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LETTER: Curious response to a worthy initiative

Furore about memo shows officialdom is unaware of the fact that corruption is a human rights issue worldwide

06 February 2019 – 05:00 By Paul Hoffman (Business Day)

President Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The department of international relations has reportedly taken umbrage at the action of diplomats of the “Great Powers” (as the Sunday Times calls them) who provided a memo to the presidency as part of the effort going into raising $100bn in new investment for SA. The US, UK, France, Germany and Switzerland are involved in 75% of foreign investment in SA.

The Sunday Times reports that an official in the presidency responded that “the move by the five countries was unprecedented as foreign nations only ‘interfere’ in domestic affairs when governments violate their laws or commit human rights violations”.

As Navi Pillay, a former UN human rights commissioner, has pointed out: “Corruption has a direct impact on people’s human rights. Nearly 870-million people go to bed hungry every night and many of them are children. Corruption denies them the right to food, and in some cases their right to life … A human rights-based approach to anti-corruption responds to the people’s resounding call for a social, political and economic order that delivers on the promise of freedom from fear and freedom from want.”

Quite apart from the fact that the memo in question was apparently prepared at the request of the presidency, it is clear that officialdom in SA is blithely unaware of the fact that corruption is a human rights issue worldwide.

As long ago as 2011, in the second Glenister case, the Constitutional Court ruled that corruption is a human rights issue in SA: “It

[corruption]

fuels maladministration and public fraudulence and imperils the capacity of the state to fulfil its obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil all the rights enshrined in the bill of rights”.

Whichever way the origin of the memo is construed, it should be welcomed as a timely intervention in the stuttering fight against the corrupt in our midst, not treated as the occasion for a démarche. The president should take the bull by the horns in his state of the nation address due on Thursday, not duck and dive like his predecessor.

Paul Hoffman SC,Director: Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa

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