Defend Truth


Let’s not divert attention from what needs to be done about corruption


Paul Hoffman SC is a director of Accountability Now.

It is to be hoped that Thursday’s SONA will be used as the occasion to announce the government’s plans to fix the long-standing and undeniable mess in the criminal justice administration.

When the ANC used to have a website called (it is not currently available due to a dispute with a service provider) it was instructive to read the “Strategy and Tactics” page to get an insight into what really makes the cadres in Luthuli House tick. There, for all the world to see, was the trajectory of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) designed by Lenin, adapted to the “colonialism of a special kind” present in SA’s history (where various colonialists abandon their home countries and attach their fealty to the colonised land) and still being implemented by the ANC and its less coy tripartite alliance partners, the SACP and the Cosatu aligned trade unions.

The objective of the NDR, in a nutshell, is to secure hegemonic control of all levers of power in society (not just in politics and in the public administration) in a manner which in effect collapses the state and all its institutions into the dominant political party. No free press, no impartial judiciary, no private ownership of land – in short, a socialist nirvana is envisaged. To achieve this goal the cadres are encouraged to exercise “dexterity of tact” (aka as pulling the wool over the eyes of the world) and to have regard to the “balance of forces” (ie ask the question: “how much can we get away with?”) Their mission is an ambitious one given that there are fewer than 1 million deployable cadres in a country of more than 57 million people.

There can be no doubt that the NDR is at odds with the values, principles and tenets of the Constitution. The rule of law, multi-party elections, a free media, the separation of powers and independent courts are not compatible with hegemonic control of all the levers of power as envisaged in the NDR. As long ago as 2014 Cyril Ramaphosa defended the NDR as a means of achieving equality in SA, “We will” he wrote “continue to do everything that we can to advance transformation – whether De Klerk signs up for it or not.” The parting shot was a response to a well-justified complaint by the former president of the old SA that the other negotiating parties who agreed the national accord that gave birth to the current constitutional dispensation were not invited to sign up for the NDR.

The ANC has always been a broad church; it accommodates capitalists, communists, socialists, social democrats, nationalists and chancers too. In a broad church it is sometimes difficult to keep everyone singing from the same hymn sheet out of the same hymn book.

This is illustrated by the peeved response of the minions of minister Sisulu in the international relations department to the somewhat contrived “news” that the “great powers” (as the Sunday Timesput it in a screaming front page headline) have provided a memo to the presidency relating to its campaign to raise $100-billion in new investments for SA. The Presidency clearly wanted the memo last June, when it was delivered, whether signed or unsigned seems to be of no moment now. No alarm was sounded, no umbrage was taken and the memo appears to have been received without demur.

The pre-SONA publicity given to it on the front page of the Sunday Times was apparently a creative way of bringing to the fore government’s failure to counter corruption and to end the culture of impunity for grand corruption that has been abroad in SA since the demise of the Scorpions and the rise to power of Jacob Zuma.

That the criminal justice administration is in tatters is beyond argument. The Hawks were so well captured that they were used to persecute a sitting minister, Pravin Gordhan, whose anti-corruption credentials are impeccable and whose patriotism was getting in the way of the State Capture project in which Zuma was, and is, involved. As Zuma protests that he has done nothing wrong, it is improbable that he has ended his “turn to eat”. The fight back in which he and his minions are involved, well explained by Professor Mark Swilling, still threatens the future of constitutionalism in the country. The NPA too has demonstrably been abused for political purposes as is emerging at the Mokgoro Commission hearings.

Rather than deal with the merits of the argument that not enough is being done to counter corruption, a diversion, a demarcheand a great deal of posturing has taken place both by the ANC (which needs to be told that Switzerland and the US have never had empires and are actually more like former colonies) and the officials of the department of international relations. Expect the SONA to focus on the diplomatic niceties that are, in essence, not applicable to the facts, and to duck and dive when it comes to dealing with the failure of the state to bring anyone to book for involvement in State Capture.

While it is true that an independent prosecuting authority is constitutionally tasked with deciding who to prosecute and who not to prosecute, the structure and operational capacities of all entities involved in countering corruption is the responsibility of the executive and the legislature.

The courts have given clear directives as to what is required to have effective and efficient anti-corruption machinery of state. As long ago as 2011 the STIRS criteria were laid down in binding fashion. A specialised, trained, independent, resourced (in guaranteed and sufficient fashion) and secure in tenure of office entity is required. The state has not complied with these criteria. The Hawks and the NPA are wanting in all respects to a lesser or greater degree and have been for years. They will be for years to come if the executive and legislative branches of government do not intervene to remediate the situation.

The fact that nothing has been done to repair the operational capacity and structural functions, in place at present, is a strong indication that the political will to do so is lacking. Giving the new National Director of Public Prosecutions a broken down machine to drive is not going to cut it. The need for a new STIRS compliant anti-corruption entity is as obvious as the rampant state of grand corruption being exposed on industrial scale in the commissions of inquiry currently sitting.

The missing ingredient is the lack of political will to do anything pro-active to counter corruption effectively. Investigative capacity in the Hawks is lacking, prosecutorial capacity is also in short supply in the NPA. Both institutions are at least partially, if not completely captured by those seeking to repurpose the state, whether for looting or for pursuit of the NDR.

Even the ten-years-late arrest of the foot-soldiers involved in Bosasagate is thoroughly underwhelming. This move has the potential of undermining, even sabotaging, the work of the Zondo Commission with whistle-blowers. Furthermore, none of the “big fish” like Jacob Zuma, his good friend Dudu Myeni, Nomvula Mokonyane and Bheki Cele, all of whom have been fingered before Justice Zondo, has been arrested or charged. Not even donor of R500,000 to the CR17 campaign, Gavin Watson, is among those accused: so much for equality before the law

It is to be hoped that Thursday’s SONA will be used as the occasion to announce government’s plans to fix the long-standing and undeniable mess in the criminal justice administration. Given the brouhaha around the well-meant international advice given to the presidency, the indications are that the deflection, ducking, diving and delay that characterised the Zuma years will be continued, to the detriment of peace, progress and prosperity in a corruption free SA. More pious and empty promises won’t do. DM

This article was updated at 2.25pm on Thursday, February 7, 2019


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.