How to rebuild trust and integrity in South Africa

UN Data Forum South Africa

Mbongiseni Mndebele Photo: Mbongiseni Mndebele.

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Martin Kingston, Vice President , Business Unity South Africa

As South Africa emerges from one of its darkest chapters, how can we take steps to dismantle corrupt systems and ensure fair and equal standards for all? How can we prevent corruption, or, where it exists, ensure it is identified and prosecuted, and its perpetrators are held to account? Corruption is not confined to one area of the world – across Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, the Americas, Europe and Asia, its prevalence has led to distrust in business and institutional leaders.

In South Africa, society’s confidence in transparency, accountability and fairness has plummeted, in large part because of ongoing and widespread ‘state capture’. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017-18, South Africa dropped 14 places to 61st, with company executives ranking corruption as the most problematic factor for doing business. Trust in both public institutions and the ethical conduct of business has eroded. Eighty-three percent of South Africans have seen corruption getting worse over the last few years – the highest of any country in Africa.

A snapshot of South Africa’s competitiveness, which declined in the latest report
Image: Global Competitiveness Report

A culture of impunity has taken hold, and consequences and accountability have fallen by the wayside. That culture of impunity now needs to be excised, and visibly so. Only integrity and ethical values imposed from the top down will help undo the damage, which has undermined the credibility of institutions. Strong and robust compliance systems play a critical role in detecting corruption and malfeasance. Understanding and appreciating why compliance is necessary is also crucial. It doesn’t matter how good your systems are – detecting wrongdoing still requires vigilance.

The events of the past few years are in variance to the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela, who would have turned 100 on July 18, 2018. Mandela espoused an ethos of ethical leadership and clean governance. He was also a proponent of a transparent, accountable and fair state, one in which society could have confidence. Mandela understood that in order to undo the structural legacy of apartheid – manifest in South Africa’s unequal wealth distribution and high Gini co-efficient – transparency, accountability and fairness were essential. Confidence, both by business and the citizenry, in a competent and capable state are essential and prerequisite ingredients for creating an environment that is not only conducive to investment, but that can enable people to fulfil their economic potential.

It is imperative that South Africa rehabilitate its reputation, and return to the values espoused by Mandela and the founding fathers of the ANC. Business and institutions need to work together to rebuild trust and integrity in the country’s economic and political systems. To achieve those objectives, the following steps must be taken. They will form a credible and sustainable approach to rooting out pervasive corruption, and instilling a culture that confers legitimacy on society and its key stakeholders.

1. Move away from a mindset focused solely on fighting corruption, to an approach based on building trust and integrity at all levels of society. Every leader needs to be seen to be acting ethically, openly and without fear or favour. Setting the correct tone at the top of government and business sends a critical signal to stakeholders and can make a significant impact, even in the short term. However, we must acknowledge that comprehensively addressing the legacies of the past will take considerable time and resources, and is likely to suffer setbacks along the way.

2. Commit to a change in behaviour by building a culture of integrity to bridge the trust divide. This requires responsive and responsible leadership to set the tone and lead by example.

3. Monitor judicial and Chapter Nine institutions, and law enforcement agencies such as the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority, to ensure they work hand in glove to create a criminal justice system that has credibility and the capacity to investigate and prosecute cases. This can help rebuild citizens’ trust in the system. The private sector can play its part by strengthening its corporate compliance systems to address existing and evolving challenges.

4. Understand that business leadership is critical for driving collective action. The private sector can spearhead the development of innovative networks for public-private cooperation to discuss and address anti-corruption in constructive and open dialogue. Business leaders should self-report, even when there is risk of organisational and personal exposure. They must also promote a culture that understands and appreciates the importance of applying compliance to systems in a robust manner. One pitfall in South Africa is a culture of non-compliance, which needs to be uprooted.

5. Enhance the uptake of technology and its application across stakeholders to reduce the opportunities for corruption. Big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence and e-governance systems are valuable tools in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of corrupt practices. Properly utilised, these tools can increase transparency and accountability to allow real-time monitoring of situations and transactions.

Strengthening institutions and dismantling networks of patronage, cronyism and corrupted systems are critical tasks in reinforcing an economy which caters to the needs of society on an inclusive basis. Similarly, increasing levels of trust is a fundamental requirement. Re-establishing South Africa’s position and profile internally and externally requires leadership from every stakeholder, candour from individuals and a collective commitment to secure human dignity for all, together with economic inclusion on a sustainable basis.

