Opinionista Wayne Duvenage 17 July 2017

Options for healing and growth in a post-Zuma era

Let’s face it, matters will not simply return to normal when Jacob Zuma is out of power, for his tenure has enabled the development of a corrupt psyche that has taken root throughout all levels of government but tackling such challenges is not new to us. Many have spoken of the need to introduce an amnesty process as a potential mechanism to allow those caught up in the furore of plundering to come clean and help to repatriate their ill-gotten gains, or face the consequences – a Corruption Confessions and Repatriation Commission (CCRC) process, if you will.

Will President Jacob Zuma be forced to go before his term is up and if so, how? Will it be through the processes of Parliament or will his own political party leadership take up the responsibility? Or will he continue to fight and limp along like a bludgeoned boxer, stumbling through bout after bout of controversy until the electorate removes his party from power in 2019? As Jimmy Buffet, the Caribbean rock musician, sang, “Only time will tell”.

All indications point to his rapidly waning internal support and the cards being heavily stacked against him finishing his second term, with signs of his removal happening any time within the next six months.

Two avenues of activity for a post-Zuma leadership

This piece however is not about Zuma’s pending departure, but rather about what happens after he goes. The nature of the post-Zuma activity will be determined by two different leadership determinations that may replace him:

  • A pro-Zuma successor that protects him or,
  • A successor who will be impartial and objective, allowing the rule of law under the Constitution to be set free to determine his fate.

These very different scenarios could be likened to the Low or High Road options used by scenario planner Clem Sunter.

Many politicians and civil servants owe their careers and status to corruption, which means that not all of them will take a stand against it, either for fear of upsetting their own careers or the political status quo generally. Thus the fight to dismantle the corruption scourge is best taken by a leadership determined and able to bring about the necessary change and deployments to ensure future governance activity is intended to be as corruption-free as possible.

The low road

In the first instance of the “low road – Zuma Protectionist” scenario, Chapter 9 and other oversight institutions (the police, the Hawks, the SIU and the National Prosecuting Authority) will most likely remain influenced and tampered with to ensure that Jacob Zuma and his cronies will not be hounded or prosecuted for the myriad of crimes committed.

Civil society planning for this low road avenue is simple and one would assume the status quo of high levels of corruption and maladministration will remain in place. In this case, civil society will continue to fight and mobilise predominantly through protest and court action to hold to account those who abuse their positions of authority, the intention of which continues to generate an uncomfortable heat in their proverbial kitchens.

The High Road

The second or “high road/rule of law” option in a post-Zuma environment is one where very little political meddling happens within the state structures that tackle corruption and unlawful conduct. This approach has the potential to unleash a new dawn of renewed economic growth and prosperity for South Africa and will come from a leader who respects the rule of law and has a vision to turn the tide on corruption, by enabling the Hawks, the NPA, the SIU and the courts to flourish with aptly appointed leadership, tasked to do their work.

No doubt the high road scenario poses exciting opportunities for South Africa and is the one I believe we should begin to prepare for. In doing so, we should ensure a new post-Zuma leadership has little option but to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to corruption, and along with it, the implementation of numerous processes to maximise South Africa’s potential for real transformation and national economic benefits for all – in particular, the poor and unemployed.

Dismantling the Tentacles of Corruption

Let’s face it, matters will not simply return to normal when Jacob Zuma is out of power, for his tenure has enabled the development of a corrupt psyche that has taken root throughout all levels of government, where many see no wrong in influencing tenders at inflated prices for connected people and organisations. This is their answer to “radical economic transformation” and it is justified as an acceptable manner of distributing the nation’s wealth, while ignoring the negative impact of corruption and maladministration on the poor.

While many initiatives and focus areas will require the attention of a new growth and anti-corruption-focused leadership, the single and biggest area of action required will be to dismantle the deep-rooted tentacles of corruption throughout the civil service and in parts of the private sector. This effort will need a concerted plan and strategy to extract corruption mechanisms and arrest the plundering that enriches a few, to the detriment of millions.

Amnesty and the building of a Corruption Fighting Machine

Tackling such challenges is not new to us. We set world standards with our Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a similar process undertaken to fight corruption. Many have spoken of the need to introduce an amnesty process as a potential mechanism to allow those caught up in the furore of plundering to come clean and help to repatriate their ill-gotten gains, or face the consequences.

One might refer to this as a Corruption Confessions and Repatriation Commission (CCRC) process which will need to include among other things:

A set of rules with timeframes, categories and terms of references.

  • A portal and administrative process for confessions (owning up) and whistle-blowing (speaking out) to be logged.
  • Teams structured in cellular networks of investigators, researchers and case builders.
  • Structures to drive the repatriation of funds and assets back to the state’s coffers.
  • The possible need for temporary corruption courts to prosecute those found guilty and who choose not to accept the amnesty offered through the CCRC process.

This work is not difficult to do. It simply requires resources, good people and a structure that is allowed to fulfil its function. It’s the kind of work some civil action organisations are already successfully practising because of their focus in this space. It certainly beats the talk-shops we have heard of in past, such as the government’s National Anti Corruption Strategy (NACS), which involves a lot of theory and research over a number of years, with little real action or outcomes. As Tyree Scott (a US labour Leader) once said, “It’s almost impossible to leave the people who created the problem in the first place in charge of trying to find the solution.”

Setting the playing field for zero-tolerance to corruption

Should the post-Zuma leadership adopt a CCRC-Amnesty process, they would be wise to ensure that existing oversight bodies do not suffer political interference and that their work will go unhindered into the future. In so doing, a strong message will be sent to all in authority that corrupt conduct and gross maladministration will carry severe consequences.

Further wisdom and good leadership in the post-Zuma era should introduce robust and transparent audit processes into all areas of expenditure, especially in State-Owned Entities where large-scale infrastructure spending occurs.

Similarly, auditing and transparency processes need to exist where large funds are generated, amassed or distributed such as the Road Accident Fund (RAF), the social grants system (Sassa), the road toll concessions, licence fees and levies etc., to ensure that the public receive the best return for their taxes and levies paid. Civil society organisations should also be encouraged and invited to participate and scrutinise conduct in these areas.

Meaningful transformation

The distribution of wealth is given the best chance to thrive when a culture of zero tolerance to corruption is developed and driven throughout all levels of society. This process enables the best deals and funds intended to flow to the poor, along with heightened capacity building, education, health and job creation.

Engagement with business, labour and civil society to improve the economic empowerment of the previously disadvantaged must become more sincere, robust and effective, without losing valuable investment opportunities.

This is not rocket science. It is also very possible, with many examples of success throughout history. But it is only possible if driven from the top with good, honest, hard-working and well-trained leadership deployed to head up the institutions that matter when it comes to holding people to account.

The time to prepare for this exciting post-Zuma era is now, not when he goes. DM


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