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There’s a price to pay for looting state coffers


Sibusiso Ngalwa is the politics editor of Newzroom Afrika and chair of the South African National Editors’ Forum.

The arrest of so-called businessman Edwin Sodi and the evidence of how he dished out patronage to various politicians in the ANC has once again shone the light on the murky issue of political party funding in South Africa

First published by Daily Maverick 168

I refer to Edwin Sodi as “so-called” deliberately. This is because there is nothing to show that he was ever a businessman.

If anything, the details contained in the charge sheet between Sodi and his seven co-accused point to an elaborate “rent-seeking” scheme meant to bankrupt the state. Little or no work was done for the R230-million Sodi and his murdered business partner Ignatius “Igo” Mpambani received from the Human Settlements department in the Free State.

What really happened was that after receiving the undeserved windfall in nine tranches, the joint venture between Sodi and Mpambani paid over R44-million to Sello Radebe’s Mastertrade 232 to do an audit on asbestos roofs in the Free State. They kept a mind-boggling R186-million for themselves for not doing as much as lifting a finger.

Radebe could not believe his luck; he sliced off a cool R23-million for himself and paid R21-million to yet another company –  this time Kgotso Manyeki’s Ori Group –  to do the actual job.

Evidence shows that some work was done by Manyeki.

But the bottom line is that there was no value for money derived by the taxpayer in the exercise.

What this points to is blatant corruption where the state was used as a cash cow for politicians and dodgy individuals masquerading as businessmen.

The meticulous work done by Daily Maverick investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh in his book, Gangster State, shows the web of inexplicable payments and transfers of large sums of money to politically connected individuals as soon as Sodi’s and Mpambani’s Blackhead/Diamond Hill Trading received payments from the Free State government.

These revelations prompted Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize to distance himself from Sodi.

Mkhize explained that the over R6-million listed in Sodi’s bank statements as having been paid to him were donations to the ANC during his tenure as Treasurer-General of the ruling party.

While seeking to distance himself from Sodi’s sordid affairs, Mkhize inadvertently admitted to the ANC’s dubious relationship with tenderpreneurs who rely on state contracts to amass wealth.

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule is shown to have solicited favours from Mpambani by asking him to make several payments on his behalf. This happened while Magashule was Premier of the Free State.

Soliciting “donations” from the likes of Sodi and the late Mpambani is no different to the ANC effectively asking for a reward for the government contracts that his businesses have scored.

And so the circle of corruption and looting continues where businesses with close proximity to power get away with murder – all because they have powerful people in their pockets. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Others who received payments from Sodi include his “friend”, deputy State Security minister Zizi Kodwa, when he was an ANC spokesperson.  

Current ANC Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi are also listed as beneficiaries.

The toxic relationship between politics and money is not new to post-democratic South Africa.

Apartheid South Africa was propped up by white businesses who benefited from its racist laws. Generous donations to the National Party by businesses who continue to enjoy massive profits in a democratic South African are well recorded.

Nor is this toxic relationship between private interest and politics unique to the ANC. While the governing party and the DA are political opponents in Parliament and ideologically, both parties have previously opposed moves to legislate political party funding from private interests. It is a no-brainer as to why these parties would revel in such secrecy.

But the groundswell of support for transparency and efforts by civil society to have private party funding regulated prompted the two parties to change their stance on the disclosure of their funders.

The Political Party Funding Act (PPFA) was signed into law in January 2019 by President Cyril Ramaphosa. Through this act, donations to political parties of over R100,000 will have to be declared publicly.

Also, companies can contribute towards the Multi-Party Democracy Fund where the funds can be distributed proportionally to the parties represented in Parliament.

The IEC, which is meant to implement the law and police its implementation, must move with speed to do so.

This law will go a long way in strengthening our democracy and keeping the wolves at bay.

However, the limitation to act is that it deals with public and private funding towards political parties. But it is silent on internal party contests and elections.  By now it is part of the public record that millions of rand exchanges hands in internal party campaigns in the pursuit of power. The “buying” of delegates to influence their voting is common practice at elective congresses. Another grey area which requires further scrutiny.

But one thing at a time. For now, the IEC must ensure that the PPFA is implemented, the sooner the better.

In the meantime, those who have corrupted the state and looted its coffers must face the full might of the law. South Africans are gatvol of corruption and are fully behind all efforts to strengthen our democracy and ensure the rule of law.

Putting things into perspective, Sodi – through his ill-gotten wealth – not only owned a fleet of luxury cars worth R10-million but also lived in a house valued at R85-million.

And there are many Sodis out there. Let that sink in. DM168


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