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Mbeki pushes ahead with anti-corruption campaign

[South Africa] President Thabo Mbeki ANC
South African President Thabo Mbeki
South African President Thabo Mbeki has come out strongly against political opportunism in the African National Congress (ANC), saying ruling party members should remain vigilant against individuals seeking office for financial gain. Mbeki's rebuke - made in his weekly letter on the ANC website - came as the country gears up for local government polls. "... some of the people who are competing to win nomination as our candidate local government councillors are obviously seeking support on the basis that, once they are elected to positions of power they will have access to material resources and the possibility to dispense patronage," he observed. He warned that if this "self-seeking spirit" went unchecked it "would guarantee both the destruction of the ANC and the rest of the progressive movement". Mbeki's strong anti-corruption stance has arguably won him as many friends as enemies. His most difficult test came when his former deputy-president, Jacob Zuma, was implicated in a high-profile fraud trial. Mbeki moved swiftly to dismiss Zuma, despite a storm of grassroots criticism and the risk of alienating ANC stalwarts, many of whom are Zuma supporters. He has further vowed to clean up local government ahead of elections and the campaign has already claimed its first casualty. The mayor of Mangaung city in Free State province, Papi Mokoena, was fired from his post on Tuesday after investigations into tender irregularities amounting to R150 million (US $). Mokoena's axing came two days after Mbeki told a meeting of local officials that the government would rather destabilise municipalities by getting rid of corrupt officials than allow them to remain in office. Despite growing evidence of the political will to stamp out graft, South Africa has - at least in the minds of the private sector and analysts - an uphill journey ahead before it can claim a clean bill of health. Transparency International (TI) this week announced that the country's score on a global corruption perception index had dropped from 4.6 last year to 4.5 out of a perfect 10, but retained its rank of 46th in the world, although the pool of countries measured increased from 146 to 159. The index reflects the corruption perceptions of resident and non-resident business people and country analysts. South Africa was ranked third among African countries perceived to be least corrupt, trumped by Tunisia in second place with 4.9 and Botswana in first position with 5.9. Sectors in South Africa with the highest risk included construction, energy and arms supply. However, Public Service Commission chairman Stan Sangweni expressed concern over the methodology used in compiling the index. "Too much weight is given to the perceptions of businesses and analysts without any clear justification of why these two sectors were chosen. Research and previous surveys have shown that, in some cases, it is these very businesses who are involved in bribery and corruption. As far as 'analysts' are concerned, it is a well-known that these individuals are not necessarily impartial," he told IRIN. Sangweni questioned the usefulness of the index, as it did not specify where South Africa was falling short. "We welcome criticism, as long as it helps us chart the way forward. It is not news to the government that corruption is a problem, especially at the local level, but we would have benefited from tangible insight rather than a scoring chart," he commented.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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