The IRR estimates that 41 out of the 80 elected members on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the African National Congress (ANC) have been implicated in serious incidents of corruption. Eight NEC members have not been implicated at all, while it is difficult to make an assessment of the remainder. Contrary to public perception, the 41 who have been linked to corruption are split between the Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa camps, not confined to the former.

This explains why this week’s NEC statement supposedly ‘drawing a line in the sand’ against corruption (and other crimes) puts so much emphasis on internal party processes, rather than the criminal justice system.

In general, ANC members who have been implicated in corruption, but have not yet been charged with a criminal offence, must simply appear before the party’s integrity commission. This, of course, has no significant investigative powers. It certainly cannot implement the dawn raids which the Scorpions mounted against Mr Zuma in 2005 – and which netted some 93 000 documents vital in confirming and expanding the criminal case against him.

Recommendations not binding

At present, moreover, the commission’s recommendations are not binding unless they have been endorsed by the NEC. This situation is under review, says Mr Ramaphosa. However, an NEC that is itself so deeply compromised is unlikely to give the commission any greater decision-making powers.

It is only where ANC members have been charged with corruption (or other crimes) that the individuals affected will be expected to ‘step aside’. According to Sibongile Besani, Head of ANC Presidency, these members will not be expected to resign as they must still be ‘given the chance to clear their names’.

Asking these members to step aside, Mr Besani stresses, is nevertheless a significant response from the ANC to public anger over corruption and constitutes an important ‘step in the right direction’.

People who have stepped aside, he explains, cannot in principle continue to perform their normal tasks as deployees of the ANC. But how precisely this will affect their other duties – for example, as members of national or provincial legislatures – is a matter of detail to be decided by the office of ANC secretary general Ace Magashule.  

Take, then, Zandile Gumede, a former eThekwini mayor, who is facing charges of corruption and may perhaps (media reports remain unclear) have stepped aside from her membership of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature – a position to which she was appointed in mid-August 2020. She remains a member of that legislature and will, it seems, continue to draw her usual MPL salary of some R1.1m a year. Which suggests that ‘stepping aside’ is a euphemism for a paid holiday, rather than a real punishment.

How many of ANC members are likely to be charged with corruption and then compelled to step aside? Major prosecutions of NEC members are unlikely, as this would decimate the organisation’s senior leadership and generate a real risk of the ANC’s collapse.

Prosecutions unlikely

Major prosecutions of less important figures are unlikely too, if only because the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), according to its head, Shamila Batohi, remains badly damaged by the hollowing out of its capacity under the Zuma presidency and still lacks adequate funding and skills.  

Moreover, when the ANC insisted, in the drafting of the 1996 constitution, that the formerly decentralised and independent provincial attorneys-general be brought under the control of a National Director of Public Prosecutions appointed by the president, it did so to turn the NPA into a shield for itself and a weapon against others. That impetus has not changed.

In addition, the most common malfeasance within the ANC is probably the major inflating of prices by BEE tenderpreneurs in contracts with the government at every level. This is not confined to the recent Covid-19 contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other goods and services. Rather, it generally afflicts some 50% of the state’s R800bn public procurement budget – as the Treasury’s acting chief procurement officer Willie Mathebula told the Zondo commission at its start in August 2018.

Take the example of Ace Magashule’s son, who reportedly bought a BMW worth R2m a week after his company (of which he is the sole director) won a major contract to provide soap and masks for the Free State provincial administration.

How easy would it be to prosecute Ace’s son for corruption? South Africa has an extraordinarily convoluted and supposedly highly comprehensive anti-corruption statute in the form of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (Precca) of 2003.

If Ace’s son could be proved to have paid a bribe to an official in the Free State provincial health administration in order to obtain the contract, he could be convicted of corruption under Precca and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. He could also be fined an amount ‘equal to five times the value’ of the bribe.

But it seems unlikely that Ace’s son would have had to pay a bribe to secure his contract. Far more probable is that he simply benefited from the well-established and long-standing practice within all ANC-administered organs of state of paying politically-connected BEE ‘tenderpreneurs’ vastly inflated prices for the goods and services they supply.

