Pre-Khutbah Friday 09 December 2016 – Corruption by Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane

Pre-Khutbah Friday 09 December 2016 – Corruption by Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane

Address to the Claremont Main Road Mosque

By Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane

Friday, 9 December 2016

International Anti-Corruption Day

 

As-Salam-u-Alaikum [peace be unto you)

 

It is a great pleasure and singular honour to have been invited to address you today during your time of devotion. I bring greetings to you on behalf of the Diocese of which I am a member, and the Province of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

 

Today is International Anti-Corruption Day. This is a day declared by the United Nations to focus the world’s attention on combating this evil in our society. The efforts of this day are focused around the United Nations’ Convention Against Corruption, which came into effect in 2005.

 

In the foreword of this Convention, the Secretary General of the United Nations says: “Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life, and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish. This evil phenomenon is found in all countries—big and small, rich, and poor—but it is in the developing world that its effects are most destructive. Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a Government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign aid and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.”

 

From this, I want to underline the destructive nature of corruption on the developing world. It is instructive to note that corruption is regarded as one of the biggest obstacles in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. So the fight against corruption is not just something that is waged from the ivory towers of moral standards: rather, it goes directly to the quality of life experienced by people, and particularly, by poor people.

Corruption is a corrosive disease. Those of us who live close to the sea know how humidity and salt in the air can play havoc with metal fittings and features, turning them into rust. If not treated, that rust will eventually cause everything to crumble into dust. Corruption is like rust. If not arrested and stopped in its tracks, it will eventually cause the fabric of our society to dissolve.

 

Just last week (Wednesday, 30 November) the Ethics Institute released its second South African Citizen’s Bribery Survey.  It provides sad but forceful proof that corruption is corrosive, drilling down to the individual citizens as well as organised business and the public sector.  With all the adverse publicity surrounding tenders one would have hoped that corruption in this field would have disappeared – but no! It is still there, at a disturbing 6%.  Bribes in certain segments are on the rise, according to the survey –   such is the corrosive nature of corruption in our country.

 

This does not surprise me. I still hold the view that the South African arms deal in the 1990s was highly questionable. The arms industry is well known for its corruption, and our country’s arms deal became the albatross of the first democratic government.

 

We all know that children follow the lead of their parents. It is no different when it comes to citizens and their political leaders. When ordinary people see someone with nearly 800 charges of fraud and corruption being able to stymie them, then many of these people think, “Well, I can also get away with that.” This is probably why bribes to avoid traffic offences is up according to the Ethics Institute survey, and those paying bribes to obtain unauthorised discounts from business has almost doubled in the past year.

 

Let me therefore state three issues in which corruption generally impacts on us all as individuals and, more importantly, as a country.

 

Firstly, corruption in government impacts on services provided to citizens. Funds meant for health care, education, clean water, sanitation and housing are diverted from these services into the pockets of corrupt officials. Simply put: Government corruption equals less money in the fiscus which, in turn, means fewer basic services. This is true for all levels of government – national, provincial and local.

Countries that are dependent on foreign aid to meet the needs of their citizens can find that future aid is in jeopardy because of corruption. No development agency worth its salt will continue to pour funds into a country knowing that its government is siphoning off aid intended for development, and may consider cuttings its aid – with the poor once again suffering the most.

 

Secondly, corruption means less respect of human rights because it weakens the institutions of state that protect human rights. In South Africa, we have been blessed by strong Chapter 9 institutions that have resisted the temptation to be corrupt. We all know of the brave and principled stand taken by our previous Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, and her office in exposing state corruption. Our judiciary has likewise maintained an admirable state of being free of corruption. The Independent Electoral Commission is another state institution of which we can be proud for its oversight of elections that are free and independent. These institutions are remarkable beacons of hope in the midst of an executive of government where corruption has proven itself to be an ongoing problem.

 

Thirdly, corruption means less prosperity. The World Economic Forum estimates that corruption increases the cost of doing business by up to 10% on average – an increase which is inevitably passed on to the end consumer. Once again, it’s the poorest of the poor who can least afford to cushion the impact of increased prices who suffer the most. In corrupt countries that are rich in mineral resources, the benefit of these is limited to a few who grow ever richer as the poor get poorer. Disturbingly, we have heard of many accusations of South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources in which mining licences have been granted clandestinely without due process being followed. The influential Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies, for example, compares the views that mining executives have of South Africa and Botswana. Of the former, it is said: “In South Africa, the entire process of the administration of, and applying for, and awarding of, exploration rights is protracted, corrupt, arbitrary, inconsistent, and a nightmare.” Of Botswana, the view is: “Botswana is pro-mining and has efficient bureaucrats, no corruption,, reasonable and consistent regulations, and reasonable taxation.” Small wonder that Botswana is ranked 39th out of 109 countries, while South Africa is 66th in the same ranking – glaring evidence of the negative impact of corruption on prosperity.

