If President Cyril Ramaphosa does not address this, he will have failed the acid test of leadership
11 February 2021 – 05:09
The task of the president in delivering his state of the nation address (Sona) this evening is an unenviable one. The pandemic has the country in its grip; the economy is in tatters; the looters and capturers of the state remain “at large”; new investment is hard to find; unemployment is at record levels; and the capable state is a distant dream.
The one topic that the president will neglect at his peril is the question of reform of the criminal justice administration. Full functionality on this front is the sine qua non to success in addressing so much that is wrong in SA at present.
If corruption busters were operating at the levels achieved by the Scorpions in the pre-Jacob Zuma era, the “covidpreneurs” would not have mushroomed; business confidence in the state would not be at such a low ebb; joblessness would have been alleviated by new investment; and the crooks in the public procurement chain would be weeded out rapidly and issued with the orange overalls they so richly deserve.
The president is not without guidance on reform. The national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC, which he chairs, has resolved that the cabinet must take steps to establish a new, stand-alone, specialised agency to “deal with” corruption without fear, favour or prejudice.ADVERTISING
The public is owed a report on progress on this topic, as it was first raised in August 2020 as a matter of urgency (which it is).
There is also comfort to be drawn from the justice ministry’s pronouncements on the supremacy of the rule of law and the need to comply with the constraints of the constitution. The Constitutional Court has helpfully laid out, in terms that bind the government, the recipe for effective and efficient anti-corruption machinery of state — a cake not baked in the Zuma era for reasons that are obvious.
Just as Zuma cannot now ignore orders of the courts, nor can the government any longer ignore that “stirs” recipe (specialised, trained, independent, resourced and secure in tenure of office).
A new unit to investigate and prosecute the corrupt should be unveiled in the Sona. If it is not, the president will have failed the acid test of leadership while also bucking the wishes of his party’s NEC.
Paul Hoffman SC
Director, Accountability Now