Precca also prohibits the provision of other benefits, advantages, or ‘gratifications’, which it defines very broadly. It further bars the ‘aiding and abetting’ of corruption. In addition, it has complex rules on the investigation of monies or other properties that are reasonably believed to be the proceeds of corruption because they seem ‘disproportionate’ to their possessor’s known sources of income.

All these provisions should help to prove corruption in Covid-19 contracts – especially where prices were greatly inflated above market norms or companies were created only after the lockdown began and seemingly for the sole purpose of netting lucrative PPE and other contracts. However, generating sufficient proof in a large number of cases may not be easy to achieve for either the under-resourced NPA or the politically tainted and often inept Hawks.

If only a small number of prosecutions were to be mounted, this would not suffice to disrupt a well-established pattern of procurement abuses. And if selective prosecutions seemed to target one faction rather than another, this would further divide the ANC – an outcome the NEC would be anxious to avoid.

In practice, thus, criminal prosecutions under Precca may help little against either the Covid-19 contracts or the wider BEE feeding frenzy – in which tens of thousands of ANC cadres at all levels of government routinely milk the state’s massive annual procurement budget under preferential procurement rules.

Real issue

The real problem is that the ANC has succeeded in portraying BEE preferences in state procurement as a vital means of providing redress to apartheid’s victims. This is cynical in the extreme, for the main beneficiaries of preferential tenders, as the ruling party well knows, are the political elite, not the unemployed and destitute.

On this flawed basis, the ANC has given political and moral legitimacy to the massive looting of the state. Yet many of the commentators incensed at corruption seem reluctant to see through this stratagem – or to acknowledge that the only effective way to end the looting is to abolish BEE in public procurement.

The country – and especially its poorest citizens – need the maximum benefit from every tax rand used in procurement. Which means that every contract must be concluded on the accustomed criteria of price, quality, and proven capacity to deliver – not skin colour, gender, age, or any other extraneous factor.

Was it a victory?

How much of a victory, then, has Mr Ramaphosa won against corruption? Both he and the NEC have drawn attention to the ‘choreographed campaign’ which the president has supposedly been steadfast in resisting. That this campaign was choreographed is clear. But for what reason this was done is less apparent.

The ostensible attack on the president was most probably orchestrated to create the impression of ‘CR’ being under siege. This would help counter mounting criticisms of his weak leadership, raise fears he might be ousted, and rekindle his flagging support.

If this is so, then the praise now being heaped on Mr Ramaphosa by some commentators is richly undeserved.  On the contrary, his manoeuvres have simply been a manipulative attempt to defuse the #VoetsekANC campaign through the use of smoke and mirrors.

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Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

21 COMMENTS

  1. As always, Anthea Jeffery exposes the ANC’s cynical posturing with razor sharp precision. Of course, comrade Cyril and his friends did have the IMF and WHO watching over their looting and corruption of the Covid emergency loan under the guise of reparation. When will such international agencies declare BBBEE racist and illegal?

  2. I think that President Ramaphosa is heaping smoke and mirrors on us. He speaks of severe consequences for those who are charged and found guilty. The surfacing of evidence will not be surfaced in most cases and consequences are just words. Also, I sense he is keeping the scope too close to the current PPE scandals and not the broader acts of unethical thievery.
    On the “real issue” raised by Anthea above, I think that even if the procurement contracts are given to BEE preferences, those preferred tender beneficiaries do still have a moral and ethical duty to deliver at a fair market price at the expected quality. Anything else is inexcusable greed.
    Ramaphosa is the executive president of the government and also of of the ANC. Whilst he should not interfere in the work of country’s law agencies, he has a duty and is empowered to hold ANC party members to ethical standards and in doing so, he could act against the likes of Gumede and Lungisa and Gigaba and…. He chooses not to. The country suffers at the expense of the internal party processes which are all driven by greed and vanity.
    So yes, this is another round of smoke and mirrors until tempers of the citizens subside.

  3. I am always deeply suspicious of “lines in the sand”. As soon as the tide turns, they are washed away – better by far to have lines in stone but then I am no politician!!

  4. I have a problem with Dr’s opinions, I cannot disagree with them, even if there is a point I may disagree, she will address my doubts in the next paragraph.
    To add to all of this, I do not see the point of BEE but brutal stealing of public funds. Inclusion of black (or non-white) people in the economy is inevitable. Infamous baasskap was a result of natural inclusion of people of all colours in the growing economy. I am almost sure that BEE has done more damage to black people than baasskap could ever do.