 

So I think it can be said with confidence that all good-thinking and God- and Allah-fearing people of the world are united in their condemnation of corruption. From the perspective of the Muslim religion, an account of the Prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wa Salam) [Peace by upon him] is very instructive on how bribery is regarded. The Prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wa Salam) appointed a number of his companions as the collectors of zakat [a form of alms-giving, treated as a religious tax], during the Medina [622 to 629] period. They were to make proper assessments on the items where zakat became payable, collect the proper amounts, and distribute to the recipients in the same locality. One of these collectors of zakat came back and told the Holy Prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wa Salam), “This amount is what I have collected less what I have distributed to the rightful recipients, but this is mine.” The Prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wa Salam) was very upset and rebuked him saying, “What right do you have to put aside something that does not belong to you. If you were to remain in your father’s house, would you get what you are taking?”

 

In Surah Al-Baqarah [the second chapter of the Quran], Allah  says:

 

“And do not eat up property among yourselves for vanities, nor use it as a bait for the judges, with intent that yet may eat up wrongfully and knowingly a little of other people’s property (Al-Bararah: 188).

 

So what can be done about corruption? I would like to deal with this on two levels: a personal level on the one hand, and an institutional level on the other.

On a personal level, I am indebted to the thoughts of Naleem Badurdeen writing on the website of the Sailan Muslim Foundation, (https://sailanmuslim.com/news/corruption-an-islamic-perspective-by-naleem-badurdeen/) who has six suggestions for Muslims and others to avoid corruption or stop being involved in it.

 

These are:

  1. Be honest in your duties and do justice to all deserved.
  2. When someone asks for or gives you a bridge, think about your life after death.
  3. Ask your husband/wife/daughter/son/brother/sister how they dot any money that is unaccounted. If it’s from haram, warn them and don’t get involved with it.
  4. If every individual was to stop paying bribes, the receiving party gets affected.
  5. If you love your country and your religion, then stop this shameful act.
  6. Every change needs to start within. Sooner or later, millions will follow.

 

These are wonderful guidelines indeed, and I heartily endorse them. But, as a society, we need to act collectively to deal with corruption. These are some of the suggestions I have to do so.

 

First, religious bodies must speak out, and act against corruption. Speaking as Christian churchman I have to say that the Church in South Africa has been far too quiet in challenging government and other institutions when it comes to corruption. It needs to do more.

 

Second, civil society, as represented by NGOs and similar bodies, must continue to be forthright and hold government and business to account.  There are some that do this admirably. In particular, I want to mention Corruption Watch, an organisation that provides a platform for reporting corruption. Anyone can safely share what they experience and observe. This enables people such as you and I to speak out against corruption. Communication channels include a website, SMS line, social media, email and the post. Corruption Watch also investigates selected reports of alleged acts of corruption, especially those that have the biggest impact on society. Findings are handed to the relevant authorities and the progress of each case is monitored.

 

The recent actions by the Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law in respect of the frivolous charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan are another excellent illustration of how civil society can use its considerable influence and resources to ensure that moral values replace questionable ones.

 

Third, organised commerce and industry must stop sitting on the sidelines, becoming embroiled in the life of our society only when major crises occur. They did this during the apartheid years. One would have thought that they had learnt their lesson then, but seemingly not. Commerce and industry are corporate citizens and need to be at the cutting edge of highlighting corruption, and finding ways and means of combating it. In this respect I commend Massmart-Walmart, which sponsors the Ethics Institute’s survey.

 

Fourth, political parties cannot tolerate corruption in their ranks. It cannot tolerate leaders in its leadership in particular who have been found to have flouted the Constitution, and who have many varied charges hanging over their heads.  This, more than anything, corrodes our society. Neither can we afford to have these people closing ranks to protect each other or the party. Recent developments in the African National Congress have rocked us all backwards. Just last week, we were hearing that the NEC of the ANC had brought a motion of no confidence against our President. And yet, by the end of the meeting, this most powerful body had closed ranks and was publicly indicating that all is well. The problem is, we all know that all is NOT well. Those people who had purportedly bravely spoken against the President during the NEC meeting, including about allegations of corruption against him, fell silent. Presumably they did so for the sake of party unity. But I want to say without hesitation that we will never get rid of corruption if good people close ranks like this and stay silent.

 

Fifth, and most importantly of course, government at ALL levels must act decisively to root out bribery and corruption – not only amongst civil servants, but amongst the political bosses to whom these civil servants report.

