BUSISIWE MAVUSO: Government’s Zondo response leaves door ajar for cadre deployment

POSTED ON: November 15, 2022 IN by Admin
Zondo Zondo

By Busisiwe Mavuso

The world is looking to SA to provide a blueprint to combat entrenched corruption.

Business is heavily invested in the fight against corruption and BLSA is closely studying all aspects of Judge Raymond Zondo’s recommendations and government’s response to them.

We have to get this right. To have any chance of transforming our ailing economy into one that grows and creates jobs, the structures and processes we establish in response to Zondo’s recommendations need to be effective.

The world is also watching with interest – there has never been anything quite like the entire process of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector and its subsequent recommendations not only to prosecute those implicated but to establish structures to combat future corruption.

The Zondo commission’s final report, describes in detail how state capture became entrenched and explains the modus operandi of besmirching those who opposed it, driving them out of state institutions and replacing them with loyal lackeys. It shows how processes were subverted to enable billions to be syphoned out of state-owned institutions to companies controlled by the malignant Gupta family and their cronies. It also describes in detail how brazen Gavin Watson’s Bosasa was with its bribes to cabinet ministers and other senior officials to ensure state tenders went their way.

In a sense, the world is looking to South Africa to provide a blueprint to combat entrenched corruption. But for all the progress made so far – including the rising number of arrests over the past few months of senior SOE executives from those times – it will all be wasted should we not see things through this next important phase of establishing strong anti-corruption structures and entrenching constitutional democracy that upholds law and order.

In that context, BLSA believes government’s response to Zondo’s proposals, which President Cyril Ramaphosa submitted to parliament last month, are encouraging overall. In most areas it is closely aligned with Zondo’s recommendations but it is lacking in certain areas.

An important aspect that is aligned with Zondo is to establish a public procurement anti-corruption agency and an anti-state capture and corruption commission. The National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council has been tasked with developing its plan for such a structure by March 31 next year for public consultation.

But one area that BLSA is concerned about relates to the appointment of SOE executives and the governing party seems unable to pull the trigger on cadre deployment.

President Ramaphosa has largely met Zondo’s call to establish a Presidential State-Owned Enterprises Council (PSEC), which will have the sole discretion to appoint executive positions to SOEs, based on recommendations from the boards of SOEs.

But the Zondo commission also recommends the establishment of a standing appointment and oversight committee “tasked to ensure, by way of a public hearing, that any person nominated for a board appointment or senior executive position of an SOE meets the professional, reputational and eligibility requirements for such a position as well as to investigate and act upon any complaints received concerning the misconduct”.

Here the government’s response is weak, stating that provision will be made in a “guide for the appointment of persons to boards and chief executive officers of state-owned and state-controlled institutions” (to be finalised in 2023/34) for independent panels of relevant stakeholders and experts “to play a role” in nominating suitable candidates to the relevant minister.

This is a vague response that leaves the process open to manipulation and BLSA finds this alarming when combined with President Ramaphosa’s refusal to acknowledge the role that cadre deployment played in enabling state capture.

In its response, government diminishes the role of the “independent panels” and vests far too much authority in the relevant cabinet minister who will be able to reject the nominations and appoint the ANC-selected candidate, as happened repeatedly during the state capture era.

What is encouraging is that on October 19, Cabinet did adopt the National Framework Toward the Implementation of Professionalisation of the Public Sector, which states that “cadre deployment practices must be reconsidered for merit-based recruitment and selection in the public sector”.

But again, that falls short of outlawing the practice which was slammed by the Zondo Commission as a key driver of state capture and described as unconstitutional.

Government needs to tread carefully here; if it takes a half-hearted approach to the professionalisation of the state, it leaves the door open for a second wave of state capture, enabled by whichever party or coalition happens to be in power, which is a real threat as many of those implicated by Zondo or implicated in other corruption scandals are running for high office. We need to ensure their attempts to stay out of jail and return to the days of plunder are short-lived.

• Mavuso (@BusiMavuso2) is CEO of Business Leadership SA. This article first appeared in Business Day.

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