Elections 2024: Corruption cancer not adequately addressed by campaigning parties - analysts

South Africans will vote on Wednesday and analysts say the failure the deal with corruption might cost the ruling African National Congress. File Picture

South Africans will vote on Wednesday and analysts say the failure the deal with corruption might cost the ruling African National Congress. File Picture

Published May 28, 2024


As the curtain came down on political rallies and extensive campaigns across South Africa, IOL takes a look at how the burning issue of the cancer of corruption and the contentious issue regarding safety of South Africans was traversed by different political parties during the strenuous campaign process.

With only a day before the 2024 general elections, academics at different institutions concurred that the issue of safety and exorcising the ghost of corruption remains a central talking point in South Africa, at the heart of majority of voters who will cast their ballots on Wednesday.

In an interview with IOL, Professor of Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand and SA UK Bilateral Chair in Political Theory at Wits and Cambridge, Lawrence Hamilton said opposition parties have been pointing the finger to the governing African National Congress (ANC) regarding the scourge of corruption.

“From what I have seen, it (the fight against corruption) has been a big issue in particular for non-ANC parties.

“Those parties have been trying to show up ANC corruption in various areas – which is a good and healthy thing for democracy in general and for getting some kind of control over corruption in South Africa,” he said.

Professor of Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand and SA UK Bilateral Chair in Political Theory at Wits and Cambridge, Lawrence Hamilton. Picture: Supplied

“I have probably seen a lot more of ANC in action, and it has been a big thing in a long time with Cyril Ramaphosa, but I have not seen anywhere near enough action of course.

“There is obviously reference to it, but for the ANC it doesn’t make sense to be highlighting the extent of corruption happening under their watch.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa during his campaign trail in iSipingo taxi rank, Durban South. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/IndependentNewspapers

Hamilton said there is no doubt about the severity of the scourge of corruption in South Africa, given the context of what was laid bare at the Zondo commission of inquiry.

“The corruption reached its peak in what we call state capture in South Africa. It is an absolutely enormous problem and has made the turnaround promised by Ramaphosa really a difficult task. I think his failures in that regard are going to be very significant for the ANC in these elections. They will likely struggle to get 50 percent, they might struggle to get 45 percent,” he said.

Hamilton said corruption and keeping the lights on were issues for the governing party.

“All of these are connected to two basic issues – not being able to create jobs, very high levels of inequality and unemployment and massive infrastructure failures.

“Here we are not just talking about Eskom failing, but also Prasa, Transnet and various other things have had a huge knock-on effect on quality of life for South Africans.”

On the other hand, Dr Ferrial Adam, executive manager at the WaterCAN initiative for the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) told IOL that while corruption in South Africa has become synonymous with state capture, commentators, observers and citizens might be missing the local governments capture which has resulted in local governments across the country being mismanaged and becoming cash-strapped.

“Corruption has become endemic in South Africa. It was touched on by a few parties only and even then, at specific moments.

“To deal with corruption there needs to be a united voice in government to fight it - and this election campaign has not painted a picture of people willing to fight corruption or if they have the ability to do so - given the seriousness of the challenge,” she said.

Dr Ferrial Adam, Executive Manager of civil society organisation, WaterCAN. Picture: Supplied

Without offering tangible solutions, Adam said many of the campaigning political parties then just side stepped on how they would deal with corruption.

“We need to build a visible and active civil society to watch and report. We need tenders to be open and transparent. When we (civil society) ask questions, we are viewed as a problem - but politicians need to realise that this can help stop corruption.

“In addition, there are many businesses who complain and complain but when you ask them to come out and talk about or expose what they are seeing they go quiet because they don't want to jeopardise their contracts,” she said.

“This feeds complicit corruption. The other issue is that government is only one arm of corruption - we must put the focus on the companies that are feeding corruption as well.”

Corruption Watch logo. File Picture

Meanwhile, non-profit organisation Corruption Watch told IOL that tackling rampant issues of corruption in South Africa was presented as a central issue by certain political parties particularly the United Democratic Movement led by Bantu Holomisa, other parties touched on the problem in passing.

General Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM). File Picture: Bongani Mbatha/Independent Media

“I only noticed one or two parties that made it the centre piece of their main messaging. One of the parties was the UDM in particular.

“The Democratic Alliance spent most of its time running against the ANC’s record and on that basis, corruption becomes central to their campaign.

“Many of the parties, while acknowledging and referencing to corruption in their manifestos, they did not make it the core issue that their agenda was organized around,” said Karam Singh, executive director of Corruption Watch.

Karam Singh, executive director of Corruption Watch. Picture: Screengrab

“For the ANC in particular, I don’t think they felt that they could run the election credibly on an anti-corruption message, although there was a flurry of messages from the president setting his anti-corruption record and credentials.

“It (corruption) is a central issue and in the campaigns, it has been spoken about but somehow it is still not the dominant issue. It strikes me that it is connected to other issues like the economy, issues around equality and the issues of safety and security.”

He added that South Africa has not turned the corner from the days of state capture which was traversed at length by outgoing Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.