 

I thank you, and in the spirit of my own religion, wish you Grace and Peace.

 

 

Address to the Claremont Main Road Mosque

By Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane

Friday, 9 December 2016

International Anti-Corruption Day

 

As-Salam-u-Alaikum [peace be unto you)

 

It is a great pleasure and singular honour to have been invited to address you today during your time of devotion. I bring greetings to you on behalf of the Diocese of which I am a member, and the Province of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

 

Today is International Anti-Corruption Day. This is a day declared by the United Nations to focus the world’s attention on combating this evil in our society. The efforts of this day are focused around the United Nations’ Convention Against Corruption, which came into effect in 2005.

 

In the foreword of this Convention, the Secretary General of the United Nations says: “Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life, and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish. This evil phenomenon is found in all countries—big and small, rich, and poor—but it is in the developing world that its effects are most destructive. Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a Government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign aid and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.”

 

From this, I want to underline the destructive nature of corruption on the developing world. It is instructive to note that corruption is regarded as one of the biggest obstacles in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. So the fight against corruption is not just something that is waged from the ivory towers of moral standards: rather, it goes directly to the quality of life experienced by people, and particularly, by poor people.

Corruption is a corrosive disease. Those of us who live close to the sea know how humidity and salt in the air can play havoc with metal fittings and features, turning them into rust. If not treated, that rust will eventually cause everything to crumble into dust. Corruption is like rust. If not arrested and stopped in its tracks, it will eventually cause the fabric of our society to dissolve.

 

Just last week (Wednesday, 30 November) the Ethics Institute released its second South African Citizen’s Bribery Survey.  It provides sad but forceful proof that corruption is corrosive, drilling down to the individual citizens as well as organised business and the public sector.  With all the adverse publicity surrounding tenders one would have hoped that corruption in this field would have disappeared – but no! It is still there, at a disturbing 6%.  Bribes in certain segments are on the rise, according to the survey –   such is the corrosive nature of corruption in our country.

 

This does not surprise me. I still hold the view that the South African arms deal in the 1990s was highly questionable. The arms industry is well known for its corruption, and our country’s arms deal became the albatross of the first democratic government.

 

We all know that children follow the lead of their parents. It is no different when it comes to citizens and their political leaders. When ordinary people see someone with nearly 800 charges of fraud and corruption being able to stymie them, then many of these people think, “Well, I can also get away with that.” This is probably why bribes to avoid traffic offences is up according to the Ethics Institute survey, and those paying bribes to obtain unauthorised discounts from business has almost doubled in the past year.

 

Let me therefore state three issues in which corruption generally impacts on us all as individuals and, more importantly, as a country.

 

Firstly, corruption in government impacts on services provided to citizens. Funds meant for health care, education, clean water, sanitation and housing are diverted from these services into the pockets of corrupt officials. Simply put: Government corruption equals less money in the fiscus which, in turn, means fewer basic services. This is true for all levels of government – national, provincial and local.

Countries that are dependent on foreign aid to meet the needs of their citizens can find that future aid is in jeopardy because of corruption. No development agency worth its salt will continue to pour funds into a country knowing that its government is siphoning off aid intended for development, and may consider cuttings its aid – with the poor once again suffering the most.

 

Secondly, corruption means less respect of human rights because it weakens the institutions of state that protect human rights. In South Africa, we have been blessed by strong Chapter 9 institutions that have resisted the temptation to be corrupt. We all know of the brave and principled stand taken by our previous Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, and her office in exposing state corruption. Our judiciary has likewise maintained an admirable state of being free of corruption. The Independent Electoral Commission is another state institution of which we can be proud for its oversight of elections that are free and independent. These institutions are remarkable beacons of hope in the midst of an executive of government where corruption has proven itself to be an ongoing problem.

 

Thirdly, corruption means less prosperity. The World Economic Forum estimates that corruption increases the cost of doing business by up to 10% on average – an increase which is inevitably passed on to the end consumer. Once again, it’s the poorest of the poor who can least afford to cushion the impact of increased prices who suffer the most. In corrupt countries that are rich in mineral resources, the benefit of these is limited to a few who grow ever richer as the poor get poorer. Disturbingly, we have heard of many accusations of South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources in which mining licences have been granted clandestinely without due process being followed. The influential Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies, for example, compares the views that mining executives have of South Africa and Botswana. Of the former, it is said: “In South Africa, the entire process of the administration of, and applying for, and awarding of, exploration rights is protracted, corrupt, arbitrary, inconsistent, and a nightmare.” Of Botswana, the view is: “Botswana is pro-mining and has efficient bureaucrats, no corruption,, reasonable and consistent regulations, and reasonable taxation.” Small wonder that Botswana is ranked 39th out of 109 countries, while South Africa is 66th in the same ranking – glaring evidence of the negative impact of corruption on prosperity.

