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By Narissa Subramoney

Deputy digital news editor

‘Ramaphosa must ensure those implicated by Zondo are held to account’ – Amnesty International

Amnesty International South Africa welcomed the recommendation that a national charter against corruption be adopted by the government.

Human rights organisation, Amnesty International South Africa, is urging President Cyril Ramaphosa to implement recommendations in part one of the state capture report.

The president received part one of the report on Tuesday amid much fanfare and controversy, which included an urgent court application to prevent the handover.

That case was struck off the court roll and Ramaphosa was officially given the report on Tuesday evening, more than three years after the commission started hearing evidence.

“Ramaphosa must ensure that the recommendations made in the first part of the state capture commission report are implemented and that those responsible for corruption are held accountable,” Amnesty International South Africa said. 

Commission chair, Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, found that “state capture had been established”.

“Corruption undermines democracy which infringes on basic human rights. In South Africa, access to basic services is largely crippled by the mismanagement of public funds,” said Amnesty International South Africa Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed.  

“The state has a duty to protect the human rights of all who live in the country. It is clear from Justice Zondo’s report that the state has failed to do this,” added Mohamed.

South Africa is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption and ratified it in 2004.

In the foreword to the convention, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said: “Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice, and discouraging foreign investment and aid.”

In the report, Zondo’s scathing findings included a statement that South Africa’s government could not be trusted with the “ultimate responsibility” to lead the fight against corruption.

Zondo said 20 years of frustration, which included a decade of state capture, “pitilessly” exposed flaws and weaknesses which have been exploited by criminals to inflict lasting damage on South Africa’s economy. 

“This is in a country where almost 20 million people do not have access to safe, reliable water and 14 million people do not have access to basic sanitation. Another 3.7 million families are still waiting for access to adequate housing,” said Mohamed.

Amnesty International South Africa welcomed the recommendation that a national charter against corruption be adopted by the government and that it creates an anti-corruption agency free from political oversight. 

“Amnesty International believes that anti-corruption efforts can strengthen protection for human rights, as long as they do not involve violations such as denial of due process of law, violations of fair trial rights, and ill-treatment,” explained Mohmed.

“We also welcome Justice Zondo’s recommendation that the government introduce legislation or amend existing legislation which is meant to protect whistleblowers.” 

Whistleblowers are critical to any democracy because they risk their lives and livelihoods to let society know when something is going wrong.

Mohamed said that without whistleblowers, evidence of large-scale human rights violations would never surface.  

Amnesty International reiterates its concern that whistleblowers in South Africa are not protected and are either forced into hiding, killed or find themselves having to leave the country, as state capture whistleblower Athol Williams had to do,” she added. 

“It is unacceptable that whistleblowers, who are risking their lives in order to protect the people of South Africa and combat corruption, are treated with such disdain.”

(Compiled by Narissa Subramoney)

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