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LETTER: High-handed policymaking

Establishment of a constitutionally compliant anticorruption entity is a matter of urgency

12 December 2021 – 16:05 https://spkt.io/e/3141377

December is traditionally the sneaky season when the government publishes important notices in the government gazette at a time when those who monitor it all year are away on leave.

These stunts are performed to advance opacity and to pay lip service to constitutional values that are foundational to our new order: openness, accountability and responsiveness being chief among them as per section 1 of the constitution.

It is also the law that our public administration and state-owned enterprises must be governed by the values and principles of the constitution, including those set out in section 195(1) of the constitution. Despite this section’s use of the word “must”, its contents are all but a dead letter in the way the country is run. Accountability Now might as well have published its pledge for members of the public administration in Greek for all the good it has done to turn the deployed cadres of the revolution away from their bad habits and towards what the constitution requires of them.

Tim Hughes, writing for the Injured Workers Action Group, illustrates the point.  The refusal to explain to parliament why Hermione Cronje resigned halfway through her term of office is another example. Transparency, ethics, accountability, and the promotion of efficient, economic and effective use of resources (both human and material) all suffer when high-handedness instead of encouragement of public participation in policymaking is the order of the day.

At the core of this malaise is a culture of consequence-free misgovernance and impunity for wrongdoing. The constitution is regarded as a take-it-or-leave-it optional extra, not the supreme law of the land. The cadres of the revolution march to the sound of a different drum in their striving for hegemony.

It is to be hoped that the recommendations of the Zondo commission will address cadre deployment and general lawlessness in governance in SA. An adjustment to the electoral system is overdue and the establishment of a constitutionally compliant anti-corruption entity is a matter of urgency.

SA subscribes to the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) that are designed to end poverty, inequality and hunger through sustainable reform. Strong institutions of government, not sites of cadre deployment, are contemplated by SDG 16. Is SA paying attention? With the auditor-general reporting R166bn in irregular expenditure in the past year, the answer must be a resounding “No!”

Paul Hoffman SC 
Director, Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa Campaigning as Accountability Now

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