African National Congress (ANC) business interests and SA’s flawed electoral system have created the potential for large-scale corruption, the Black Management Forum (BMF) conference heard yesterday.
The BMF’s leadership holds key positions in the public and private sector. Its two-day conference, which started in Johannesburg yesterday, heard academics, politicians and business leaders discussing systemic corruption.
Activist Mamphela Ramphele said at the heart of inequality and poverty was the "inappropriateness of struggle ideology".
› Treasury moots tax-free savings plan
› Look beyond ANC for SA’s future wellbeing
"You can’t bring liberation politics’ values into a democracy, where you are ‘either with us or against us’. We are even told, ‘it’s cold outside’," she said.
Ms Ramphele said this was creating a system where people guilty of corruption were not only being protected, but in some cases promoted. It also diluted the ANC’s accountability to voters.
The ANC’s investment vehicle, which did business with the government, was "violating every rule in the book of public accountability and propriety", she said.
Until the electoral system was reformed and MPs were elected in constituencies rather than through party lists, issues of accountability and corruption would prevent SA from maintaining a stable macroeconomic framework, deter economic growth and "eat into our beings", Ms Ramphele said.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the "negative mind-set" about the fragility of SA’s democracy was misplaced. Democracy was not simply "voting every five years" but the ability to belong to organs of civil society, and express views without fear - both of which were enjoyed in SA. Mr Mantashe said questioning of ANC members with ties to business bordered on racism, as no one questioned the right of members of other political parties to participate in the economy.
While corruption in the state was problematic, he did not believe it was "systemic". Scrutiny that was overly focused on the public sector, at the expense of underreported corruption in the private sector, was "dangerous".