South Africa is in urgent need of ethical leadership in order to stop the recurring incidents of corruption across all sectors in the country. This was the view expressed by various industry leaders at the Graduate Institute of Financial Sciences (GIFS) breakfast session held in Sandton at the Maslow Hotel today. The unending and numerous reports of corruption and malfeasance in both the public and private sector require urgent measures to be taken to restore ethical leadership in the country.

There was a general consensus among delegates that corruption was denying citizens their much-need services, as resources were being channelled to individuals and groups who did not have their interests at heart. The focus of the session was corruption in the educational sector, which was undermining the country’s efforts to create a literate and economically active generation of young people.

Mr Wayne Duvenage, the CEO of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), said corruption in higher education was a fundamental problem. He said OUTA had unearthed a number of ghost learners, fake qualifications, and procurement irregularities in the higher education space. “It’s a tsunami of corruption out there  – even worse than what we have heard during the Zondo Commission,” he said.

Mr Duvenage blamed lack of political will to deal with corruption in South Africa. He said insufficient resources were allocated to law enforcement agencies to deal with corruption.

He said while whistle blowers were critical to exposing acts of corruption in both the private and public sector, they did not receive any moral support from government. Majority of whistle blowers have been sidelined and made pariahs of society, and sadly, some of them had been assassinated, he said.

Mr Duvenage urged all South Africans to wage war against corruption and unethical leadership. “We need to be active citizens, and not just mere taxpayers. As a collective, we can stop multibillion corrupt projects so that the country’s much-needed resources can be utilized for the benefit of all citizens,” he said. His call was also echoed by Ms Mpume Langa, the Managing Director of Maxim Industries Africa; and Mr Sibusiso Mahlangu, the CEO of Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership and Governance, who urged South Africans to exercise their democratic right to hold the government accountable. Ms Langa said South Africans were generally passive in nature and allowed the government to make all decisions on their behalf.

Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Deputy President of South Africa and former Executive Director of UN Women, emphasised the fact that ethical leadership was key to the success and prosperity of this country. She urged all leaders to relentlessly pursue ethical and good leadership in order to carry South Africa forward. She said: “Ethical leadership is about doing the right thing even when no one is watching you. Ethical leaders are able to live with their conscience because whatever they do is always legitimate and without any reproach. We therefore need an educational system that can nurture and develop a new generation of ethical leaders.”

Finally, the CEO of GIFS, Dr Kershen Pillay, also bemoaned the fact that ethical leadership in South Africa had declined so much, especially in the educational sector. He said pupils were dying in pit toilets because they did not have proper sanitation facilities. School infrastructure was in a constant state of decay, and nothing was being done to alleviate the problem – despite the billions of rands that had been pumped into this sector over the years.

He said: “Our educational system is facing rampant corruption, riddled with numerous tender irregularities, ghost learners and people with fake qualifications. However, as GIFS we are undeterred in our fight against unethical leadership and corruption. We refuse the future of South Africa to be stolen, and we will continue to speak out against and expose acts of corruption.”  The future of education required ethical leadership free of corruption, and GIFS was committed to securing a better future for the children of South Africa, he said.

Issued by Meropa Communications on behalf of GIFS.