Negotiating the transition from corruption to integrity: two steps forward, one step back

by | Mar 1, 2018 | General | 0 comments

The fundamental question for SA voters is: Has the ANC become so inherently corrupt and compromised an organisation as to be incapable of self-correcting? If the answer is “yes”, or even “perhaps”, casting votes differently in future is indicated for the 62% who supported the ANC in 2014, if the answer is “no” or “possibly” then the way in which all future votes should be cast must depend on the actions (not words) of ANC politicians between now and the general elections to be held in mid-2019.

The “Cyrreal Ramaphoria” that has gripped the country since the election in December 2018 of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the ANC and the ousting of Jacob Zuma on Valentine’s Day has been vaporised by the somewhat late announcement on 26 February of the Cabinet changes necessitated, in part, by the changes in leadership of the ANC and the country.

The actions of electing Ramaphosa and ousting Zuma may be regarded as two steps forward. The new Cabinet, a mixed bag of blessings (in the economically oriented portfolios) and curses in most of the rest of the shuffle, must be taken as a step back on the arduous journey from the dark Zuma years towards the much vaunted new dawn.

Appeals to Ramaphosa to avoid any Cabinet appointments of those with criminal records, Gupta links and serious allegations of corruption against them have fallen on deaf ears. He owes so much to so many questionable cadres in the upper echelons of the alliance he now leads that even the consultation process required before the exercise of his presidential prerogative led to the announcement being postponed twice. Even then, it started late, a feature of the old order that Ramaphosa has tried to end, unsuccessfully on this occasion.

All of the travelgate fraudsters, Gupta-fellow-travellers and beneficiaries of the failure of the state to discharge the “beyond a reasonable doubt” onus of proof in criminal proceedings have no place in a Cabinet of integrity. Yet integrity is the standard to which Ramaphosa pays lip service. In this way his words create false hope in the hearts and minds of an electorate which must surely be tired of having its taxes stolen in a multitude of increasingly innovative ways.

One appointee stands out for special mention: Bheki Cele, the cat in the hat. This senior cadre was found unfit to hold the office of National Commissioner of Police. He was involved in the negotiation of leases for police headquarters at three times the going rate for rental properties of the kind in question. After the findings of the Moloi board of inquiry, Zuma was obliged to dismiss him. In a functioning constitutional democracy under the rule of law Cele would have faced charges for the actions that led to the findings made by the Public Protector against him. Instead, he is now promoted in the Cabinet as full minister.

While he was in office in the police, Cele remilitarised the police, converting it from a “service” (which is what the Constitution requires) to a “force” which is reminiscent of the old apartheid order. The “shoot to kill” ethos in the police was inculcated on his watch, with enthusiastic help from Susan Shabangu, and led to the trigger-happiness in evidence at Marikana in August 2012 and Ngcobo just the other day.

The National Development Plan, now the policy of all major political parties, requires the demilitarisation of the police. Its second “Key Point” (Chapter Twelve page 385) reads:

“Demilitarise the police. The police should be selected and trained to be professional and impartial, responsive to community needs, competent and inspire confidence.”

If that is not enough for the sceptics, consider this recommendation (page 551) by the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the killings at Marikana:

“The National Planning Commission, in its report, which has been accepted as Government policy, has made a number of important recommendations regarding the need to demilitarise the SAPS and to professionalise the police. These recommendations must be implemented as a matter of priority.”

This recommendation was accepted by the Zuma administration but it has not been implemented in any way, shape or form. The military ranks, introduced by Cele, have remained in place.

It will be interesting to see how Cele, in his undeserved new role as minister of police, will deal with the crying need to demilitarise the police, a need demonstrated at Ngcobo recently.

It is not what Ramaphosa says about the need for integrity in government, it is what he does. What he does is, in some measure, dictated by what is politically possible within the ANC. If the ANC has become so inherently and structurally corrupt that it is unable to carry on without corrupt funding, corrupt officials and corrupt deployees in government, it is time for the ANC to be out of government.

That is the choice facing the electorate in 2019.

The ANC’s internal integrity committee has proved to be an ineffectual and toothless body. Any attempt on the part of the ANC to render the anti-corruption machinery of state as effective and efficient as the Constitution, and the Constitutional Court, both require it to be is possibly self-defeating. Should a Scorpion-like entity investigate the funding of the ANC, its sources of income and donations, its modus operandi with the state owned enterprises and its financial relationship with BEE moguls and the business sector, then the ANC may find itself at the receiving end of the type of attention that the Assets Forfeiture Unit is currently lavishing on the Guptas and their fellow travellers.

Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

If there is a fear within the ANC that the creation of constitutionally compliant anti-corruption machinery of state will be to the detriment of the ANC itself, then the electorate need not hold its breath waiting for the necessary reforms that render the Hawks either more useful in the combating of corruption, or obsolete in that field due to the establishment of a replacement body such as an Integrity Commission under Chapter Nine of the Constitution or an Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Canny voters will carefully compare what the ANC says with what the ANC does, and will inform themselves on how to vote in the light of the actions rather than the words of the ANC. It is all very well for “Ramaphoria” to speak of responsiveness, humility and integrity, it creates the right atmosphere; but if his actions in giving the nod to some of the appointments in evidence in the new Cabinet are anything to go by, the desire for integrity is outweighed by the need for compromise with thoroughly conflicted, corrupt and unsavoury characters who have no place in the Cabinet of any country that is founded on the values of openness, accountability and responsiveness.

If the turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, the electorate should take care not to vote for turkeys.

The fairness of elections in SA since 1999 is questionable due to the ways in which the ANC goes about raising funds in the public sector. The arms deals of 1999 paid for the ANC election campaign according to Andrew Feinstein, then an ANC MP. The Hitachi Power Africa deal to supply boilers for Eskom earned Hitachi huge fines in the US and the ANC a great deal of ill-gotten gains in SA. Now Lucky Montana, without lawyering up and with a straight face, tells Parliament that the ANC Treasurer-General and now brand new Cabinet member, Zweli Mhkize, attempted to solicit a big fat bribe from Prasa. This, as yet untested, allegation did not deter Ramaphosa from appointing Mhkize. Nor has the anti-corruption machinery of state lifted a finger against Mhkize.

None of the opposition parties raises funds using any of these illegal methods. No wonder the ANC has the most T-shirts, the biggest concerts and the largest food parcels at election time. This unfortunate imbalance in the finances of political parties calls into question the fairness of elections. It is the unsustainability of corruption that keeps the democratic project alive in SA. That, and the good sense of the voters who are not turkey fans. DM

Paul Hoffman

Opinion editorial published in the Daily Maverick on 28 February 2018.

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