After few delays, the anti-corruption march is going ahead on 30 September and the organisers hope it will be one of the biggest rallies South Africa has seen in 20 years. It might be hard to detach the event from politics, but hundreds of groups have signed up to confront corruption and its impact on South Africa. By GREG NICOLSON.
On Tuesday, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) announced it has served a notice on the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to protest on 30 September in support of the anti-corruption march. The notice follows the union’s correspondence with Nedlac two months ago on its plan for a socio-economic strike against corruption.
Numsa says its notice is in accordance with the law after discussions with Nedlac in August and September. “As the labour movement we are joining other civil society organisations – social movements, civics, women’s organisations, student, youth organisations, faith-based organisations from every denomination, rural organisations, the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual queer and intersex) people, other membership-based organisations and individuals – to say we have had enough of corruption,” the union said in a statement.
The idea for a march against corruption first came from former Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi after he lost his position as head of the labour federation. While it’s hard to escape the fact that some of the key drivers of the march are challenging President Jacob Zuma and the African National Congress (ANC) government, organisers say it’s not about politics and the march could see as many as 100,000 people descending on the Union Buildings.
Initially the march was to take place in August but after religious leaders came on board it was put back to September 23 to allow for mobilisation. That date coincided with key holidays and the march was then set for 30 September.
Numsa’s statement said the Federation of Unions of South Africa, the National Council of Trade Unions, and “a significant number of independent unions” are joining the action and have written to Nedlac. “We are also overjoyed that other trade unions have indicated their determination to do likewise in the next few days. This support puts to rest attempts to portray the action on 30 September as a Numsa strike,” said the union.
Ngqabutho Mpofu from Section27 said the idea that the march is about Vavi and party politics is misleading and a constant challenge for organisers. “It’s important that people actually realise that there are a lot of voices here and it’s not politically aligned to parties,” he said from Cape Town where he is working to mobilise support for the march. The ANC has suggested the march relates to Numsa’s ambitions to form a new federation of unions.
The march’s organising committee includes Corruption Watch, Section27, the South African Christian Leaders Initiative, Numsa and its union allies who have distanced themselves from Cosatu, Treatment Action Campaign, and Awethu!. Vavi is a key mobilising force, but he does not attend the organising committee meetings, said Mpofu.
While organising communities around the issue of corruption,Mpofu noted how corruption impacts on all levels of society. “People are drawing linkages to access to services and corruption,” he said, referring to stories he heard on the irregularities in Limpopo that led to provincial departments being placed under administration. In Delft, Cape Town, he heard a woman complain of corruption among the police that sees drug dealers avoid charges.
Around 350 organisations have already said they will join the march. A notable inclusion is the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which consistently brought thousands of members to marches during the 2014 platinum strikes. Among many other organisations, Amnesty International, Equal Education, Freedom Under Law, SHOUT SA, and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce also backed the march. Mpofu said there has been a rush of support as 30 September nears. Marches in Polokwane, Durban and Grahamstown have been added to the planned events in Pretoria and Cape Town.
Miles Giljam, a director of the South African Christian Leadership Initiative, said church leaders will be announcing their support for the march on Wednesday. Mobilisation has so far come from senior church leaders with work taking place on the ground in different regions. From the clergy, Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Methodist Bishop Zipho Siwa, evangelical leader Moss Ntlha, Rhema’s Ray McCauley, Reverand Frank Chikane, Barney Pityana, and Peter Storey have come out in support of the march. Other religious leaders are expected to announce their support this week.
“It’s always difficult to tell with these things. We’re seeing a good groundswell at the moment,” said Giljam. “The rubber hits the road in terms of getting the parishes to the march.” From the South African Christian Leadership Initiative’s side, he said, the march is a chance to commit to ethical behaviour and holding one another to account. “It’s a moment for national repentance, a moment for us to turn away from corruption as a nation,” said Giljam. “The change begins from that day. It doesn’t immediately change but the hearts of the people can change on that day.”
The draft demands from Unite Against Corruption note how corruption limits service delivery and transformation. They want the government to prioritise the fight against corruption, accountable and transparent leadership, effective implementation of laws, protection for whistleblowers, greater accountability from business, and the transparent regulation of public procurement.
Numsa published its own demands on behalf of the labour movement. It wants a report from Treasury on state organs that don’t comply with procurement regulations, an investigation into illicit financial flows, published forensic audits, an investigation into economic crimes during the last decade of apartheid, lifestyle audits, and the protection of anti-corruption laws.
While achieving those goals will be difficult, those behind the anti-corruption march are building support to get 100,000 people to the Union Buildings on 30 September. DM
Photo: General Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Zwelinzima Vavi (L) takes part in a strike action in Johannesburg, South Africa, 01 July 2014. EPA/IHSAAN HAFFEJEE.