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The political economy of corruption has reached fever pitch: No more talk, it’s action time, Mr President


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

How President Cyril Ramaphosa moves forward on the SIU report on PPE corruption and the Zondo reports may very well define his presidency. Promises were made, the electorate gave him a mandate, now, execute, execute, execute.

For some time now, I have been trying to encourage the president to act with determination when it comes to his promise to rid us of corrupt elements in both the ANC as well as the government at large. Well, his timidity, or should I say cowardliness, with regard to both the Zondo report on State Capture and the more recent report on corruption and malfeasance with regards to the personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders of government leaves much to be desired. Abdicating responsibility to others — including the NPA — is not what most of us expected, Sir.

“The final report details matters referred by the SIU (Special Investigating Unit) to the NPA, departments and entities in the public sector and other parties, who will finalise the process of bringing wrongdoers to book, and addressing weaknesses identified by the SIU investigation.”

Yes, law enforcement agencies must do their work and yes many must be brought to book but what about your responsibility and holding those in your government to account? What are you doing about these elements, Sir? Surely, more immediate steps can be taken to suspend, fire or warn some of our government officials implicated in the report. After all, the cases are staggering.

According to the Presidency, investigations have been finalised with respect to 4,549 PPE contracts, of which 2,803 contracts were found to be irregular. This amounts to 62% of the finalised investigations.

“The submission of the final report is an important step in our fight against corruption in the public and private sectors, and against maladministration. This investigation targeted individuals and institutions who believed they could exploit a moment of national vulnerability to enrich themselves and those with whom they colluded to abuse public resources. It is unacceptable that so many contracts associated with saving lives and protecting livelihoods were irregular, unlawful or fraudulent,” Ramaphosa said.

Since the start of the investigation, the SIU, working with other agencies, has made progress in managing consequences arising from the investigation, the Presidency stated.

It noted that 45 matters — constituting a combined value of R2.1-billion — have been enrolled with the Special Tribunal on Corruption, Fraud and Illicit Money Flows. This tribunal has a statutory mandate to recover public funds syphoned from the fiscus through corruption, fraud and illicit money flows, and engages in civil action that is more flexible and less time-consuming than adversarial.

The SIU has made 224 referrals for disciplinary action against officials in government departments or entities, and 386 referrals to the NPA, as well as three referrals for executive action. It is on these referrals for disciplinary action that I would have wanted to see immediate action taken by your office, Mr President. Let’s be bold and let’s take the necessary difficult decisions regardless of political considerations in your party, Sir.

Furthermore, the SIU made 330 referrals for administrative action, which includes blacklisting. Can we expect this to be done soonest? The rand value of actual cash and assets to be recovered on the basis of the investigation is R551.5-million, while cash and assets recovered to date total R34.2-million.

The value of potential loss prevented by the investigation is R114.2-million, while contracts set aside amount to R170.4-million. “As regards prosecutions, the Presidency trusts the NPA will exercise its discretion diligently and expeditiously,” spokesperson in the presidency, Tyrone Seale stated.

In summary:

  • The SIU investigated 5,467 contracts awarded to 3,066 service providers with a total value of R14.3-billion;
  • Investigations have been finalised for 4,549 contracts — and 2,803 contracts were found to be irregular;
  • Forty-five matters — worth a combined value of R2.1-billion — have been enrolled with the Special Tribunal on Corruption;
  • The SIU has made 224 referrals for disciplinary action against officials in government departments or entities;
  • The rand value of actual cash and assets to be recovered on the basis of the investigation is R551.5-million;
  • The value of potential loss prevented by the investigation is R114.2-million; and
  • The value of contracts set aside tops R170-million.

Only R34.2 million has been recovered so far, though.

All of the above points to the sad reality of how both the public and private sectors collude and engage in corrupt practices to defraud the people. After all, it is our money. All while we contend with a devastating pandemic.

How the president moves forward on both these reports might very well define his presidency. Promises were made, the electorate gave you a mandate, now, execute, execute, execute.

The so-called RET forces seemingly got a new lease on life now that some regional conferences were won by them but this will be short-lived I’m sure. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the handling of these two crucial reports can most certainly determine the outcome of the December Elective Conference of the ANC. That Stalingrad approach is what is needed now, Mr President. The unity talk now sounds like flogging a dead horse and you know it.

Be all you can be, be presidential. Use these two reports to effectively put an end to these corrupt practices that are stifling progress in our country. Elements that have openly engaged in such practices must know that no more will one get away with it, especially the ones who participated in such criminal activities while there is a commission on State Capture underway. What a slap in the face for ordinary South Africans and especially you, Mr President, since it is your office that constituted such a commission.

