BNC#6: Wayne Duvenage – Leading the charge against corruption in SA

OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage delivered an impassioned keynote speech at BNC#6 in Hermanus, highlighting the power of civil society in challenging corruption. He emphasised the need for co-governance, coalition governments, and active citizen participation to address critical issues like the failed E-toll scheme and the challenges facing cities like Johannesburg. Duvenage urged corporate South Africa to invest in communities and support civil activism, emphasising that constructive action is key to fixing the country’s problems.

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An edited transcript of the keynote address delivered by Wayne Duvenage at BNC#6 in Hermanus ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Well done to you, Alec and the BizNews team. It’s been a great couple of days. It’s left me more optimistic. We work in an environment where I get asked a lot about how to stay sane. Like any business, if there’s no shortage of work, there isn’t any shortage when tackling corruption in South Africa. Dealing with the onslaught is our biggest challenge and frustration. We have to turn away many projects and multi-billion-rand corruption deals due to a lack of resources, teams, and people. Let me spend a few minutes telling you why we do what we do and how.

We’re a team of 42 staff and built a model slightly different from typical NGOs. We wanted to make the government realize civil society can stand up and win, and make civil society realize its power. We took on the challenge of challenging the irrational e-toll decision to show civil society’s strength. We didn’t oppose electronic tolling or the user-pays principle; we challenged a scheme we knew would fail due to corruption. After engaging for a year without success, we used the rule of law to challenge it legally, interdicting the launch and changing the narrative.

Read more: BNC#6: Frans Cronje – A hopeful outlook on South Africa post-election’24

The government has a lawfare strategy to wear down civil society. They leaned on supporters and businesses to fund our case. We learned about legal costs and had to build cases quickly. Despite challenges, we persevered, using a lawfare strategy and anti-propaganda to drive the narrative. Communication, social media, and media writing are crucial to getting the story right.

We built our legal team to move fast and interdict deals like the BNP capital deal. We stopped the E-toll scheme in 2014 due to its flaws and corruption. The ANC’s corruption is a major challenge, feeding off corrupt deals. We need to change how things are done in South Africa, focusing on co-governance and coalition governments. Coalition governments can work well if managed properly.

The failure of big cities like Johannesburg is a serious problem. We must address the two worlds in one country issue. Cape independence is not a viable solution; unity is crucial. We must build a resilient civil society, involve citizens smartly using the rule of law, and demand accountability from the government. Tax revolts are a last resort at the local level.

We need to empower communities to take action, fix issues, demand transparency, and participate in governance. Corporate South Africa’s involvement is crucial in investing in communities and civil activism. Civil society has stopped many corrupt deals and must continue its work constructively. We can fix this country by getting involved and supporting good causes.

Thank you very much.

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*The above transcript has been condensed and paraphrased for brevity and clarity, and may not capture the full context or nuances of the original speech delivered by Wayne Duvenage at the Biznews conference, BNC#6.