It is so invigorating to read that the National Development Plan (NDP) is “seeking to grow the economy threefold in the next 17 years”. [Business Report 7 March “NDP opens path to engage government”]. Planning Commissioner Bobby Godsell’s invitation to “identify constraints” is a not to be missed opportunity for business. His focus on market saturation, lack of skills and rigid labour legislation is helpful, but unless and until the scourge of corruption of deep seated and systemic nature is properly addressed, all the good commissioner will be doing is re-arranging the deck chairs on our Titanic ship of state. The cancer of corruption eats away at growth, it steals from the poor, it enriches the unworthy temporarily and it will, if left unchecked, wreck the NDP and with it all hope of peace, progress and prosperity. Noises emanating from Ministers Radebe and Sisulu about tackling corruption are encouraging, even if they were orchestrated to counter anticipated adverse publicity from the arms procurement commission hearings that were postponed unexpectedly after their advertisements were placed and their speeches made.
Here’s the thing: the National Development Plan has not taken on board the decision of the Constitutional Court, which has the final say in such matters, on what is actually needed to fight corruption. This is the NDP’s biggest, and potentially fatal, blind spot. In its seminal Glenister judgment the Court has laid down that specialisation, training, independence, proper resourcing and security of tenure (STIRS) are the hallmarks of an effective anti-corruption entity. South Africa has no such thing. The Hawks are a pale shadow of the Scorpions, and the Scorpions were vulnerable to closure because they lacked security of tenure. “STIRS” is the acronym of the criteria needed.
Business needs to get a-stirring in response to Commissioner Godsell’s kind invitation to treat. The necessary ammunition is available for free on“Glenister case”. The country needs an Anti-Corruption Commission, the Eagles, without which the NDP is doomed or even still-born. Already it is estimated that over R675 billion has been lost to corruption in the new South Africa. Official guestimates are that about R30 billion per year is skimmed off in corrupt tendering alone. This is not sustainable. Business does need to be heard on this topic and now has the kind invitation from Commissioner Godsell. If every business person reading this, emails the NDP, a message that Eagles fly higher, see further and go after bigger prey than Hawks, maybe, just maybe, the NDP mandarins will rethink their position on corruption and inspan the political will to get STIRS, and the Eagles, up and going. The National Planning Commission’s facebook page only has 2266 “likes” as of 7 March. It deserves more.
Paul Hoffman SC
8th March 2013