Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebhane says government cannot continue with people in leadership positions when they have findings against them, by institutions such as her office.
Mkhwebane was speaking during a webinar hosted by the United Nations Association of South Africa (Unasa) on Monday morning.
The theme was: “Should corruption be considered a crime against humanity?”
The Public Protector said the country’s leaders should deal with corruption, “across colour lines and across social standing.
“You cannot perpetuate that so-and-so is corrupt and you are charging that person [for] stealing R1 million, but you leave a person who has stolen billions. There should be consistency in how we deal with corruption across the board,” she said.
Mkhwebane also said: “As a country, how do you make sure that, especially the leadership in government… you have ethical leaders who are respecting the Constitution… I think even leading by example because in that particular instance, it would be easy for everyone to act accordingly.
“You cannot continue having people in leadership positions who have been found [out] or there are findings against them by institutions like the Public Protector’s Office and other Constitutional institutions.”
Mkhwebane also said there was a challenge with some people, “abusing the courts to further their own interests”.
She urged young people to do their own research and not take media stories at face value.
Mkhwebane said the webinar followed widespread public anger over alleged corruption pertaining to the procurement of personal protective equipment.
She said: “Week in and week out we read alarming allegations of corrupt tenders occasioned by the need to save lives [in the fight] against Covid-19. So enormous is the problem that it has even captured international attention.”
Mkhwebane said what has fuelled public anger is the apparent “heartlessness” of those who are alleged to be involved.
She said at a time when the country was faced with an invincible enemy, resulting in the deaths of loved ones, while many more continue to fight for their lives “these unscrupulous business people and their collaborators unashamedly see an opportunity to pillage”.
“Of course, in all these cases, corruption has not yet been proven,” she said.
The Special Investigating Unit through the Special Tribunal has frozen funds contained in the bank accounts of about 40 companies that are allegedly involved in questionable tenders in Gauteng.
“The public anger against corruption has been bubbling under for quite some time. What we have seen in recent weeks is a culmination of the anger that has been building up from pre-Cobid-19 times,” she said.
Mkhwebane said according to the Global Financial Integrity report – South Africa had suffered an illegal outflow of R185 billion due to corruption in the public sector between 1994 and 2008.
Often investigations had serious shortcomings, leading to unsuccessful prosecutions, with cases often not reaching court, she said.
Although the country has laws and institutions, she is of the view the problem is at the level of implementation.
Meanwhile, African Transformation Movement president, Vuyo Zungula, who also took part in the discussion said corruption should be based on actual convictions.
“There must be someone who gets to be prosecuted and convicted for their crimes. It is not proper of us young people to be influenced by the media. Let us not take what is said in the media at face value,” he said.