The Justice & Peace: Bryanston Catholic Church (J&P) hosted its inaugural public lecture on the 14th of November 2017 in the Emmaus Centre. The topic of the evening was, ‘Resisting Corruption’ presented by Wayne Duvenage of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).
The theme for the lecture was based on recent observations that most South Africans believe that tackling corruption should be a national priority. This belief is evidenced by the nations insatiable appetite for information pertaining to State Capture, the Gupta links, the KPMG and Mckinsey scandals, as well as the growing literature on state capture i.e the President’s Keepers by Jacque Pauw.
Even though South Africa has a number of well established private and public sector agencies that have a particular legal and policy oversight role to combat corruption the perception remains that the battle against corruption is far from being won.
OUTA is a civil society organization that is at the fore of fighting corruption. Those who attended the lecture were pleasantly surprised to learn that their focus areas are not limited to corruption in the transport sector (ETolls). OUTA also focuses on corruption based on irregular expenditure related to the governments nuclear project, ESKOM and PRASA. It was illuminating to learn that OUTA will look to broaden its focus in 2018 to look into private sector corruption. Attendees noted that this change in focus has been prompted by the number of growing reports that have exposed private sector entities such as KPMG that have thrived on state misappropriation of billions of rands that could have been used to attend to ever present education, health, infrastructure and security needs throughout South Africa.
As Wayne Duvenage put it during his lecture, in order to tackle corruption civil society and all opposed to corruption must collectively pursue the people involved in corruption. This approach coupled with the deeply held principle that corruption is inherently wrong and inequitable are behind the civil litigation that OUTA is involved in.
J&P is part of the Justice and Peace community of the Catholic Church that forms a part of the Justice & Peace Commission established shortly after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) by Pope John XXII in order to ensure that Church plays a more active role in the world. It is notable that the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) was one of the first Bishops Conferences in the world to establish a Justice & Peace department in 1967.
It is against this backdrop that the J&P recognizes that even though we all don’t belong to civil society formations such as OUTA, we still belong to the citizenry of this country and bear a duty to it to ensure that we make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable, notably the poor, elderly and children to whom corruption places a greater burden on.
The question therefore arises, how can we as Catholics help end corruption? How can we become the modern day activists this country sorely needs? James 2: 14-26 teaches us that “Faith without works is dead.” We cannot simply have faith that corruption will end, we need to actively bring about its demise.
The revelation of private sector involvement in state corruption is proof that corruption is to be found not only in state departments but also in boardrooms across the country. As parishioners we must do our part to end it. J&P suggests that parishioners should volunteer and where they can financially support civil society entities such as OUTA(www.outa.co.za) or join us in prayer every Friday until mid December 2017 where we pray for God to intervene in the current political and economic situation in South Africa.
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