Thursday 13 June

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Today, January 26 2012, SECTION27 welcomes the launch of Corruption Watch, an independent civil society-led organisation committed to strengthening the fight against corruption in South Africa. We offer our support to its Director, Staff and Board in the challenges that lie ahead. Successfully fighting corruption in South Africa will require bravery, vision and an organisation in which millions of people can place confidence. Our country’s future – particularly the fight against poverty and inequality – depends on it.

Over the last year, SECTION27 has worked closely with COSATU and others in conceptualising and laying the ground work for Corruption Watch. Corruption Watch is necessary because, despite efforts by the state, the Public Protector and the private sector to fight corruption, we remain far from winning the battle. To date, civil society has largely been left out of these struggles, despite having the best day-to-day understanding of the effect of corruption and corrupters. In the words of Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, speaking at the launch: “we need a united front against corruption and central to that must be citizen empowerment.”

The government must be both supported and monitored in the struggle to combat corruption. Allegations of corruption are frequent and often receive bursts of media attention.  Investigations are then conducted and commissions are appointed.  But often, after the initial outcry, the perpetrators return to public office or business. For example, right now, health services in Gauteng are collapsing due to a financial crisis. We ask what has happened with the investigation into the Gauteng Health department that was announced in 2010? What has resulted from the allegations made against the former MEC for Health, Brian Hlongwa?

These questions will not be answered unless communities push for successful prosecutions.  We must see more business leaders and politicians pay for their crimes. Corruption has social consequences that affect us all. There must be greater moral outrage and action.

In the health sector, for example, corruption kills. It leads to the theft of medicines and medical equipment, the appointment of ‘service’ companies that cannot service our hospitals, unqualified senior managers who are friends of politicians and a shortage of essential health workers. Corruption is rife in both the public and private health sectors.

To provide evidence of this, Corruption Watch and SECTION27 are in the process of finalising a report that chronicles much of the existing evidence of health sector corruption. The report suggests that we lose between R14 and R20 billion every year to corruption in the health sector. This is, at least, 10% of the health budget. It is more than the total cost of the AIDS programme, which currently helps more than 1.5 million people stay alive through access to anti-retroviral drugs.

We therefore support Corruption Watch’s plan to mobilise people against this scourge.  Corruption Watch must help educate communities about the law on corruption, arm and empower people to win their own struggles, source and monitor information about corruption, and expose those whom we know are deeply involved.

By doing this, Corruption Watch will undertake one of the most important tasks that faces our democracy.

For comment: Mark Heywood 083 634 8806 or Adila Hassim 083 264 8394

For more information about Corruption Watch and to sign the pledge go to: