor. We won political liberation nearly 30 years ago but we have not achieved economic liberation. However, we cannot do that without doing a reboot of our politics and our instruments of governance.

So my message is this: to save South Africa we need to embark on a New Struggle to replace the old struggle against apartheid, a New Struggle for a new generation, a struggle to regain our moral compass, a struggle to end economic inequity, a struggle to bring about equality of opportunity and realise the promises of our Constitution. 

Only by adopting this New Struggle can we inspire the multitudes of disillusioned young people who despise politicians, who spurn politics and who won't even register to vote, but instead pursue a rampant consumerism because we have failed to give them a vision which would attract them to public service. 

And at the heart of the New Struggle must of course be the fight against corruption to which you have devoted today's proceedings. I won't try to cover the ground you've already discussed today, but allow me to make three points:

Firstly, make no mistake, the fight against corruption will not necessarily be easier than the fight against apartheid. As we have so movingly heard today, and read about in recent weeks, it takes tremendous courage to stand up against a prevailing miasma of self-serving wheeler-dealing in an institution. The criminals who have engaged in and benefitted from corruption will fight to stay out of prison, deploying death squads just as the criminals who enforced apartheid did. 

But human progress is never guaranteed without struggle. Progess requires sacrifice, it often involves suffering, and most of all it requires struggle. And part of that struggle must be securing much better protection for whistle-blowers, whether from loss of income or from killers who attack in the night. That needs to happen almost immediately, and President Ramaphosa should spell out practical action to achieve it in his State of the Nation address. 

Secondly, I want to endorse the call to protect law enforcement from political interference. People of all faiths share the belief that our Creator calls us to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves, and that our priority in society should be to pursue the common good so that everyone can flourish. To pursue the common good, we need to hold one another accountable for our actions. In our national life, Chapter Nine of our Constitution gives us instruments which help us to do this. And so I believe it is actually our sacred duty to ensure that we take the steps necessary to insulate the investigators and prosecutors of crime from being undermined and subverted by those in power who want to cover up corruption.

Thirdly, we need to create a multi-stakeholder forum to pursue the  New Struggle. As I have said previously, an uncoordinated constellation of independent movements is not enough. We need a coalition that embraces all voices, from the poor to the spiritual leaders of our country, to the leaders of business, labour and legal services. We need an alliance of leaders and forces to say: “Enough is enough!”

That alliance must include the youth and one of its primary objectives in securing the future should be registering young people to register to vote, then to vote and help to change the government's policies. The young can also use their energy for advocacy, lobbying banks and international organisations in the campaign mentioned by Lord Hain to expose kleptocracy and highlight corruption in South Africa.

It is time to heal our political polarisations and to recognise that the chasms between rich and poor cannot be tolerated any longer. The New Struggle cannot be for a new, multiracial middle class to live as the white elite lived under apartheid. No, our struggle now must be for a new society, a more equal society, a society of equality of opportunity in which the wealth that comes from new economic growth is shared equitably among all. Our country's future, the futures of our children, our grandchildren and the generations to come, depend on it.

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