MIA — President Ramaphosa and his promise to decisively act against the ANC and state corruption
About 53 weeks ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised that the government he leads would work against corruption and that State Capture would never happen again. He also claimed that those responsible for State Capture would be arrested and held accountable. However, there is little to no evidence that the promise is being kept.
Just over a year ago, in his formal response to the findings of the Zondo Commission, President Cyril Ramaphosa gave a speech in which he said, “The people of South Africa are tired of corruption and want it to end.”
He then went further, making a public promise:
“Those who are involved in corruption, or who are even thinking about engaging in criminal conduct, must know that all the instruments of the state will be used to bring them to book. There will be no place for corrupt people, for criminal networks, for perpetrators of State Capture to hide.”
Ramaphosa has described the State Capture period as “nine wasted years”.
Unfortunately, while some measures have been introduced to stop this kind of corruption from recurring, it would appear there is no political will to ensure this.
Just last week, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the former chair of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, spoke at a conference hosted by the Public Affairs Research Institute and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution.
He pointed out that of the commission’s 10 recommendations dealing with public procurement, only four had found their way into the new Public Procurement Bill.
He was particularly worried about the lack of an independent agency that would investigate public procurement.
It seems inexplicable that those who drafted the new Bill did not include Zondo’s recommendations. Absent any public explanation, only the worst suspicion makes sense.
At the same conference, the head of the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) Investigating Directorate, Andrea Johnson, explained that the fact her unit is not yet permanent makes it difficult to hire full-time investigators.
There is another, even bigger issue.
As Corruption Watch’s Nkululeko Conco explained last week on SAfm, in 2007 the Scorpions were investigating Jacob Zuma for alleged corruption. But after he was elected as President at the ANC’s Polokwane conference, Zuma applied pressure on Parliament to shut the Scorpions down.
The question now is, how do you make it impossible for Parliament to make such a decision again?
The answer, of course, is through the courts.
In three separate judgments (known as Glenister I, Glenister II and Glenister III), the Constitutional Court allowed the Scorpions to be dissolved, but with safeguards in place around their successor, the Hawks.
Huge delays in the judicial process
Unfortunately, as history has shown, that was not enough to stop State Capture.
And as Johnson also points out, there are huge delays in SA’s court system. The Estina Dairy case, for example, will only begin in August.
There are many other examples of this.
Ace Magashule was first arrested back in 2020. Since then, he has had time to attempt to suspend Ramaphosa as ANC president, then get suspended and expelled from the ANC himself and, finally, start his own party.
The corruption trial of former Eskom boss Matshela Koko could take years to complete.
And the court challenge of ANC Chair Gwede Mantashe to the Zondo Commission’s findings against him has not yet been heard. That could take another two years.
In our courts, Stalingrad is a journey, not a destination.
There are no public plans to expedite these cases or to provide more courtrooms and more judges to hear them (apart from the Special Tribunal, which has made rulings that result in money being repaid to the government, but doesn’t hear criminal cases).
In the meantime, it has emerged that the Justice Department failed to provide enough funding to the Office of the State Attorney to defend the Zondo Commission’s findings.
Normally, the findings of a commission are the findings of the government (a commission of inquiry is essentially headed by a person acting as if they were the president, and the government is the custodian of its findings). This means if someone wants to challenge the findings, the government has to oppose them.
Zondo took the unprecedented step of saying in public that he had to organise private lawyers to defend some of these cases, not knowing how, or if, they would get paid.
It was only 10 days ago that it was confirmed that the money had been made available.
In short, the government, led by a President who had promised to implement the Zondo Commission findings, had failed to arrange to defend the findings in court.
There are other indications that the NPA and the Hawks are chronically underfunded. The NPA has said it may receive private donations, while the Hawks have said consistently that they are working with about half the investigators they need.
Both of these institutions could have their funding cut in the budget cutbacks expected to be announced in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement on Wednesday.
Yet, the VIP Protection Unit budget and the many perks for ministers, including free generators and diesel, may well be unaffected.
No support for whistle-blowers
In the meantime, despite all of the stated public support for whistle-blowers, there is no reason to believe that anything which has happened in the last five years would encourage anyone to blow the whistle on corruption.
The person who paid to have Babita Deokaran murdered is still at large, and some of the companies that benefited from the corruption at Tembisa Hospital are still being awarded contracts to work there.
Martha Ngoye, who blew the whistle on the corruption at Prasa during the State Capture era, is still blocked from going back to her job — while Prasa prepares to spend R50-billion on new infrastructure.
To be clear, just as Prasa is about to spend this huge amount of money, it is trying to keep a whistle-blower out of the organisation.
Of course, Ramaphosa and his supporters may well argue that the changes they are trying to make will take time. They could also point out that the corruption of which “South Africans are tired” has deep roots, and predates the Zuma era. And they could say that this is one of the issues which has almost defined the ANC for many years.
Thus, they will argue, it will take a long time to roll back corruption.
That may be true. But putting paid to corruption surely starts with keeping the simplest of promises. DM