Corruption Watch (CW) has been at the forefront of the fight against corruption in South Africa since its launch in January 2012. It was established in response to the growing levels of corruption in South Africa and aims to provide a platform for the public to engage and report on their own experiences of corruption as a way of holding the corrupt to account. CW is an initiative of several concerned citizens representing civil society, and the public and private sectors, and its establishment was boosted by support from the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Office of the Public Protector, among others.
CW is committed to fighting corruption in South Africa, and helping to create a corruption-free society. Operating from Johannesburg, CW conducts its work in a spirit of integrity, transparency, openness, and accountability, and in co-operation with a diverse array of organisations and individuals, thereby ensuring that every segment of society affected by corruption is represented.
CW’s vision is to ensure that the custodians of public resources, and their private sector partners, act responsibly to advance the interests of the public, and that the opportunities for entering into corrupt relationships are significantly reduced.
The primary objective, therefore, is to encourage and enable active public participation in combating corruption. By shining a light on corruption and those who act corruptly, CW believes that it promotes transparency and accountability, and protects the beneficiaries of public goods and services.
CW is an accredited chapter for Transparency International (TI), a global movement that seeks to stop corruption and promote transparency, accountability and integrity at all levels and across all sectors of society. The status of accredited national chapter means that CW is now part of TI’s network of just under 100 countries and is TI’s official reference point in South Africa.
The effects of corruption are manifold. Corruption weakens institutions, criminalises individuals and undermines social solidarity. There is widespread consensus, from the likes of Kofi Annan to Pierre de Vos, that corruption undermines the democratic ethos, the institutions of democracy, and the rule of law, and in so doing impedes the capacity of the state to fulfil its obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Corruption is ultimately a human rights issue; the diversion of funds intended for development and the government’s inability to provide basic services perpetuates the inequality that lies at the heart of our society and its challenges.
How does it work?
CW owes its effectiveness to its model of relying on the public to report corruption to its team members, who then use the reports as an important source of information to fight corruption and hold leaders accountable for their actions. As of June 2018, the organisation had received over 24 000 reports of alleged corruption from across South Africa.
Communication – CW provides a platform for reporting corruption for anyone to share their experiences and speak out against corruption safely. Its communication channels include a website, corruption hotline (0800 023 456 – toll-free from landlines), WhatsApp number (072 013 5569), SMS “call me” service (44 666), social media, e-mail or post.
Investigation – the CW team investigates selected reports of alleged acts of corruption, in particular those cases that have the most serious impact on society – for instance, those involving basic health or education services, which affect the most disadvantaged South Africans. These findings are handed over to the relevant authorities to take further action, and the progress of each case is monitored. The team works with mainstream and community media to make sure that corruption is fully exposed through its investigative work.
Research – CW gathers and analyses information to identify patterns and hotspots of corruption, preparing research reports on these hotspots to expose and find solutions to systemic corruption. These findings are also shared with the public, like-minded NGOs and public sector bodies, in multiple forums and spaces, with the aim of increasing collaboration and effectiveness.
Mobilisation – CW’s campaigns help to mobilise people to take a stand against corruption, and involve the public, community groups and other organisations such as trade unions.
Multi-faceted approach to fighting corruption – more than being an investigative agency, CW is an advocacy organisation. Much of its work is focused on policy and legislative work, litigation, public education, outreach programmes, campaigns, and raising the public’s awareness of corruption through events, materials, the media and coalition projects with other civil society organisations, e.g., Section27, Right2Know, Public Affairs Research Institute, and others.
It is only through a concerted effort that we will make any progress in the fight against corruption. This means that the public must be knowledgeable about the various forms that corruption takes, their rights when it comes to not engaging in corruption, and the different agencies where they can report corruption. CW plays a crucial role in raising that public awareness.
However, the challenges are significant. Impunity and lack of consequences for corrupt actions means that there is no deterrent to would-be and existing wrongdoers. This situation has been so long in existence that there is a real danger of corruption having become so systemic that it merely changes face as political power shifts. Furthermore, the constant jockeying for political power makes collaboration difficult.
Funding continues to be a challenge for NGOs around the world, but through the generous donations from members of the public, CW is able to supplement its regular funding, sustain its anti-corruption programmes, and continues its mission of reducing corruption in South Africa.
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