Unite Against Corruption demands change everywhere
The organiser’s of Wednesday’s anti-corruption marches have a laundry list of demands that seek changes in every sphere of government, and even from the public protector.
When groups of protesters arrive outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria (in punishing heat) and outside Parliament in Cape Town (possibly somewhat wetter for wear) on Wednesday, they will come brandishing a list of 33 demands spread across eight categories.
Some of the demands, released for the first time on Monday by Unite Against Corruption (UAC), are too vague to measure even if they could be implemented. Others are simple enough to act on within days, if anyone cares to do so.
But the list of demands addressed to President Jacob Zuma and the Business Unity South Africa formation makes it quite clear that UAC has little faith in any segment of government, and wants big changes in the way everyone from Parliament to the public protector go about their jobs.
Some of those institutions may not be entirely enamoured by the bluntness of the demands.
UAC on Monday said it was hoping for tens of thousands of protesters at the two primary marches, rather than the hundreds of thousands it had openly talked about previously and the up to a million it had not-so-secretly wished for.
The downgrade is because of what the organisations formally called an “undemocratic manoeuvre” by Nedlac, the body that gave UAC supporters the right to go on a protected strike, but not in time for Wednesday’s marches.
Not everyone was so diplomatic.
“We are just being sabotaged and we are not surprised,” said Irvin Jim, leader of metalworkers union Numsa.
A delay in Nedlac authorisation means workers who attend the marches without leave from their employers would face disciplinary action and Jim pointed to the likes of the SA Communist Party and Cosatu – both ANC alliance partners – as the underlying reason that happened.
As a result of the delayed authorisation the unions involved, of which Numsa is by far the largest, have called for only those workers who are free, say because they work nights, to join in.
So the number of people who will walk three kilometres in Pretoria, at midday, in temperatures predicted to hit the mid-30s, will be much reduced. So will those due to walk around a kilometre in the Cape Town city centre, amid a high likelihood of a drizzle.
Their list of demands, however, will be substantial, and occasionally tricky.
The UAC demands calls for “a collective body on which civil society is represented” to appoint the top leaders of the police and the National Prosecuting Authority, appointments currently in the hands of the president in co-operation with Parliament.
That would leave the President and legislature responsible for the results (or lack thereof) of police and prosecutors, but without the final say in who oversees the policing and prosecuting.
The demands call for criminal prosecution of “public contempt” of the public protector, a power Thuli Madonsela has at her disposal but steadfastly has refused to exercise for fear of stifling debate.
The demands likewise want criminal prosecution for the “vilification of the public protector”. In recent weeks the ANC has been lauded for its commitment to remove criminal defamation – or the act of publicly vilifying someone – from the statute books, as it is generally agreed to be a threat to democracy.
If UAC has its way changes for the courts would come by way of a call for corruption and tender fraud to be “fast-tracked through the commercial courts and convictions with jail terms secured”, problematic for both the implied prioritisation of white-collar crime and because the judiciary is typical loath to rush any matter with the potential for jail time.
The demands also include a call for the end of corruption in ten different areas of government, from water to immigration, as well as “corruption by companies”, and for party political funding to be made “transparent and public”.
More practically, the list of demands include that civil servants should wear name tags, and that special courts be established to deal with disputes in requests in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, the primary means through which information of all kinds forced out of the state and private organisations.