SEVERAL thousand people joined marches in three of South Africa’s main cities on Wednesday to protest corruption in the continent’s most-industrialised economy.
More than 350 civic-rights groups, religious organisations and labour unions backed the demonstrations in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban, the first action in what organisers said will be a sustained campaign to stamp out graft.
“The corruption that is spreading its tentacles across our society is entrenching inequality,” Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba told a crowd of more than 2,000 who demonstrated in the rain outside Parliament in Cape Town. “Our country needs to be morally disinfected.”
While the African National Congress won 62% of the national vote in last year’s elections, its critics accuse President Jacob Zuma and his government of being complicit in corruption. State entities wasted 1.17 billion rand ($85 million) in the year through March last year and incurred 33.6 billion rand in irregular expenditure, according to the nation’s Auditor-General.
On Sept. 28, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Hitachi Ltd. had agreed to pay $19 million to settle charges that it inaccurately reported “improper payments” channeled to the ANC, to help it win contracts from state power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. The ANC denied any wrongdoing.
“It doesn’t seem like the march will be a political game- changer,” Daryl Glaser, a politics professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, said by phone from Johannesburg. “The ANC will be able to draw some short-term comfort from that. A more significant test will be the local government elections that will take place next year.”
The protesters’ demands include that political party funding be made transparent, the Auditor-General conduct regular lifestyle audits of senior public officials, public servants wear name tags when on duty and anti-corruption laws be strengthened. Another protest has been scheduled for Oct. 14.