There was consensus among the 33 organisations that President Cyril Ramaphosa has thus far disappointed in his handling of State Capture, but that he is in a unique position to empower the National Prosecuting Authority with resources to hold to account all those implicated in State Capture by arresting them and handing them orange overalls.
They called on Ramaphosa to remove all those implicated from their government positions, as they are disgusted that those who steal from the state continue to lurk in Parliament, municipalities, state-owned entities and law enforcement agencies. They perpetuate the “State Capture template” which more people can fit into and reproduce.
They were heeding the call from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation to support a demand issued in a sermon made by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at Christmas 2019. They met at St George’s Cathedral on Wednesday, 12 February.
Makgoba’s message was clear: 2020 must be the year of the orange overall. However, he urged that civil society must give the NPA the space to conduct its work to prepare watertight cases.
“As I said at Christmas, rushed and therefore botched prosecutions followed by widespread acquittals would be a disaster. It would send the wrong signals to the corrupt and plunge the country into despair,” he said in a statement read out to the rally.
Organisations took to the podium to voice their support for the call, but also to shed light on how State Capture links to the ills they tackle every day.
Equal Education lamented the missing money that should have been used to fix the deadly toilets creating trauma in so many schools. The organisation Moms Move for Justice decried the ailing justice system which is so inefficient that they cannot see justice for the murders of their sons caught in the crossfire of Cape Town’s gang wars.
Reclaim the City called for the collar and tie of government and the private sector to be exchanged for orange overalls for their role in exchanging prime inner-city land, ideal for much needed housing, for personal kicks.
Nadine Cloete, a filmmaker, voiced her frustration that the future of the youth was being stolen by the greed of those who are captured. OUTA pointed out that even VAT pays for State Capture. The Social Justice Coalition drew a direct line between the lack of service delivery and “irregular” spending by the state.
A group of history scholars from Bonteheuwel High School attended the rally with their teacher, Berenice Jones. For many of the scholars this was their first time at such an event. They called it a “privilege” to attend the rally in the city centre and said that these events were important because if no one talks about it, no one will know about it.
Many speakers pointed out that the lack of accountability for those implicated in State Capture sends a message to South Africans that there are no consequences for criminality. “When criminals set out onto the street, they look at those in power and they say: when are they going to brought to the book?’,” says the First Deputy President of the Muslim Judicial Council, Moulana Abdul Khaliq Ebrahim Allie.
Silence is collaboration, said many organisations. “As much as we point towards the power that corrupts and disowns and alienates, the weight of the fingers of our hand also speaks to our apathy and silence and inevitably our collaboration,” says the Dean of St George’s Cathedral, Michael Weeder.
Organisations stressed that the private sector is complicit in State Capture. The State Capture commission evidence shows this, and it challenges the narrative that the state is inherently corrupt and that the private sector is not, said the Western Cape secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions, Andre Adams.
Many were adamant that there is enough evidence being produced by the Zondo Commission to start arresting those involved in State Capture. “We must make sure that it doesn’t take long to put people in jail… How do we go for the easiest ones that are available? We have indicated some of the prima facto evidence that is already at the Zondo Commission. There’s nothing that says we can’t prosecute people until the commission has ended. If there is such a thing, let us test it in law,” says the Second Deputy General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, Solly Mapaila.
Similar public rallies organised by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation will be held across the country in the next few months while they gather more and more civil society organisations to endorse their open letter to the president setting out their argument and demands.
They are in discussions with Corruption watch to turn this series of rallies into a campaign. This event was a way to test the level of interest and willingness of organisations to collaborate on this issue, says the Executive Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Neeshan Balton.
They hope to investigate how organisations, individually and as a collective, can help the National Prosecuting Authority and how they can engage with political parties on their plans to address State Capture and those in their own parties who are implicated. MC
See a photo essay from the gathering here.