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State capturers must be held accountable

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Dr Ismail Vadi is a Member of the Board of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and an array of civil society organisations have emphatically endorsed the call of the revered Archbishop of Cape Town. On the eve of the State of the Nation Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa next week, these organisations will host a rally in Cape Town demanding that government and the prosecuting authority act more swiftly and energetically against corrupt politicians, public servants and businesspersons implicated in State Capture. 

During his sermon at midnight mass on Christmas eve 2019, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba clairvoyantly said:

What is for certain is that 2020 will not be short of drama… Here in South Africa, we hope it is the year of the orange jumpsuit, a year of reckoning for those whose greed has driven the country to the brink of disaster. On this night, of all nights, I don’t want to appear vindictive… But there must be consequences for corruption, both for those in the private sector who facilitate it and those in the public sector who take advantage of it. The justice, the peace, the reconciliation and the abundant life which a flourishing democracy promises will be achieved only if those who threaten to subvert it are held accountable.

With this forecast, he made a passionate appeal to government and the prosecuting authority in our country to act decisively in the public interest and to ensure that leading figures who are implicated in State Capture are held accountable.

His colloquial message that this year must see the backs of perpetrators of state capture in orange jump-suits has struck a notable chord in broader society. 

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and an array of civil society organisations have emphatically endorsed the call of the revered Archbishop of Cape Town. On the eve of the State of the Nation Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa next week, these organisations will host a rally in Cape Town demanding that government and the prosecuting authority act more swiftly and energetically against corrupt politicians, public servants and businesspersons implicated in state capture.    

The World Bank has succinctly defined state capture as a systemic form of political corruption that directs the exercise of state power to the benefit of private individuals or firms.

Already, we know from our own experience and from the testimony at both the Nugent and Zondo commissions of Inquiry that state capture has extracted rents from multiple government departments and state-owned entities for a narrow range of individuals and companies through the manipulation of the regulatory framework with enormous losses for our society at large.

It has resulted in the loss of the government’s autonomy in decision-making. Consequently, the government is evidently unable to function in such a way as to serve broad societal interests or to make decisions that might achieve long-term developmental goals.

By President Ramaphosa’s own admission, state capture in South Africa has resulted in a loss to the public purse of over R500-billion. Some experts put the figure closer to R1-trillion.  

This rot must end. The alleged perpetrators must be prosecuted. This must be the year of visible action by the prosecuting authority. 

In last year’s SONA address, President Ramaphosa stated: “The decisive steps we have taken to end State Capture and corruption, including measures to strengthen the National Prosecuting Authority, Special Investigating Unit, South African Revenue Services and State Security, are achieving results.”

We welcome the steady progress made in strengthening the prosecuting authority, the revenue services and the SIU. Even so, there obviously is a long way to go, and the public cannot be assured yet that all functionaries in these institutions have a shared vision and common strategic approach to addressing the deep challenges thrown up by State Capture.

It is disconcerting though, that to date there is not much to show in the way of criminal charges against and prosecution of state capturers. It does seem that this lack of concerted and co-ordinated action wholly by the government has emboldened some of them to continue to act with impunity. Hence, our call for 2020 to be the “Year of the Orange Overalls”.

If we act decisively, we pay real homage to our rich liberation heritage and the legacies of those who contributed selflessly to it. And in so doing we truly honour our citizenry, who daily harbour the hope of a better future and a just society.  

We have an opportunity to direct our country towards real transformation, equality and justice. It is an opportunity that must not be missed this year. MC 

The public rally calling for 2020 to be the Year of the Orange Overalls will take place at 5pm at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on 12 February 2020

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