Defend Truth


Our whistle-blowers need all of us to hear, listen, care – and act


Zukiswa Pikoli is Daily Maverick's Managing Editor for Gauteng news and Maverick Citizen where she was previously a journalist and founding member of the civil society focused platform. Prior to this she worked in civil society as a communications and advocacy officer and has also worked in the publishing industry as an online editor.

South Africans need to be inspired by whistle-blowers and how they have had the moral courage to speak out against corruption and acting to stop it, even at great personal cost.

Corruption in South Africa has become a popular dinner party topic, a general small-talk ice-breaker and, at times, a rather bizarre point around which people find common ground.

But the conversation rarely goes further – to what we can do to broker its demise. Few people are willing to blow the whistle on it, and therein lies the power of corruption: fear mongering renders people inert.

Speaking at a conference held by the Public Affairs Research Institute and the Council for the Advancement of the Constitution last month, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo lamented the lack of implementation of recommendations by the State Capture Commission, in particular the encouragement and protection of whistle-blowers.

“In my view, we have to work hard to make sure that we grow the population of whistle-blowers in this country if we have any hope of bringing down the levels of corruption,” he said.

Addressing the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council on 8 November, Chief Justice Zondo was at pains to underscore that a corruption-free South Africa is the responsibility of all who live in the country, because it is a form of active citizenship.

“When the commission was going on and indeed faced attacks, it was the people of South Africa, the NGOs, the civic organisations, some political parties, who kept us going because at times it was not easy,” he told the council.

Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Whistleblowers Awards in October, also voiced his concerns about the slow pace of implementing the State Capture Commission’s recommendations.

“What is the point of blowing one’s whistle into the vast darkness when nobody hears, nobody listens and, most probably, nobody cares?” he said.

He pointed out that the full report of the State Capture Commission, which was released in six volumes, had been released more than a year ago.

Chief Justice Zondo’s comments at the council about “active citizenry” and how it had been ordinary people who had kept the work of the commission alive bears reflecting on, because what has happened is that there has been a considerable lull since he handed over his report.

In effect, what he was emphasising is that the work did not end with the unearthing of the rot of State Capture – the next step is ensuring that the recommendations are implemented so that it never happens again.

So, while the government seems to be dragging its feet in effecting the recommendations, the citizenry of the country needs to act to ensure that the report remains squarely on the country’s agenda.

We also need to be inspired by the work of whistle-blowers in their various situations and how they have had the moral courage to back up their abhorrence of corruption by both speaking out and acting to stop it, even at great personal cost.

It is also important to remember that corruption is not just a public sector problem. It exists in the private sector too, with many examples in Chief Justice Zondo’s 5,000-page report. As such, the undertaking to guard against it is a societal one. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

DM168 front page


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