Speak truth to power urges Corruption Watch head

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The problems faced by South Africa are complex, and the role played by everyday people is crucial in solving them. This was Corruption Watch Executive Director David Lewis’s message on accepting the Glenmorangie Signet Humanitarian Award on behalf of the organisation.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Sep 12, 2019

“We have a huge number of intractable problems in this country,” said Lewis. “Our economic problems, poverty, and corruption are all long-standing and seriously difficult issues. One of the reasons is because they need public involvement. That’s you.

“I believe we can solve these problems largely through the people who report corruption to us. These are extraordinary and brave people, often with plenty to lose. I don’t mean money – I mean life. People put themselves at serious risk, often not for any personal gain but just because they’re outraged by injustice.”

Lewis said that we need to appreciate the magnitude of the problems we face if we are to solve them, no matter who we are. “We try not to think in terms of optimism or pessimism, but of [our issues] as problems to be solved, and go about solving them without understating the difficulties involved.”

This isn’t always easy, as Corruption Watch receives almost 150 reports of corruption every week. However, Lewis stressed that he and his team are always ready to shine a light into dark places, and give a voice to those who would otherwise be silent about injustice in our country. He paid tribute to his team, some of whom were in attendance, and received hearty applause for their unwavering commitment to holding leadership to account.

“These are the people I take heart from,” Lewis said. “They have the particularly difficult task of making me live by my lofty ideals of social justice in my everyday dealings with people.”

Looking around the room, Lewis observed that there was much power present, saying that such power has the potential to be misused and abused if not channelled correctly.

“Such power is not always welcome, as it’s more often than not abused. But it can be put to positive use for the benefit of community and society. There’s individual power, institutional power, and community power here tonight. It all needs to be put to use in resolving the problems we find ourselves in.”

Lewis concluded, “We need to exercise power positively when we have the opportunity to do so. The power not only to condemn those in the community who have not lived up to its ideals, but the power to support those who do live up to them. This award is an indication that we have done what you, the community, want us to do.”

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