South Africa may have new political leaders, but the fight continues to end what Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has called “one of the most trust corroding episodes of the past eight years here in South Africa.”

“The only way to sanctify our belief in a new South Africa is to shower off the dirt of corruption,” the archbishop said in an address to accounting faculty and students at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

The country’s accounting firms need to “take a step back before they take their next step forward. They have shattered this country’s trust in them,” he said.

Professional ethics is “the bedrock of the accountancy profession,” he said. “Ethical behavior in business is fundamental for public trust and confidence. We in my church have had to embark on a process of similar self-examination recently, so I know it is not easy.

“If we cannot trust our accounting firms and chartered accountants, how can we trust the promises, decisions, and actions of the government agencies and ministries they audit? And if we cannot trust our South African companies, what then?” he asked.

Distrust “is like a stain,” he said. “It gets on the walls. It gets in your wallpaper. It gets in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally into you.

“No one has more opportunity to shape tomorrow’s South Africa than you,” he told his audience of accountants. South Africa is entering a “new struggle” that begins “with the rational and emotional acceptance that, after 20 years of democracy, we need to regain our moral compass.”

John Martin

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