S. African Anglican leader lashes out at 'insidious cancer of corruption'

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba on November 6, 2013 at the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea.

The "insidious cancer of corruption" is the most glaring threat to South Africa's democracy today, Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has said in a public lecture.

Cape Town Archbishop Thabo, was delivering the Beyers Naudé Memorial Lecture at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth on October 27.

"The most egregious threat to our democracy today is the insidious cancer of corruption. I cannot say it any more simply than that corruption is anti-democracy," said Makgoba.

"Corruption is paralysing progress across South Africa today. We all know about the high-profile cases which dominate the headlines."

He also criticized a suggestions reportedly made by South African President Jacob Zuma that criminalizing corruption is a "Western paradigm."

"For corruption to happen, you have to have a corrupter, someone willing to pay the bribe, and what I will call a "corruptee", someone willing to take a bribe."

For Africans, over the 50 or 60 years since liberation, the Western paradigm - if indeed there can be said to be one - is one in which Westerners have been the corrupters, and African elites the corruptees."

The archbishop also quoted from the African Union's 2003 "Convention On Preventing And Combating Corruption", which said corruption and impunity had "devastating effects on the economic and social development of the African peoples."


Quoting his Roman Catholic counterpart in Cape Town, Archbishop Stephen Brislin, he said corruption was not new in South Africa – the colonial and apartheid systems were highly corrupt.

Nor did corruption affect only governments: he quoted Brislin as saying that it affected business, corporations, NGOs and even churches.

"So, while all of must be concerned about corruption, no institution can be holier-than-thou about it," Archbishop Makgoba said.

He noted, "I am really puzzled by what President Zuma and his lawyers are reported to have argued in representations to the National Prosecuting Authority some years ago.

He cited a City Press newspaper reported, which said it had seen National Prosecuting Authority analysis dealing with Zuma's reasoning as to why he should not be charged with corruption over a dodgy multi-billion dollar arms deal in 1999.

"'One of the reasons President... Zuma believed criminal charges against him relating to the arms deal should be dropped was because corruption is only a crime in a 'Western paradigm'. And even if it was a crime, [Mr.] Zuma's lawyers apparently argued, it was a crime where there are 'no victims'."

"If this is the case, we have to ask what values - whether they be cultural, constitutional or faith-based values - the President and his lawyers used to come to that conclusion.

"Contrast what is reported to be their thinking with the following statement identifying who suffers from corruption:

"'[Corruption] means that the State pays a higher price than it should, which takes money away from education or health care for the poor.

"Or it means the State accepts a poorer quality hospital or road or housing unit, which endangers the welfare of the population and particularly the poorest citizens who so often rely on that hospital or house. It is as simple as that."'

Copyright © 2014 Ecumenical News