Only then will South Africa realise the vision of a free and fair society, in which every South African can achieve their true potential with their head held high. They will fulfil the dreams of their forebears and lay the foundation for future generations to enjoy real freedom, unshackled from the chains of the past. They will be able to achieve their goals, in a country characterised by integrity, compassion and determination.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Syria: Urgent, concrete actions needed, to protect children too young to ‘make sense of this senseless war’

Europe eyes to replace US as China’s prime foreign partner

Young people all over the world come together to demand paid good quality internships

IMF asks Europe to decide on bank resolutions and the Greek Gordian knot

Armenia should take vigorous measures against entrenched corruption

State aid: Commission invites comments on simplified rules for State aid combined with EU support

De Gucht: More gaffes with the talks on the EU-US free trade agreement

These countries are the most peaceful – in 3 charts

A neo-liberal toll free Paradise for the super rich and tax hell for wage earners

Air quality: Commission takes action to protect citizens from air pollution

New book honours UN women who made HERstory

Half of Eurozone in deflation expecting salvation from monetary measures

Venezuela: UN human rights office calls for ‘maximum restraint’ by authorities in face of new demonstrations

Is “Sustainable Development” a concept that integrates Health Literacy and Health Policy as a global health action?

Parliament criticises Council’s rejection of money laundering blacklist

Draghi left alone with no hope of boosting EU growth as Merkel just focuses on next elections

China, forever new adventures

Russia can no longer be considered a ‘strategic partner’, say MEPs

From diamonds to recycling: how blockchain can drive responsible and ethical businesses

G20 LIVE: The European Sting covers online world news and the latest developments at G20 from Antalya Turkey

Good grub: why we might be eating insects soon

EU-US to miss 2015 deadline and even lose Germany’s support in TTIP’s darkest week yet

These rules could save humanity from the threat of rogue AI

A Europe that Protects: Commission calls for more efforts to ensure adoption of security proposals

Mosul’s ‘3D contamination’ adds to challenges of deadly mine clearance work

Health Committee MEPs back plans to boost joint assessment of medicines

COP21 Breaking News_10 December: UN Climate Chief Calls for Final Push to Meet Adaptation Fund Goal Very Close to Target

UN condemns attack that leaves one ‘blue helmet’ dead in Central African Republic

Young people are not a nameless, faceless mass. So why do we treat them as such?

UN chief welcomes DR Congo President’s promise to stand down

UN rights chief ‘alarmed’ by upsurge in attacks against civilians in Syria’s Idlib

UN chief lauds Fijians as ‘natural global leaders’ on climate, environment, hails ‘symbiotic relationship’ with land and sea

Assassinations in Ethiopia amidst regional ‘coup’ attempt, condemned by UN chief

UN sounds alarm as Venezuelan refugees and migrants passes three million mark

Europe split in confronting the US sanctions on Iran, Washington isolated

What the global Internet’s stakeholders can learn from Europe’s new data law

Civil society organisations disenchanted with “Youth Guarantee”

Pedro Sánchez: We must protect Europe, so Europe can protect its citizens

Fashion has a huge waste problem. Here’s how it can change

Where America’s refugees came from in 2018

Sochi not far away from Ukraine

Is it too soon to hope for a tobacco free Romania?

How Eurozone consumers spend their income when they have one…

Uncovered liabilities of €5 billion may render EU insolvent

Why climate change matters for future health professionals

The AI doctor won’t see you now

Seize the opportunities of digital technology to improve well-being but also address the risks

“C’est la vie”? French recession and unemployment to linger in Eurozone

INTERVIEW: Poverty, education and inclusion top new General Assembly President’s priority list

Rare Disease Day: a new EU platform to support better diagnosis and treatment

6 things to know about the General Assembly as UN heads into high level week

COP21 Business update: Companies urge now for carbon pricing as coal is still a big issue

Facebook has built an AI-based tool that fixes the social network when it crashes

OECD Donor countries need to reform development finance to meet 2030 pledge

Member states jeopardising the rule of law will risk losing EU funds

UN committed ‘to support the Libyan people’ as Guterres departs ‘with deep concern and a heavy heart’

It’s not your imagination, summers are getting hotter

The Amazon is reaching a dangerous tipping-point. We need to scale solutions now if we have any chance of saving it

A 550 km-long mass of rotting seaweed is heading for Mexico’s pristine beaches

French full-body veil ban, violated women’s freedom of religion: UN Human Rights Committee

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s