    • BEE was originally a stalling-off defence mechanism by Business to buy off the previous “Nationalise everything in sight” rhetoric. of the early 1990s. Times have now changed,and the RET tactic has become one of taking over from the inside. (“Capture” was not exclusively practised against State-owned enterprises.) As result. BEE has become largely an element of virtue-signalling, and a means of financing certification-agencies.

  5. As I have been saying in many forums for the last few weeks and since the ANC entered into the anti corruption public area by the dozens. It is simply an attempt by them to own the last narrative they do not own and pervert, twist and falsify. It is also the one that is hurting them, and exposing them, their cadres, and for what it is worth, the voters that blindly believe them. Their entire entry into this discussion is purely cynical self serving and for narrow purposes. Also something they are very adept at while at the same time something we as South Africans are highly naive to.

    It is a naturally met expectation that the general media would swallow the cool aid dished up by the ANC as it already has, as well as the response from a gullible citizenry so easily fooled and here again clamoring to be the first to congratulate Ramaphosa and make ludicrous claims of some final turn around and show of supposed strength. We certainly love clutching at straws in a storm in the open ocean. the general responses to articles in much of the alt press is vomit worthy.

    It is no wonder we have brought ourselves to the place we are at. Most of it is self inflicted as a result of our lack of evaluation of circumstances and naivety of spirit. Believing and hope and prayers are simply not enough are they? The ANC will merely continue to EFF us over more solidly than they already have for our lack of efforts to understand them as an organization or their intent and final destination for the country.

  6. The ploy to now take steps to bring those accused and guilty of corruption, theft, abuse of budget spending regarded irregular by the AG, is a smoke screen.
    People will remain in public service and stay employed in Local and Central Government posts, usually promoted as well.

    The stinking rot will just continue as those few that are not in favor with senior officials will be suspended and get this- with full pay and benefits which will continue for many months or years to come.

  7. Cyril Ramaphosa plays political games while the country burns. Neither he nor the ANC are in any way believable that they are fighting against corruption. All one has to do is search on the internet for “KZN ANC councillor killed”, then a long list emerges- and that’s just in KZN. Do you know what I don’t see? A list of names after I search for “ANC member jailed for corruption.” Schabir Shaik has had a miraculous recovery thanks to years of playing golf after he was released on medical parole because of a supposedly terminal disease. Tony Yengeni got an at least 80% discount on a prison sentence for an undeclared discount he received from Daimler and his criminal record was expunged. Bheki Cele was fired as SAPS national commissioner due to involvement in a questionable building lease deal- now he’s minister of police appointed by Cyril Ramaphosa. Zuma is still not in prison after more than a decade of investigations. The top ANC politicians who appointed and defended looters at SOEs during the presidencies of Mbeki, Zuma and Ramaphosa have not seen the inside of a police station, let alone been tried or sent to prison because “the NPA has challenges”, but we are expected to believe Don Squirrelo “drew a line in the sand”? He could’ve drawn the line on diamond or Zuma’s bunker concrete for all I care, but Ramaphosa will only be believable when his “comraids” are sent to jail without regard for age, gender, or rank in ANC and government, money is recovered, tender processes cleaned up, B-BBEE and the rest of that racist alphabet soup legislation is removed and “deployed” ANC members never do business with government again.

  8. THE FISH ROTS FROM THE HEAD!
    If i work as an operator in charge of a passenger train, not obeying safety signs causing a “Disaster” in where passengers life’s are lost. It happened on my watch. I’ll get fired and prosecuted.
    Whose insurance should pay for the lost of lives and other damage. The owner of the railway of course.
    The Anc is busy with “vote shopping”.
    The Anc should be prosecuted and held responsible.
    Thank You

  9. It seems that the ANC can find money to bail out SAA but not NPP. Free flights for MPs & families from the former, jail sentences from the latter — no-brainer

  10. If members of the ANC are aware that crimes have been committed then the ANC President (and the Cabinet) is guilty of aiding and abetting criminals. It’s quite simple. They are ALL criminals.

  11. I can only share the London Times quote of the week where SAs political situation is described’ as follows :

    Ineptocracy – A system of Govt where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

    The squarely addresses BEE, Affirmative Action and current sins

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