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Madonsela: SA’s corruption is driven by ‘gangster mentality’ and emerging ‘gangster culture’

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela says South Africa's corruption is driven by 'gangster mentality'. File photo.
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela says South Africa's corruption is driven by 'gangster mentality'. File photo.
Image: SUNDAY TIMES/ ESA ALEXANDER

Former public protector and law professor at Stellenbosch University, Thuli Madonsela, says South Africa's corruption is driven by “gangster culture”.

Madonsela was speaking at the Pavocat-Stellenbosch Academy Counter-Corruption Summit this week. 

She said to fight corruption, the country needs to move away from the emerging gangster culture.

Of the systemic things that come together to create a corrupt world, among those is the gangster culture. That's one thing I came across as a protector, there's a gangster mentality globally

“Of the systemic things that come together to create a corrupt world, among those is the gangster culture. That's one thing I came across as a protector, there's a gangster mentality globally and I can see that mentality primarily in America and SA.

“I started seeing it as public protector in 2010 and I wrote about it, spoke about it on a platform like this and I said to the governing party, which was my former party: 'We're not the mafia. You can't tell me don't touch family'.”

Madonsela said there would be no progress in fighting corruption if people kept making excuses for "family. 

“If in combating corruption we say we're going to touch some people but some people are family. In SA the emerging culture has been introduced by Bell Pottinger. Family means black, so imagine if in SA I was never to touch any black person and we are the majority government, could we ever make any progress against corruption?

“Then they say don't touch women, so you can't touch black people and you can't touch women.”

Madonsela recently reiterated her call for SA to consider amnesty for individuals who played a small role in enabling state capture.

This would enable more people to speak up, knowing they would not face dire consequences.

“The only way you can cut the tentacles of the monster that is corruption is to make sure everyone who has been involved in the syndicate is accounted for and those who are small role players are given some form of amnesty.

“I’m not asking for amnesty for the big guys, I’m asking for amnesty for the finance clerk, the HR clerk, the supply chain managers, the ordinary foot soldiers. I don’t think we will lose much if we give amnesty to the foot soldiers of corruption,” she told eNCA  

Previously, Madonsela said SA should consider lowering the consequences for corrupt people who played a “minimal but critical” role in the act.

Speaking on SAfm, she said her thoughts were based on two things.

“The one is from what is happening at the state capture inquiry. The information has been trickling in very slowly and the picture emerging is not always complete, which means the inquiry has to do the digging. There aren't enough implicated people coming forward.

“The second reason is, I met a former colleague who now works at Harvard University. I met him at the World Bank years ago and he had worked as mayor in Bolivia. He found that sometimes you have to let go of certain things and give people some kind of amnesty,” she said.


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