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South African Legislator Calls for Intensified Anti-Corruption Fight

  • Peter Clottey

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (file photo)

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (file photo)

A member of South Africa’s parliament has called on President Jacob Zuma to lead from the front in the fight against graft, after a report showed about $46 million was stolen from state coffers in the past financial year.

Democratic Alliance legislator Jordan Lewis, who heads the opposition’s Trade and Industry portfolio, said Zuma’s vow to weed out what he calls “the menace of corruption” has been ineffective.

“South Africans will be deeply disappointed and shocked to hear that an enormous sum amounting to hundreds of millions of Rands have bolted from the state coffers,” said Lewis. “Once again, most of those people who are guilty and are responsible for that theft will go completely unaccountable and unpunished.”

The Public Service Commission, which authored the report, blames civil servants for the theft.

In his state of the nation address last year, Zuma pledged his commitment saying his administration will take a tougher stance on graft to weed out the menace. But, Lewis said the country’s leader should “spearhead” the fight.

“We know that as much as you talk about rooting out corruption, nothing will stop until you [from] actually showing the political will to do something about it,” said Lewis. “So, President Zuma, let this be another message to you that corruption will not stop until you start the political will and the commitment to find those responsible, hold them accountable, and stop corruption in your government.”

Zuma supporters say the implementation of his anti-graft policy will need time to ensure its effectiveness. But, Lewis said weeding out graft in South Africa will involve a top to bottom approach.

“President Zuma has to show that he is going to personally hold people inside his government accountable for corruption,” continued Lewis. “Unless he does that, we are not going to make any progress in stopping corruption because people take the lead from the top. And, if ordinary civil servants could see that they can continue to get away with it and that there would never be accountability, we will never make any progress.”

The opposition Democratic Alliance has often accused the ruling African National Congress (ANC) of failing to aggressively prosecute offenders who the party says steal taxpayers’ money from the state coffers.

“You can count on one hand, at most, the number of people who have actually been convicted of corruption and everybody knows that corruption is a far bigger problem than four or five individuals,” said Lewis. “There has been absolutely no commitment by this government to pursue the many other people who are guilty of massive and widespread corruption in government and to hold them accountable and to put them in prison.”

Meanwhile, the African national Congress Youth league is scheduled to hold a news conference Monday after its leader, Julius Malema, was expelled from the ruling party.