Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi backed a
hard-line stance on public servants doing business with the government at the
International Anti-Corruption Day roundtable on Monday.
In a speech prepared for delivery, he supported the position
of Public Service Commission (PSC) director general Prof Richard Levin, who
believes that in the absence of a total ban, senior officials who fail to disclose
conflicts of interest should be charged with misconduct.
"Why do ministers accused of serious offences not
follow their consciences and voluntarily resign while the charges are
investigated, rather than sit and wait until they are dismissed, this happens
in many other countries?" he asked.
Vavi, who chairs the National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF),
said it was not enough for public servants to be allowed to do business with
the government provided they declared their interests.
There had to be a zero-tolerance approach.
There also had to be a crack-down on private businesses
which collaborated in the misappropriation of public funds.
"We must never forget that for every public official
who accepts a bribe, there is a business person who gives it.
"We must change the mindset of those running our public
bodies and re-establish a culture of public service, under which public
representatives either serve the people honestly and efficiently, or resign and
make way for others who will do so," he said.
The modern definition of corruption was "dishonest or
fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery, or the
action or effect of making someone or something morally depraved".
Vavi said if such conduct was not checked, it would threaten
to destroy the foundation of South Africa's democracy.
"One of the biggest difficulties we face, however, is
that while everyone - government, business, labour, civil society, all
political parties and religious denominations - are unanimous and vehement in
condemning corruption in principle, none of us are doing enough to turn
principles into action on the ground," he said.
In 2007, the ANC had resolved that it had to provide
leadership to society in the fight against corruption and that the country would
continue to promote its anti-corruption values.
"The problem is, however, that despite all our fine
resolutions, the problem remains endemic," said Vavi.
An urgent national debate was needed on how South Africa was
going to turn around this disaster.
"As long as we are seen to be too scared and unwilling
to challenge the growing power of the few who continue to damage the image of
political organisations, business formations, civil society formations and more
worryingly government, all of them will continue to be discredited."