President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on leaders in government as well as the private sector to fight corruption and put the needs of South Africans first.
“We now know of powerful individuals who use positions of authority to plunder the resources of the people, threatening our economic sustainability and further impoverishing our people. We now know of businesspeople whose reckless and fraudulent actions eroded the savings of many ordinary people as well,” Ramaphosa said.
Delivering the 19th Annual Steve Biko Memorial Lecture at the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Pretoria on Friday, the President said corruption requires firm, decisive and united actions in order for it to be addressed.
Friday, 12 September 2018, marked the 41st anniversary of the death in detention of Stephen Bantu Biko at the hands of the apartheid regime.
“As we emerge from the corruption of apartheid, we are called upon to forge a new morality which places the interest of the people above the narrow and selfish interest of individual leaders. “Now in the 25th year of our democracy we must acknowledge with shame and regret that we have failed to live up to the standards of the selflessness of the leaders who came before us,” Ramaphosa said.
The President said commissions of inquiry, disciplinary hearings and criminal prosecutions are necessary instruments to tackle this scourge.
“We will not succeed unless we forge a new morality, we need leaders who serve with diligence and commitment seeking neither advantage nor undue reward for themselves,” he said.
The President encouraged South Africans to rise against the differences of colour, faith, creed and affiliation to pursue a common vision.
“We are therefore called upon to embark on an extensive programme of fundamental redistribution that will close the gap between those who have and those who do not have, between white and black and men and women and between rural and urban,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa urged South Africans who have become so well-endowed to reach out to those who are still right at the bottom.
“Whether we are talking about land, whether we are talking about opportunity, this is a moment that is called for people to act in solidarity. “Inequality severely constraints our ability as a country to realise our potential, it limits our growth, perpetuates hardships and promotes instability,” the President said.
South Africans must also work together to eradicate all forms and manifestations of patriarchy. Women have for centuries bore the brunt of discrimination and oppression that is imposed by the traditions, practices and institutions of the society in which they are born in.
“The struggle against patriarchy is, therefore, a struggle against social norms, the attitudes and the thoughts that embolden men and enfeeble women,” Ramaphosa said.
Even as South Africa defeated apartheid, built a democratic state, the psychological and physical vestiges of institutionalised racism still persist to this day.
“Even today we observe in ways both subtle and crude some who have a sense of entitlement and a dose of arrogance but in some circles, we also observe black submission. “It is our responsibility to confront deeply embedded feelings of inferiority that manifest in submission and also deal with the superiority that is expressed in supremacy,” he said.
The President said South Africa’s continued quest also requires an end to poverty.
“No society can be free as long as any member is denied the basics of food, shelter, water, security and work. “When poverty is so widespread, when it is so deeply embedded in the structure of society, when it has existed for so long, as any of us can remember then there is a real danger that we learn to live with it, we learn to accept it and we find it acceptable and regard it as part of our existence,” he said.
The President said the country should not and cannot accept that poverty is an inevitable feature of the human condition.