 

So I think it can be said with confidence that all good-thinking and God- and Allah-fearing people of the world are united in their condemnation of corruption. From the perspective of the Muslim religion, an account of the Prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wa Salam) [Peace by upon him] is very instructive on how bribery is regarded. The Prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wa Salam) appointed a number of his companions as the collectors of zakat [a form of alms-giving, treated as a religious tax], during the Medina [622 to 629] period. They were to make proper assessments on the items where zakat became payable, collect the proper amounts, and distribute to the recipients in the same locality. One of these collectors of zakat came back and told the Holy Prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wa Salam), “This amount is what I have collected less what I have distributed to the rightful recipients, but this is mine.” The Prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wa Salam) was very upset and rebuked him saying, “What right do you have to put aside something that does not belong to you. If you were to remain in your father’s house, would you get what you are taking?”

 

In Surah Al-Baqarah [the second chapter of the Quran], Allah  says:

 

“And do not eat up property among yourselves for vanities, nor use it as a bait for the judges, with intent that yet may eat up wrongfully and knowingly a little of other people’s property (Al-Bararah: 188).

 

So what can be done about corruption? I would like to deal with this on two levels: a personal level on the one hand, and an institutional level on the other.

On a personal level, I am indebted to the thoughts of Naleem Badurdeen writing on the website of the Sailan Muslim Foundation, (https://sailanmuslim.com/news/corruption-an-islamic-perspective-by-naleem-badurdeen/) who has six suggestions for Muslims and others to avoid corruption or stop being involved in it.

 

These are:

  1. Be honest in your duties and do justice to all deserved.
  2. When someone asks for or gives you a bridge, think about your life after death.
  3. Ask your husband/wife/daughter/son/brother/sister how they dot any money that is unaccounted. If it’s from haram, warn them and don’t get involved with it.
  4. If every individual was to stop paying bribes, the receiving party gets affected.
  5. If you love your country and your religion, then stop this shameful act.
  6. Every change needs to start within. Sooner or later, millions will follow.

 

These are wonderful guidelines indeed, and I heartily endorse them. But, as a society, we need to act collectively to deal with corruption. These are some of the suggestions I have to do so.

 

First, religious bodies must speak out, and act against corruption. Speaking as Christian churchman I have to say that the Church in South Africa has been far too quiet in challenging government and other institutions when it comes to corruption. It needs to do more.

 

Second, civil society, as represented by NGOs and similar bodies, must continue to be forthright and hold government and business to account.  There are some that do this admirably. In particular, I want to mention Corruption Watch, an organisation that provides a platform for reporting corruption. Anyone can safely share what they experience and observe. This enables people such as you and I to speak out against corruption. Communication channels include a website, SMS line, social media, email and the post. Corruption Watch also investigates selected reports of alleged acts of corruption, especially those that have the biggest impact on society. Findings are handed to the relevant authorities and the progress of each case is monitored.

 

The recent actions by the Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law in respect of the frivolous charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan are another excellent illustration of how civil society can use its considerable influence and resources to ensure that moral values replace questionable ones.

 

Third, organised commerce and industry must stop sitting on the sidelines, becoming embroiled in the life of our society only when major crises occur. They did this during the apartheid years. One would have thought that they had learnt their lesson then, but seemingly not. Commerce and industry are corporate citizens and need to be at the cutting edge of highlighting corruption, and finding ways and means of combating it. In this respect I commend Massmart-Walmart, which sponsors the Ethics Institute’s survey.

 

Fourth, political parties cannot tolerate corruption in their ranks. It cannot tolerate leaders in its leadership in particular who have been found to have flouted the Constitution, and who have many varied charges hanging over their heads.  This, more than anything, corrodes our society. Neither can we afford to have these people closing ranks to protect each other or the party. Recent developments in the African National Congress have rocked us all backwards. Just last week, we were hearing that the NEC of the ANC had brought a motion of no confidence against our President. And yet, by the end of the meeting, this most powerful body had closed ranks and was publicly indicating that all is well. The problem is, we all know that all is NOT well. Those people who had purportedly bravely spoken against the President during the NEC meeting, including about allegations of corruption against him, fell silent. Presumably they did so for the sake of party unity. But I want to say without hesitation that we will never get rid of corruption if good people close ranks like this and stay silent.

 

Fifth, and most importantly of course, government at ALL levels must act decisively to root out bribery and corruption – not only amongst civil servants, but amongst the political bosses to whom these civil servants report.

 

I thank you, and in the spirit of my own religion, wish you Grace and Peace.

 

 

 

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