As to the ongoing and continuous budgetary constraints complained about and always put forward by the NPA to effectively do their work, well they too need a kick on the backside. Minister Ronald Lamola has gone a far way to capacitate the NPA, both human resource and monetary-wise and quite frankly, this excuse is wearing thin. Do your work with what you have.

The political economy of corruption in our country has reached fever pitch, the SIU report on PPE corruption and the Zondo Commssion report are effective tools with which to self-correct “net n bietjie”. Let us not squander this opportunity. Give us, the electorate a reason why we should vote for you again, Mr President. DM


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  • Ludovici DIVES says:

    Great inventory of facts Oscar. The documentation of the ANC’s shenanigans and lack of action quietly being documented in articles such as yours and will surely be used against them someday, they will not be mourned.
    Sadly CR is compromised

  • Charles Parr says:

    As is evident CR is so enthusiastic about holding these people to account that he’s sent the SIU off on a wild goose chase, namely Telkom. It’s time for the SIU to be under the control of the taxpayer and then we can see some results. I can’t wait to see the back of CR. We’ve got utter chaos with him, can it be worse without him. I doubt it.

  • Craig B says:

    It’s not possible to appeal to an organization or government that is for all intents and purposes a white collar crime syndicate. The international tentacles in this via laundering etc is too big. Two options a failed bankrupt state and criminal economy or a new government.

  • MIKE WEBB says:

    The only way out for those who can is a one-way.

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    Chasing the minnows for Covid fraud is a smokescreen.

    If the President had a pair he would deal decisively with Mabuza, Magashula and Sisulu. Alas, the call for “unity” within a fractured party is nothing more than a ploy to stay in power.

  • Coen Gous says:

    Oscar, seldom do I read an article by you that I do not only enjoy, support and applaud. But this one is very strange, coming from you. Every single fact you have mentioned is correct, and well researched. But you last paragraph really threw me a bit, especially the two very last sentences.
    1. Do you even remotely think that CR will NOT squander the opportunity? Creepers, he has squandered so many opportunities to impose and strengthen his leadership in the last 3 odd years, but have seen very little action of any kind.
    2. Give the electorate a reason to vote for Ramaphosa? Oscar, the sentence in isolation is fine, but in context is is meaningless. The electorate do not vote for the President. They might support him or not, but vote? It is ANC branches that vote for the President (first as President of the ANC, and then as President of the country), or any other senior position in the ANC. If indeed the electorate could have voted for the president, ala US of A style, we might have indeed seen some opportunities been taken. But here in SA, we can only watch from a distance, and that distance is very, very long

  • Derek Hebbert says:

    People tend to forget that without the plunder of the state coffers the ANC cannot fund itself. So don’t hold your collective breaths on this one.

  • Craig King says:

    It would be good to have patriots running the country instead of these political apparatchiks. CR is the quintessential party man so in choices between party and state he will always choose party. All thanks to our wonderful, world class modern Constitution put together by good men who couldn’t envision the eviltude (pace GWB ) rampant in the ANC.

  • Dick Cullingworth says:

    How much have the police aided and enabled crime by supplying or losing guns to benefit the ungodly! Protectors of crime or enablers?

  • Sandra Goldberg says:

    I think that most people in South Africa have already given up in their expectations of this President. Unfortunately this has been caused by his either complete or partial inaction on certain seismic happenings in this country, including the July Violence and the disgusting PPE scandals. So unfortunately with this lack of trust eroding our faith in the Presidency to ACT against miscreants, will will have to turn to other organizations,such as our excellent NGOs, to assist in this fight against corruption and the those with ill intentions.

  • katy swaddle says:

    As Dr Phil says, “if you want to predict future behaviour, look at past behaviour”.
    So what will Cyril do now. Nothing, nix, nada.
    We all had such high hope’s of him. Our saviour turned out to be a sloth in presidents clothing.
    He makes me depressed, disappointed but mostly disgusted. He lied to the whole country and in our desperation, we believed him. Shame on you Cyril

  • Bruce Watney says:

    I like Coens comments. SA & Ramaphosa, are held hostage to the branches of the ANC. If he doesn’t do what the majority of criminals say, and its a tight balance, he is recalled. Then we might just get Mabuza for a while, then Lady Zuma might get her wish, to be the first Lady President in SA. Be careful what you petition for. Imagine life with Lady Zuma as President, with Lady Sisulu as Vice President. Can you imagine. I would rather, any day have CR taking a little more time, with those orange overalls, than a Recall.

  • Sam Shu says:

    So, i agree, makes all the sense in the world. I don’t understand why CR does not act. Is he corrupt? Maybe. Is he scared? Cant be, he had to fight like a tiger to get the presidency. Is it ANC unity? He is an intelligent man; surely he knows that is a sham. So, what?

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