The road to kleptocracy

24 years of SONA promises to fight, wage war upon, and uproot the "scourge" of corruption

The following are extracts from the statements from all the post-1994 speeches at the opening of parliament (State of the Nation addresses) by successive South African Presidents, from the ruling African National Congress, dealing with the issue of "corruption". 



In the recent past, much has been said about corruption among some members of this parliament and other leading political figures in the country. Many within and without this chamber and among the mass media have been very keen to condemn and to propel us into precipitate action on the basis of mere allegations. We have resisted this and will continue to do so. We have a responsibility to act on the basis of fact and not allegations, however strident the voice that makes those allegations.

Furthermore, we firmly believe that it is important that we build a society on justice and fairness. At all times we must guarantee the right of the accused to be heard, without making any concession to a primeval instinct to pillory and burn people at the stake. As South Africans, with our particular history, we must be extremely careful not to reintroduce the McCarthyism atmosphere which resulted in people being herded into unthinking hordes that sought the blood of anybody who was labelled a communist.

We must also make this clear that we need no educators with regard to the matter of rooting out corruption, which we will deal with firmly and unequivocally, whoever may be involved We are conscious of the reality that corruption in many forms has deeply infected the fibre of our society. It is not possible to have a society based on a lie and patent injustice as apartheid society was, without this spawning corrupt practices. Precisely because we face the challenge of dealing with systematic corruption we need a dispassionate and systematic approach to this question and not allow ourselves to be stampeded by responses which are not very different from a witchhunt.


Dealing with crime, violence and corruption requires a new morality for our new nation. Indeed, it requires a new Patriotism among communities, the public and private sectors, and the security services - so that at the end of each day, each one of us can answer in the affirmative the question: have I done something today, to stamp out crime!


Corruption, including the endemic problem of so-called "ghost workers" inherited from the past, continues to bedevil the civil service.


This spirit of community, of partnership and of hard work is required when dealing with problems of crime and corruption. Again, in this area, the tendency often is to exaggerate and distort the real situation; to use half-truths and sensationalism to paint a picture of a situation out of control. It is understandable that unscrupulous politicians, media commentators and those who wish to question the legitimacy of the democratic process as such will conjure up crises in the heads, where in reality there are no crises. The task of those interested in improving the country's quality of life is to examine the real situation in its complex forms, even if this may not please the prophets of doom.

… The same [as with criminal elements] should be said about corrupt elements who see public service as an opportunity for self-enrichment. Mechanisms are in place and are being improved all the time to root them out. In this regard, I wish to thank the media for its vigilance. While there may be instances where fingers were pointed at individuals without justification, there are a good many examples where investigative journalism has helped us uncover the scoundrels - old and new - who prey on the public purse.


Our hope for the future depends also on our resolution as a nation in dealing with the scourge of corruption. Success will require an acceptance that, in many respects, we are a sick society. It is perfectly correct to assert that all this was spawned by apartheid. No amount of self-induced amnesia will change this reality of history. But it is also a reality of the present that among the new cadres in various levels of government, you find individuals who are as corrupt as - if not more than - those they found in government. When a leader in a Provincial Legislature siphons off resources meant to fund service by legislators to the people; when employees of a government institution set up to help empower those who were excluded by apartheid defraud it for their own enrichment, then we must admit that we are a sick society.

This problem manifests itself in all areas of life. More often than not, it is business people who launder funds to curry favour with public servants; it is ordinary citizens who seek to buy themselves out of trouble; it is strange religious leaders who sing praises to criminals or hoard land acquired by the foul means of apartheid. All of us must work together for our redemption. Many mechanisms have been put in place or strengthened to investigate and ensure proper punishment for these vile deeds: the Public Protector, the Heath Commission, the Auditor-General, the Office for Serious Economic Offences, to name but a few. Within government, more resources are being provided to allow them to do their work. And very practical resolutions emerged from the Public Sector Anti-corruption Summit held last November.



Similarly, we will not relax our efforts to root out corruption in our society, with special focus on the public sector. The Honourable Ministers heading the criminal justice system, including the Ministers of Home Affairs and Defence, will have occasion to report on the important work they are doing severally and collectively within the context of our National Crime Prevention Strategy. We are still faced with the task of completing the process of the restructuring of the machinery of government. Among the objectives we are pursuing are:

- the raising of the skills levels within the public sector and retaining professional personnel; 

- improving management, financial accountability and service delivery; 

- combating corruption and the abuse of public resources; 

- enhancing the motivation of all public sector workers to serve the people of our country; and, 

- increasing the proportion of public funds spent on investment. 

