The ANC risks losing power if it cannot halt corruption among its members, the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation warned on Saturday.
“For the state, the window of opportunity is closing to demonstrate the courage and the muscle to act decisively and hold the culprits in its ranks accountable, regardless of who they are,” read a statement from foundation CEO Piyushi Kotecha.
“If it closes we must brace ourselves for turbulence. For, in democracies, when the people are ready, governments change.”
The statement came a day after the foundation joined the SA Council of Churches, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and other civil society organisations in condemning alleged corruption in Covid-19 emergency procurement deals.
The organisations said they were consulting academics and legal experts “to mobilise a comprehensive societal response against corruption”.
This would include the reopening of the “unburdening panel” for whistle-blowers and public servants to report corruption, “as well as a national call for the public to demonstrate their outrage at not only the looting, but the lack of consequences for it”.
Kotecha’s follow-up message said the latest bout of alleged corruption “shames SA and poisons opportunity to reduce economic inequality”.
It added: “The allegations that SA’s defences against Covid-19 have been turned into business opportunities for the politically connected are a massive setback for the country’s integrity and post-pandemic economic landscape.”
The CEO recalled a warning by Archbishop Emeritus Tutu in 1998 that “there is no way in which you can assume that yesterday’s oppressed will not become tomorrow’s oppressor. We have seen it happen all over the world, and we shouldn’t be surprised if it happens here.”
Kotecha bemoaned the “culture of impunity” around corruption.
“Impunity flourishes in the absence of enforcement. None of the big fish and few little ones ever get caught. The fact that our coronavirus defences have been looted is not a big surprise,” she said.
“SA seems stuck in a generational rut. Corrupt leaders have been tolerated largely out of strong emotional bonds to [the ANC] and its group of exceptional leaders who ultimately prevailed in the long struggle against apartheid.”
The need for new leaders who were less encumbered by the past was “glaringly obvious”. But society as a whole needed to “drag the corrupt from the dark corners they hide in, into the light”.
Kotecha said: “Report the traffic officer asking you for a bribe, report the official who asks for commission when purchasing goods for government, report the company producing substandard goods and services … build a culture of outrage and intolerance.”