Busisiwe Mavuso | What we do after state capture report will map out SA’s future
POSTED ON: February 4, 2022 IN by Admin
The actions we take after Judge Raymond Zondo’s final report into state capture is released at the end of this month will determine what kind of country we will be in the future. This is an important point in our history.
There are two streams of recommendations in Judge Zondo’s reports, to prosecute those implicated and to set up structures and processes aimed at preventing corruption in the future. Both are equally important.
On the latter, BLSA fully supports Judge Zondo’s latest recommendation that senior appointments at state-owned enterprises (SOEs) – which were at the heart of state capture – cannot be left in the hands of politicians and that an independent body be set up to execute this function.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s stated aim is to transform each one of our SOEs into financially independent entities. This is proving extremely difficult because the ravages of state capture left most SOEs debt-ridden and gutted of competent personnel in critical areas. In many cases, key executives were appointed by the Gupta family through politicians they controlled and their key performance indicator was finding ways to channel more money to their network of companies. So we see Judge Zondo recommend that Jacob Zuma, Malusi Gigaba, Brian Molefe, Anoj Singh and Siyabonga Gama be investigated with a view to possibly prosecute on charges of corruption and racketeering, among others
Unfortunately, large-scale corruption has continued to flourish post the state capture era. A depressing reminder of that came in the final report of the Special Investigating Unit following its investigation into fraud linked to Covid-19 tenders. It found 62% of the procurement was irregular with investigations into R14bn worth of contracts. Those numbers are sickening.
We need to heed the judge’s recommendations and use them as a blueprint for the future.
Ensuring that SOE executives are selected through an independent process will have the added benefit of ensuring people are hired based on their qualifications, experience and competence, not their political affiliation. That will also improve productivity as well as the quality of service that those SOEs are mandated to provide.
We’re witnessing a perfect example of how effective a rigorous and transparent selection process is with the Judicial Services Commission (JSC)’s search for a Chief Justice. This appointment is the president’s prerogative but the Constitution stipulates that the president must consult the JSC and leaders of political parties in Parliament. President Cyril Ramaphosa went further by inviting public nominations and setting up a panel to short-list three to five candidates “in an open, transparent and expeditious manner”. Those who made the short list were being interviewed this week and we’re witnessing it live on television.
The strength of our judiciary is no accident. There are many reasons for it but the rigorous selection process is an important plank in the foundation of the system. The transparency is particularly important: corruption thrives in dark, murky environments and there is no reason not to adapt that process for all state institutions.
Independently selecting SOE executives as well as the recommendations from the first report will help to steer South Africa on the right path in future. These include the establishment of an independent public procurement anti-corruption agency including a council, inspectorate, litigation unit, tribunal and court. Part of its mandate would be to police government tender processes.
Those measures will set the country on the right path but to completely close the door on a repugnant period of rife corruption in which we’re still embroiled, we need to follow up on Judge Zondo’s other set of recommendations to prosecute those implicated.
Much of the evidence of state capture was in the public domain even before the Zondo Commission sat, thanks to the excellent investigative journalists in this country and the notorious “e-mail dump” of Gupta-company communications into the public sphere. Given that, it’s disheartening that Judge Zondo himself felt cause to reprimand the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for tardiness in prosecutions. In his first report he wrote that “the extent of the NPA’s failure can be measured by reference to the almost complete absence of cases brought under the legislation applicable to crimes of this sort” and said this amounted to a “fundamental failure of a sovereign state function”.
The NPA as well as the Hawks were, of course, deeply ensnared in the state capture network – which Judge Zondo acknowledges – and is another state institution still grappling with the consequences.
Whatever the reasons, the reality is that the NPA does not have the resources to cope with the “avalanche” of cases, as Shamila Batohi, the national director of public prosecutions, told Parliament last year. It has been receiving offers of assistance and support from numerous organisations including BLSA. I hope there are ways it can accept assistance where required without compromising the organisation’s independence.
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