“Political will, expertise and resources are crucial in strengthening criminal justice systems and social services in order to reduce violence, crime corruption and poverty, but all the laws and money in the world will make no difference if there are no visible consequences for criminals.”
Cheryllyn Dudley 27 May 2021
The Pan African vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena” has been thwarted by violence, crime, corruption and ongoing poverty.
The single most prominent cause for continuing poverty in Africa is (according to human rights attorney and Director of the UN investigation into the Rwandan genocide, Gary Haugen), the lack of security that poor people experience and their fear of violence, at home or on the streets. Yet, Haugen says not even 1% of money in the global fight against poverty goes to restraining the hands of violent bullies. We need to get to the place where we do not just weep in sympathy, but act to promote lawfulness.
Taking South Africa as a case in point – with a substantial budget for defence, public order and safety and many laws in place, you realise that all the laws and money in the world make no difference if no-one enforces the law and there are no consequences for criminal actions. The incredible task undertaken by the Zondo commission, and the gradual increased confidence flowing over into our justice system as a whole is to be commended. It lines up with
Haugen’s conviction that almost all criminal justice systems that start out broken and corrupt can be fixed and that crime and violence can be stopped. I would say, it can at least be stopped to the degree that it is not the norm.
With a heightened political will and the necessary transfer of expertise and resources into the criminal justice system and social services – proper training, leadership and motivation – many examples show that any situation can be turned around.
I have witnessed transformation in many in South African Politics, from idealist activism to statesmen and women, maturing and looking to ensure sustainable development and opportunities that will improve the standard of living of all who live and work in South Africa. When irrational rhetoric abounds at election time, (as it will no doubt do in the run up to the 2021 local elections too) I remind myself that rational thinking has, in the past, returned to the corridors of Parliament after elections. Admittedly, due to the political agendas of parties especially the EFF and DA and the large number of new MPs within their ranks, this process took a little longer after the 2014 elections!
I watched over the years as leaders gained the confidence to resist the temptation to be defensive and were eventually willing to face, head-on, the scourge of corruption, its impact on our economy, and so much more.
In 2018, for example when I called on the majority party to mandate and capacitate parliamentary committees to investigate all accusations of state capture, saying that we, as Parliament had dropped the ball and we had lost the respect of the people of South Africa, they did just that.
I had pleaded with the majority party through the chief whip Jackson Mthembu to look beyond the obvious mischief intended by the DA in their calls for independent commissions. I said our job as Parliament was of greater concern and that activating committees in this regard was a chance for us as Parliament to make amends and restore respect for this important institution, and its dignity. My proposal was accepted and subsequent action by Parliament has moved us in the direction of greater accountability and transparency.
My close following of the Zondo Commission’s hearings have been a delight in so many ways even though I have agonised over the testimony of so many, whose human tendencies of pride and ambition and even loyalty have ensnared them. I also realised here again, in listening to the cross examination of our President as the leader of the ANC and the former Speaker of the National Assembly how important the decision to give committees the necessary support and confidence to follow up on accusations of corruption was, not only for Parliament in answering to the people of South Africa but for the ANC. Both of whom had taken the longest time to realise the depth of the problem and to differentiate these accusations from the constant attacks and games of opposition parties to discredit the majority party.
The former Chief Whip of Parliament, Jackson Mthembu, who passed away before going before the commission did indeed make a written submission which contained this important change of heart and quite frankly brave turn around. He like all else involved knew that this could make the party vulnerable , but put South Africa first, and took the risk. For this I salute Hon Mthembu, the Speaker and the ANC MP’s. I noticed in the hearings how suspiciously the Chair of Chairs communication with portfolio committees on this was viewed and smiled with great pride in my colleagues, who braved the possible consequences of admitting they had dropped the ball collectively and chose to do their part in opening the way for a speedy attempt to remedy the situation.
These things and so much more I recounted in my book “Through My Eyes” which is available. As I said in my book and fervently believe, the costly mistakes made along the way have not been entirely a loss, as many have learned hard lessons, and we all have the opportunity to learn from these mistakes if we will just step down from our ivory towers and consider that there, but for the grace of God, go I. We are, in my view, richer for the lessons learned and the courage shown in addressing issues that other countries sweep under the carpet.
I know many people feel cheated by the corruption and the enormity of the violation of state capture which is still being investigated. I remind myself, however, that some countries took hundreds of years to even think about dealing with their corruption and even now, will not dare. Our young country gave no thought to the cost to our economy or reputation and forged ahead.
In time to come, I believe our young nation will stand out head and shoulders above others, having dared not only do the right thing, but to do it in a respectful, rather than a vengeful way. If we don’t find reason to kill each other in the meantime, and just stay alive long enough to enjoy the benefits that is. I also want to encourage those who have found themselves entangled in the mess. This is not the end but the beginning. Hang in there. Take responsibility for your mistakes, and this too shall pass. We will all be the better for it.
Political will, expertise and resources are crucial in strengthening criminal justice systems and social services in order to reduce violence, crime corruption and poverty, but sadly all the laws and money in the world will make no difference if there are no visible consequences for criminals.
Micah 6:8 says: “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God…”
I remind myself here that too many of us who think we understand this, tend to spell justice ‘just us’ and seem to miss the full implication of these verses.