In philosophical, theological, moral and legal discussions, corruption is the abuse of bestowed power or dishonest behavior by those in positions of power to acquire a personal benefit, such as managers. Corruption can include giving or accepting bribes or inappropriate gifts, double dealings, under-the-table transaction, diverting funds, laundering money and defrauding investors. Engaging in corrupt behavior could result in job loss and revocation of a professional designation. Other penalties for being guilty of corruption include fines, imprisonment and a damaged reputation.
In this article I will briefly deal with the issue arising from three cases that I refer to hereafter, namely:
• Seriousness of corruption;
The case of S v Kelly  4 All SA 144 (SCA) has relevance. This is a case of bribery and corruption. The appellant was appointed head of what was described as “the procurement division” of the company, and in this capacity he became responsible for all purchases, the expediting of materials and for inspections. The purchasers who were under him, negotiated with subcontractors, sent out invitations to tender and drew up a bid-analysis which was referred to him. He would, on occasion, be consulted by the purchasers on tenders submitted and would, in some cases, play a major role in the appointment of sub-contractors.
The appellant unashamedly admitted that he had placed Ravco on the tender list, that the company then obtained a profitable contract and that he thereafter received ‘a gift’. When asked whether he did not feel it wrong to accept this handsome gift, he replied ‘I did not feel that it was correct’. One of the noteworthy statements that Botha AJA made was the following:
– Bribing has been described by this Court as a corrupt and ugly offence.
In the business world it undermines integrity for the temptations offered are often, as in this case, great. It is an insidious crime which is difficult to detect and more difficult to eradicate. It can, if unchecked or inadequately punished by the courts, have a demoralizing effect on business standards and fair trading.
In the case of S v Narker and Another  2 All SA 132 (A) the court emphasized that bribery is a corrupt and ugly offence striking cancerously at the roots of justice and integrity, and it is calculated to deprive society of a fair administration.
The Constitutional Court in South African Association of Personal Injury Lawyers v Health and Others 2001 (1) BCLR 77 (CC) said the following:
“Corruption and maladministration are inconsistent with the rule of law and the fundamental values of our Constitution. They undermine the constitutional commitment to human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. They are the antithesis of the open, accountable, democratic government required by the Constitution. If allowed to go unchecked and unpunished it will pose a serious threat to our democratic State.”
The seriousness of the offence of corruption cannot be overemphasized. It offends against the rule of law and the principles of good governance. It lowers the moral tone of a nation and negatively affects development and the promotion of human rights. Corruption is an intractable problem and it threatens our constitutional order. Honest and dedicated persons in public life could be the most important prescriptions to combat corruption. Corruption has a corrosive impact on our economy and it worsens our image in international market.
By: Richard Mokhele (LLB) – Honey Attorneys