Additional steps will therefore be taken this year to ensure the right-sizing of our public service.


The criminal justice system will also further intensify its offensive against corruption among its own personnel. This will include the introduction of a new leadership at Correctional Services, an increase in intelligence resources dedicated to the fight against corruption and, where necessary, the expansion of the existing anti-corruption units.


In accordance with the government's comprehensive Public Service anti-Corruption Strategy, we have introduced measures to ensure that the code of conduct is upheld and that all public service managers are subject to conflict of interest disclosures. To complement this, legislation to fight corruption will be brought before parliament during this session.


The work being done in the Eastern Cape will also assist us greatly further to intensify our offensive against the cancer of corruption within the public service. This work will be intensified in all three spheres of government, building on the experience accumulated within departments and through the efforts of such institutions as the Public Protector, the Auditor General and the Public Service Commission.


The people have not hesitated to make frank and critical assessments especially of the quality of service delivery in their localities, as well as the performance of the municipal councillors. They also boldly raise other questions, such as crime, health matters and instances of perceived or actual corruption and malpractice.


Within 3 months, a Summit on Corruption will be convened to review experiences across all sectors of society and agree on a programme to strengthen the campaign, including structures set up to deal with this challenge.


Perhaps, needless to say, the government will remain focused on the challenge to fight corruption in the public sector and in society at large. We will continue to intensify our offensive on this front, fully aware of the fact that much that happens in our society encourages the entrenchment of a value system based on personal acquisition of wealth by all means and at all cost.


Further to improve its service to the people, government should optimise its capacity and organisational efficiency. To achieve these objectives, we will during the course of this year… while intensifying the public sector and national anti-corruption campaign, complete by the end of the year the process further to improve the effectiveness of our anti-corruption strategies for all spheres of government.


Working with other social partners, we shall ensure that, by the end of this year, the second National Anti-corruption Programme is adopted, and that the action plan agreed with organised business is implemented. At local government level, we shall assist the first 150 of our municipalities to develop anti-corruption strategies.



As Honourable Members will be aware, our government has made the fight against corruption one of the core areas of focus.

This is reflected, among others, in legislation, rules and regulations governing public servants and political office-bearers alike, partnerships with civil society and the business community, as well as anti-corruption hotlines.

It may as well be that the systems of preventing and punishing corruption are still inadequate; but from the point of view of government systems, we can draw solace from the fact that over 70% of cases of corruption reported in the media become public because government has detected the wrongdoing and is in fact acting against it.



Working together with all South Africans, we will intensify the fight against crime and corruption. We will build cohesive, caring and sustainable communities….We will pay particular attention to combating corruption and fraud in procurement and tender processes, application for drivers’ licences, social grants, IDs, and theft of police case dockets.


We continue our efforts to eradicate corruption and fraud in procurement and tender processes, and in applications for drivers’ licences, social grants and identity documents, among others. We are pleased with the progress government is making in some areas. This week, we terminated 32 687 fraudulent social grants payments, valued at R180 million. Our Inter-Ministerial Committee on Corruption is looking at ways to decisively defeat corruption.


The fight against corruption also continues. A Special Anti-Corruption Unit has been established in the Department of Public Service and Administration to handle corruption-related disciplinary cases involving public servants. Progress is being made in many ongoing investigations. About R44 million has been recovered from public servants who are illegally benefiting from housing subsidies, while the cleaning of the social grants system of fraud is also continuing. We have directed the Special Investigating Unit to probe alleged maladministration or corruption in various government departments, municipalities and institutions. While not pre-judging the investigations, they prove our resolve to combat corruption at all levels of Government and the public service.


In 2009 we made a commitment to accelerate the fight against crime and corruption…. We also continue to improve the performance of the state in various ways, including the fight against corruption. The Multi-Agency Working Group on procurement led by the National Treasury, SARS and the Financial Intelligence Centre is reviewing the entire state procurement system to ensure better value for money from state spending. Initiatives include the vetting of supply chain personnel in government departments.To further improve security, the Department of Home Affairs, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the banking industry, to roll out the online fingerprint verification system in all participating banks, to assist in fraud prevention and detection… We welcome the launch of Corruption Watch by COSATU, as well as the recent agreement between government and business to implement anti-corruption programmes. These interventions will complement the work of government in combating corruption.  


