University of the Free State: UFS announces winners in Student Essay Writing Competition on Corruption

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Corruption is now widespread in South Africa and if not addressed it presents the biggest challenge to the country’s socioeconomic development. The current circumstances in South Africa dictate that reform is urgently required to bolster the country’s vulnerable culture of respect for human rights and boost confidence in its governance and economic prospects.

The University of the Free State (UFS) recently announced the winners of its Student Essay Writing Competition on Corruption. The announcement was made at the UFS’s Bloemfontein Campus.

“The UFS stands against corruption. It recognises that corruption erodes the social fabric, misdirects and misuses limited resources, and ultimately limits national development. In light of this, a call to all registered postgraduate and final-year undergraduate students in all disciplines for essays that offer unique thoughts on corruption and how it can be combated was put out earlier this year,” said Prof Francis Petersen, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, who also initiated the competition.

Judge Dennis Davis, former Judge President of the Competition Appeal Court and 2022 UFS honorary degree recipient, was present at the awards ceremony and commended the diversity of students and the varied views they contributed to the corruption conversation. “In a country like South Africa, whether we are going to have a substantive democracy or not depends on us,” he said. “From 1994 those of you who are much younger than me are owed something much better. You are owed a society which is based on freedom, dignity and equality, and you have not got that, and that’s disgraceful. One of the reasons you haven’t got it is because the money which goes to uplift people goes to reign-seekers and corrupt people.”

Stefanie Fick, Executive Director of the Accountability Division of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), echoed Judge Davis in stating that the winners are the ones who will take the baton on in the fight against corruption.

Combating corruption

The main theme of the competition was ‘Combating corruption in South Africa’. Issues that could have been covered included: understanding of corruption; why corruption is a challenge in South Africa; responses to corruption nationally; and how universities, and in particular the UFS, could respond effectively to corruption. A total of 106 entries were received.

Marize Meyer, a BCom Honours student in management accounting, was named the winner in the postgraduate category. Artvilla Dakamela, who studies BCom Accounting, was named the winner in the undergraduate category.

Growth through the process

Meyer, who won a cash prize of R30 000, said the competition equipped her with valuable information which she plans to apply in her accounting career. “One of the speakers said that all of us are affected by corruption, so the corruption fight starts with each of us. That is something I will remember every day.”

Dakamela, who intends to pursue either a BCom Honours in Accounting or a Postgraduate Diploma in General Accountancy, said winning a cash prize of R20 000 has contributed to his financial freedom. “I’m now some steps closer to not worrying about my postgraduate fees. I am greatly encouraged by the win, to do more.”

Dakamela believes corruption can be compared to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). “The virus cannot be cured, but with consistent treatment, the virus can be managed. This is why South Africa needs a committed anti-corruption agency that will be free from political interference.”

A collective effort

Prof John Mubangizi, Dean of the UFS Faculty of Law, remarked on the importance of unity: “Fighting corruption is not something that you do as an individual or as one institution. It’s a collective effort.”

The winners of the second and third categories also shared valuable insight on how to tackle corruption. The second prize in the postgraduate category was awarded to Marc Smith, a PhD student in philosophy, and Phozia Jansen, a master’s student in dietetics and nutrition won the third prize. In the undergraduate category, Lerato Pitso, a BSocSc student majoring in sociology and criminology received the second prize, and Xolisile Sithole, who’s studying BCom Economics, received the third prize. All winners will be receiving a cash award for their entries.

Building a better South Africa together

The competition was presented in partnership with the following anti-corruption organisations: Corruption Watch, Accountability Now, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC). The evaluation of the essays was completed by both an internal and an external panel of adjudicators. The internal panel aimed to identify the best essays in each category, while the external panel, consisting of representatives of the partner organisations, ranked the essays.

“We are delighted that we had an opportunity to garner the minds of our students on how to combat corruption in this writing competition. The submissions were of a high standard and required an adjudication process that could assess the submissions received,” Prof Petersen said.

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