For our country to become a capable state, all citizens must embrace a shared South African identity and national unity. This will help prevent leaders from prioritizing their own economic and political agendas over the well-being of the majority, which ultimately hinders our progress.

By Tshawe la Matshawe

The Interfaith Forum of South Africa (TIFSA) organized a three-day conference that gathered church leaders, academics, politicians, and activists.

The conference was held at the Birchwood Hotel in Ekurhuleni to tackle a range of challenges that our country is currently grappling with. These challenges include issues like poverty, unemployment, crime, the decline of public infrastructure, and water scarcity.

Several notable speakers, including former President Thabo Mbeki, Justice Richard Goldstone, and SA Council of Churches general secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, raised concerns about the socio-economic conditions in our country. They also lamented the negative effects of corruption, public tenders, the non-implementation of progressive policies by the ANC government, lack of accountability, lawlessness, and crime in South Africa.

Goldstone, a prominent advocate for the establishment of the International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC), has an impressive background serving as a judge in the Constitutional Court and various United Nations bodies. Currently, he holds the position of vice-chair at Integrity Initiatives International (Triple I) and is passionately dedicated to the creation of the IACC. Goldstone earnestly appealed to delegates to lend their support to his initiative aimed at eradicating corruption.

Goldstone explained that the forum was arranged in light of the current crisis South Africa is facing.

“In our country, on our continent and in the wider world, corruption lies at the heart of untold misery, especially for the poor.

“It magnifies the inequality that undermines their dignity and deprives them of hope for a better future for themselves and their families.

“Successful eradication of corruption can go a long way to remove many of the evils that bedevil our society in South Africa and beyond.

“Corruption is very much a human rights issue,” maintained Goldstone.

According to Goldstone, the extent of corruption seen in cases like state capture would not have been possible without the active involvement and cooperation of private businesses.

“Criminal co-conspirators around the world – in banks, law firms, real estate agencies and other financial service providers – provide essential aid to kleptocrats in the transnational crime of money laundering.”

Kleptocracy was ‘not a consequence of the lack of laws’.

“To facilitate their criminal activities, kleptocrats have gutted their domestic criminal justice systems – having taken control of the prosecuting authorities, the police and frequently the courts, with laws not being enforced,” he argued.

Former president Jacob Zuma serves as a prime example “who, with his crony capitalist partners, the Gupta brothers, enabled the state to be looted on an industrial scale”.

“The prosecution authority and the police authority were effectively disabled. Our country was estimated to have lost fully a fifth of GDP (gross domestic product) during the Zuma state capture decade.

“The detail can be found in the lengthy report by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

“And, as he complained some months ago, our executive and legislature still fail to act robustly in carrying out urgent recommendations made in the Zondo report,” said Goldstone.

He slammed it as “an unfortunate and unnecessary debate ‘on whether the apex court ordered the establishment “of a completely independent corruption investigating body’ saying it did so on clear terms.

“The government refuses to set such an institution that is independent of a simple majority in Parliament, without providing reasons.”

As vice-chair of the Triple I, Goldstone said he was an ardent advocate for the creation of the IACC “that will hold kleptocrats and their co-conspirators – those so-called professional enablers – accountable when national authorities are unable or unwilling to do so”.

The envisioned court would have jurisdiction over the UN Convention against Corruption (Uncac) crimes committed by nationals of an IACC member state.

“It would enforce the criminal laws already required by Uncac – the bribery of public officials, embezzlement, misappropriation of public funds, money laundering and obstruction of justice in relation to those offences.

“The IACC would be a court of last resort – meaning it would acquire jurisdiction only in cases in which the appropriate domestic authorities are unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute the corruption. Member states would also be able to refer cases to the IACC.”

Urging for a state of emergency and change, delegates to the TIFSA gathering, have identified corruption – largely linked to billions lost in public tenders – as one of the key factors in propelling widespread graft.

This, they argued, has rendered the government unable to fulfil its mandate of creating a developmental state.

Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana warned that, unless citizens committed to adopting ‘one common South African-ness’ and national identity, the country shall not achieve a capable state, due to leaders vying for control of the state in government – pursuing sectional economic and political interests, to the exclusion of the majority.

In tracing South Africa’s polarised political history – from the Union of South Africa in 1910, to the formation of the ANC in 1912 – Mpumlwana said: “Our capacity for a single South African-ness is haunted and bedevilled by the burden of our past that has its odour in the present.

“We have had Afrikaner nationalism, which politically translated into the National Party – and into the ANC.”

Mpumlwana maintained that “our old nationalisms have survived and the new nation in our South African-ness, has not really taken off”.

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