Listening to the comments of the joyful crowd outside Luthuli House during the weekend after the 8 May 2019 general elections, there can be little doubt that jobs are top of mind for most of the happy throng.
It is accordingly appropriate that a successful capitalist, as Cyril Ramaphosa has proved himself to be, is taking charge of economic policy, according to more serious reports in the media. The need to create a lot of jobs, and quickly too, is the central issue for many unemployed, under-employed and unemployable people who feel deprived of their dignity due to the shrinkage of the job market during the nine wasted years of “Zumanomics”.
Business confidence obviously plays a huge role in the creation of new jobs. Fresh investment takes place when investors feel confident that they will get a positive return on their investments because the rule of law is intact and the plundering of SA’s public purse has ceased after the change in leadership. The necessary trust cannot be built on a culture of impunity.
The best way to build the confidence required to spark new investment is to be seen to be enabling strong institutions of state to take charge of bringing to justice the corrupt cadres and their fellow travellers via asset forfeiture orders and criminal prosecutions as well as the civil recovery of loot worldwide.
Greater responsiveness is best demonstrated by becoming more efficient in the redistribution of land and the rolling out of the other promises of the Bill of Rights. The “Gogo Dlaminis” expect to own the house that they die in; their offspring who favour farming know that without ownership of the land they farm, access to capital is denied them.
There is a general need to get more proactive about the values of the Constitution, especially non-racialism and non-sexism. These values involve the abandonment of apartheid-era race classifications and the adoption of remedial measures for all of the disadvantaged, irrespective of gender or apartheid’s artificial classifications. Racial and gender bean-counting is not conducive to the creation of a society in which all are judged according to the quality of their character.
Cadre deployment in the state administration and state-owned enterprises is both illegal and unconstitutional. It should end now. It is simply fallacious to imagine that the talents of a political party with less than a million members can administer a country of 58 million people all on its own (except in the Western Cape, where the absence of cadre deployment is marked by greater efficiency and less corruption).
Enhancing accountability is best achieved by showing fealty to the values of the Constitution in the conduct of government. The abandonment of the National Democratic Revolution by the ANC ought to be a topic of serious and successful debate. The NDR is inconsistent with the Constitution and causes great policy uncertainty, which has the effect of scaring off new investments.
In all countries in which NDR-like policies have been put to the test, they have failed. There is no stream of migrants from SA to Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Cuba or North Korea. The longer there is a whiff of the NDR in the policy-making activities of the governing alliance, the harder it will be to improve the future trajectory of the country.
There has long been a valid criticism of apartheid — that it was run in order to benefit a small minority, the “white group”. An equally valid criticism of Zuma-era practices is that they were run to benefit an even smaller minority of politically connected operatives in the civil service, the procurement business and the state generally.
The defining feature of the Zuma era was its capture of much of the state, especially elements of the criminal justice administration. While the judiciary and the media remain relatively unscathed, the damage done to the public weal by the appointments, practices and procedures indulged in during the Zuma years have brought the country to the brink of disaster.
It is in the way in which it chooses to address corruption that the Ramaphosa administration will stand or fall. A swift, sure and fatal blow to the culture of impunity is what is required. The not-so-jocular promise in Parliament in 2018 by Ramaphosa himself — that he would personally deliver his son Andile to the police if any whiff of corruption could be found, is actually illustrative of the type of attitude that needs to be fostered.
Encouragement can also be drawn from Ramaphosa’s response to a question in Parliament in March 2019 from Narend Singh, IFP MP. The president found the idea of a new Chapter Nine Institution, the Integrity Commission, “refreshing” and undertook to “mull over” its implications.
By the time a new Cabinet has been appointed and all the swearing-in has been done, it will be possible to guess, with a degree of accuracy, whether the “new dawn” is false. The retention of Zuma-era crooks will point to a false new dawn; ditching them will open the way to changes that are needed urgently.
The expert commentators on matters of economics and business say that it will take time to implement a new, inclusive and vibrant economic policy. One thing is certain: If corruption is not tackled head-on and first, all hope of inclusivity and vibrancy in the economy will be stillborn.
The first order of business of the trimmed-down and purged Cabinet will be to put the sixth Parliament to work to end the culture of impunity for corrupt activities, which became the order of the day during the Zuma years.
The damage done to the criminal justice administration, especially the police, the Hawks and the NPA will take years to address. The winkling out of Zuma supporters will involve long and arduous litigation. A way of bypassing this inevitably long process has to be fashioned in order to give the necessary impetus to the cleansing so desperately required.
The creation of the Integrity Commission is the best possible means of addressing grand corruption, State Capture and kleptocracy. By starting a specialised, properly trained unit that is independent of executive influence, secure in its tenure of office and fully resourced for the task at hand, the Ramaphosa administration will kick-start the confidence and trust required to get the economy going and thriving.
The appointment of the leadership of the Integrity Commission should follow a transparent and inclusive process. Its personnel should be carefully vetted and empowered to complete the necessary investigations and prosecutions without delay. Taking responsibility for combating and preventing grand corruption away from the SAPS and NPA obviates all of the congestion, back-sliding, sabotage and incompetence that will otherwise slow the fight needed to put SA on the high road to the future.
It is fervently to be hoped that the political leadership of the country will see the need to have a squeaky-clean Cabinet in place and will urgently move to kick-start the legislative process required to give birth to the Integrity Commission that the IFP has asked the president to establish. Putting it in place is SA’s best hope for a better life for all. The political will to do so can be bolstered by the work of Parliament in holding the executive to account.
The activism of civil society, so muted in the Zuma era, needs a philanthropic boost so that both the legislature and the executive know that they are being held to account by those engaged in our participatory democracy under the rule of law.
The principle of equality before the law, entrenched in the Bill of Rights, dictates that no crook should go unpunished after a fair trial. There is plenty of evidence available of corruption in high places. It should be tested in the courts in criminal trials.
The loot of State Capture should also be followed up and recovered, wherever in the world it may be found with the help of the international community, which does not want to see South Africa as an unnecessarily impoverished failure. DM