Government continues to wage a war against corruption. The capacity of the Special Investigating Unit has grown from an initial 70 staff members to more than 600 at present. I have since 2009, signed 34 proclamations directing the SIU to investigate allegations of corruption, fraud or maladministration in various government departments and state entities. Criminal Investigations were initiated against 203 accused persons in 67 priority cases under investigation by the end September 2012.

In total, pre-trial proceedings have been initiated against 191 persons. A total of 66 persons under investigation are alleged to have received R5 million or more benefits through corruption. Freezing Orders were obtained against 46 persons. In other successes, in the past financial year, 107 officials working within the criminal justice system were convicted. The Asset Forfeiture Unit seized assets valued at more than R541 million. A total of R61 million of these assets have already been forfeited to the State. The assets are channelled back to fighting crime and corruption through the Criminal Asset Recovery Account. Last year, additional funding of R150 million from the Criminal Assets Recovery Account was approved for the work of the Anti-Corruption Task Team which comprises the Hawks, the Special Investigating Unit and the National Prosecuting Authority. 

These resources are aimed at strengthening the capacity of these law enforcement agencies in our resolve to fight corruption. We urge the private sector to also take this fight against corruption seriously so that we tackle it from all angles. To further boost the fight against corruption, we will fill all vacant posts at the upper echelons of the criminal justice system.


South Africans are united in wanting a corruption free society. Fighting corruption within the public service is yielding results. Since the launch of the National Anti-Corruption Hotline by the Public Service Commission, over 13 000 cases of corruption and maladministration have been referred to government departments for further handling and investigation. Government has recovered more than 320-million rand from perpetrators through the National Anti-Corruption Hotline…

To prevent corruption in the supply chain system, government has decided to establish a central tender board to adjudicate tenders in all spheres of government. This body will work with the chief procurement officer whose main function will be to check on pricing and adherence to procedures as well as fairness. The Special Investigating Unit is investigating maladministration or alleged corruption in a number of government departments and state entities, through 40 proclamations signed by the President during this administration. We will keep the public informed of the outcome of the investigations.


The Special Investigating Unit, the Anti-Corruption Task Team the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the Hawks, have made notable progress in our quest to combat corruption in society broadly and in the public sector. This work will continue in the next five years. Weaknesses in procurement, management and operations systems that undermine the efficiency and effectiveness of government will be addressed. One of the key steps, which is already underway, is to centralise procurement under the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer in the National Treasury.


The fight against corruption continues to be taken forward by the Anti-Corruption Inter-Ministerial Committee. Government has in place seven anti-corruption institutions and 17 pieces of legislation which are intended to combat corruption. This demonstrates a concerted effort by government to break the back of this scourge in the country.

In the 2013/14 financial year, 52 persons were convicted in cases involving more than R5 million. Thirty one public servants were convicted in the first quarter of 2014/15 and freezing orders to the value of R430 million were obtained.  To prevent corruption and promote ethical governance, in December I signed into law the Public Administration and Management Act which amongst others prohibits public servants from doing business with the State.


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The fight against corruption continues. Within the National Prosecuting Authority, the Asset Forfeiture Unit completed 389 forfeiture cases to the value of R349 million. They obtained 326 freezing orders to the value of R779 million. A total of R13 million was recovered in cases where government officials were involved in corruption and other related offences in the past year.




This is the year in which we will turn the tide of corruption in our public institutions. The criminal justice institutions have been taking initiatives that will enable us to deal effectively with corruption. The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture headed by the Deputy Chief Justice, Judge Raymond Zondo, is expected to commence its work shortly. The commission is critical to ensuring that the extent and nature of state capture is established, that confidence in public institutions is restored and that those responsible for any wrongdoing should be identified.

The commission should not displace the regular work of the country’s law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting any and all acts of corruption. Amasela aba imali ka Rhilumente mawabanjwe. (Thieves who are stealing public funds should be arrested and prosecuted). We must fight corruption, fraud and collusion in the private sector with the same purpose and intensity.


We recognise, as do all South Africans, that our greatest efforts to end poverty, unemployment and inequality will achieve little unless we tackle state capture and corruption in all its manifestations and in all areas of public life. The action we take now to end corruption and hold those responsible to account will determine the pace and trajectory of the radical social and economic transformation we seek.