BUSISIWE MAVUSO: Ramaphosa should use strong mandate to root out crime and graft

POSTED ON: January 31, 2023 IN by Admin
Ramaphosa Ramaphosa

By Busisiwe Mavuso

Patronage and corruption exist in other states too, so SA is not alone in having a crippled public service – but that is no excuse for complacency.

BLSA hopes that as President Cyril Ramaphosa won a second term as head of the ANC by a considerable margin, he is now in a position to meaningfully tackle the crime and corruption that is strangling our country.

In his state-of-the-nation address (Sona) on 9 February, he needs to weave anti-corruption policies into each priority action he announces for the year ahead. Organised crime is now one of the main threats to key public and private infrastructure and is proving a severe threat to the country’s efforts to reform our key energy and transport industries.

As part of the ANC’s January 8 statement commemorating the party’s 111th anniversary, the president issued a stern warning to those in the ANC who are involved in corrupt activities. He also called for the speedy implementation of the recommendations of Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and that those implicated by the commission in acts of corruption be investigated.

In his Sona, President Ramaphosa will need to show leadership when it comes to the energy crisis that is wreaking havoc across the economy and negatively affecting people’s livelihoods. Transnet’s challenges also need to be tackled head on, especially given the alarming news that coal exports have fallen to a 30-year low at Richards Bay terminal due mainly to cable theft and the low availability of locomotives. The fact that this is happening when coal prices are elevated adds to the opportunity cost that both corruption and our dysfunctional rail and ports system are costing us as a country.

Both Eskom and Transnet are perfect examples of how crime and corruption can suffocate development and drive an economy into the ground.

While corruption has dented our economic growth and eroded our people’s belief in the ability of our state to deliver positive change, the president has always made it clear that fighting back will not be easy or quick, given how many years it took for fraud and graft to become entrenched, but he now needs to accelerate government’s anti-corruption efforts. One of the ways he can do this is by making sure that his government is defined by ethical leaders who will serve the needs of all South Africans.

In the imminent cabinet reshuffle in particular, our president needs to choose leaders who are able to fulfil their portfolio’s mandates and help to transform our economy.

Business believes that South Africa needs a cabinet that will be able to drive urgent implementation across a broad range of areas and who have detailed knowledge of the complex issues we need to resolve. We also need ministers who recognise the importance of government working in a real partnership with business to improve investor sentiment and to get things done. And each cabinet minister needs to be accountable for eliminating corruption in their areas of responsibility.

The quality of SA’s public sector also needs to be urgently upgraded with all managers tasked with eliminating corruption in their departments. Chief Justice Zondo’s report highlighted cadre deployment in state-owned enterprises and departments where appointed leaders abused the public procurement processes and enabled state capture. Our public service must be staffed by qualified, skilled and honest people appointed on merit and experience and who are committed to upholding the values of our Constitution. Putting unscrupulous people who are not qualified into key positions inevitably leads to a lack of accountability and embezzlement.

Patronage and corruption exist in other states too, so South Africa is not alone in having a crippled public service – but that is no excuse for complacency. The extent of the rot in our public service is evidenced by the fact that at end June 2021 there were 305 public servants on suspension with full pay at a cost to the taxpayer of R131m, with national departments paying out R40.3m and provinces R90.7m.

In October last year, Cabinet approved the National Framework towards the Professionalisation of the Public Sector with the aim of ensuring “a responsive and professionalised public administration in the service of the people”. The Framework proposes several checks and balances when it comes to the appointment of senior officials. For example, the tenures of directors-general will be separated from electoral cycles while the Public Service Commission will be involved in selecting top officials.

In his Sona, the president will hopefully assure us that these plans will be implemented without further delay. It’s time for decisive action as no country can flourish when it is infested by corruption and malfeasance.

Business stands ready to work hard to support open, reform-minded ministers and public service officials to ensure reforms are implemented so that we can resolve our problems in energy and transport in particular and work towards the long-term aim of building an inclusive, growing economy that creates jobs.

• Mavuso is BLSA CEO. This article first appeared in Business Day.

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