Max Price.  Picture: HETTY ZANTMAN
Max Price. Picture: HETTY ZANTMAN

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has joined the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in adding to the chorus criticising President Jacob Zuma’s government.

In a statement on Tuesday‚ UCT’s vice-chancellor, Max Price, said he‚ together with senior leadership of the institution‚ believed that the country’s political system was facing its most serious crisis since 1994.

"A crisis that will eventually result in the most devastating consequences for the poor. We are no longer confident that the state is acting in the best interests of society‚" Price said.

The university’s senior leadership includes Price‚ deputy vice-chancellors‚ deans and executive directors.

“Corruption within state structures ... leads to the perversion of the very processes of democracy — the electoral systems and mechanisms through which government is held accountable.”

Since 2016, UCT council chairperson Sipho Pityana has been at the forefront of a group calling for Zuma to stand down‚ using his organisation, Save SA.

Price’s letter comes less than two weeks after Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet and fired popular finance minister Pravin Gordhan and deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.

The aftermath of his decision has resulted in the country’s sovereign credit rating being downgraded to junk status, and massive protests demanding that Zuma step down as the country’s president.

"The State of Capture report by the highly respected Office of the Public Protector suggests that some in the state are illegitimately influenced by considerations of personal interest or enrichment of public officials‚ private businesses and foreign governments‚" wrote Price.

He said the capture of state structures will lead to the devastation of SA.

Price said corrupt leaders had gone to great lengths to protect their access to state coffers. They had gone as far as interfering with agencies such as the South African Revenue Service.

"Corruption within state structures‚ furthermore‚ leads to the perversion of the very processes of democracy — the electoral systems and mechanisms through which government is held accountable‚" he said.

He called on all leaders from different sectors to promote constitutional values and act in the best interest of South Africans.

"We encourage individual staff and students who support this call to become involved in finding solutions to these great challenges facing our country‚ and to exercise their rights and responsibilities as active citizens to bring about positive change‚" he added.

“...We are no longer confident that the state is acting in the best interests of society.”

Last week, Wits said developments over the past few years in SA had exposed grave concerns in the trajectory "our governance has taken and which has led to an increasing breakdown of trust and confidence in the leadership of the country".

"It is widely acknowledged that corruption has emerged as an endemic and insidious threat to the integrity of the state and thus to our democracy," the executive committee of convocation said in a statement.

"The scale of the threat and the level it has reached are apparent in the public protector’s State Capture report, which found evidence of improper influence, patronage, conflicts of interest, and outright corruption."

"The impact of corruption is felt throughout our system and is increasingly destabilising our society, threatens economic development, hampers service delivery, and undermines our public institutions, security agencies, and the rule of law.

"Corruption is corrosive to the very fabric of society as it undermines confidence citizens have in the honesty and ethical integrity of our system of governance.

The statement added: "The public are entitled to be reassured that the state acts in the interest of society and is not unduly influenced by considerations of personal interest or enrichment. Citizens must have confidence in the integrity and good faith of our state and government institutions and democratic processes."

The Wits convocation called on the university to take a public stand on the issue of corruption, to assert its role as a forum for debate and discussion on matters of national interest and importance, and to enable staff, students and alumni the opportunity to participate in peaceful and orderly protest action aimed at addressing corruption.

TMG Digital/Business Day

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