Mr President? Hello? Where’s this new dawn of yours?

Ideas

Mr President? Hello? Where’s this new dawn of yours?

The state is now looking under couch cushions and between the seats of the car for that R16-billion

Columnist

Cyril Ramaphosa understands that it’s always darkest just before the dawn. Which is why he’s making sure it’s really, really dark right now. The longer he takes to fire captured Zuptas or outrageously incompetent members of his cabinet, the brighter his New Dawn will look when it arrives. Which is any time now. Any time. Mr President? You there? C-Cyril?
On Tuesday news broke that was, presumably, part of Project Pre-Dawn Darkness: a company linked to alleged dodgy payments to a senior SARS official has been hired by SARS as a debt collector.
The company, New integrated Credit Solutions (NICS), is reportedly one of eight used by the Receiver to hunt down outstanding debts of R16.6-billion, or, as the porters at Nkandla call it, “about fifty suitcases”.This story is still unravelling and no doubt proper journalists will be clambering all over it in the next few days. But perhaps it is worth pointing out, before we settle on a narrative about debt collection, one obvious fact about this case.
It is, simply, that the state has no intention of clawing back monies owed to it.
It if did, a certain homestead in KwaZulu-Natal would, at this moment, be up for auction, with a firepool Kreepy Krauly and several chickens sold to defray costs. Police officers would be knocking on gilded doors in Dubai and Uttar Pradesh. Hell, if we were really serious about getting back money stolen from South Africa’s poor, all of Stellenbosch and the northern suburbs of Johannesburg would have been seized by SARS.
But, of course, all that money – both the apartheid loot and the Zupta swag – is gone: laundered into legitimate properties and businesses, locked away in foreign accounts, or kept in secret slush funds to keep patronage networks running and to prevent small houses of cards from collapsing.
Which is why, in the absence of political will and bureaucratic ability to recover the estimated R100-billion stolen by the Zupta regime, the state is now looking under couch cushions and between the seats of the car for that R16-billion. After all, it is, like Ramaphosa’s presidency so far, better than nothing.
As for NICS, well, if it turns out that there have been dodgy dealings I’m going to try to remain calm. We could all do with a more efficient government, and if SARS has found a way to funnel tax rands directly into the bank accounts of politicians, cutting out numerous expensive middlemen, then I’ll take that as a small win.
Right. Now. About that dawn?

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