Enough talk, it’s time to jail the big state capture players

Ideas

Enough talk, it’s time to jail the big state capture players

We cannot keep talking about eradicating corruption when we don’t investigate, arrest or charge corrupt officials

Columnist


There are two South Africans who are going to need backbones of steel next year. They are President Cyril Ramaphosa and the National Prosecuting Authority’s new head, Shamila Batohi.
Batohi needs to take a near-destroyed NPA by the scruff of the neck, mend it and send lots of powerful people to jail – quickly. Ramaphosa must enable her to do her job.
If powerful players do not get charged in 2019 then the idea that crime in SA pays will be entrenched. If that becomes the norm then we will be adrift at sea without a compass. We will be lost.
There have to be consequences for wrongdoing. The great American jurist and Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was asked in an interview in 2012 where Egyptians should look to for inspiration as they wrote their post-revolution constitution.
“I might look at the Constitution of South Africa,” said Ginsburg. “It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done.”
Yet what use is our great Constitution when it is trampled upon so recklessly, so effortlessly and so regularly with no consequence? What use is it when it gives us so much space to expose malfeasance yet we fail to use it to ensure accountability?
We have known, as far back as 2010, that huge chunks of the SA state, and particularly the president of the republic at the time, serve a foreign family and their own pockets. We have had details of key personnel appointments being made not by the president of SA, but by this one family.
Yet not a single person has been charged, let alone appeared in court or convicted, for any of the heinous crimes emanating from this capture of the state.
The evidence is all there. In August 2011 the ANC’s national executive committee heard from a member of the cabinet, Fikile Mbalula, that he was informed that he had been elevated from a deputy ministry to the sports ministry. He was not informed by President Jacob Zuma but by the real powers in SA, the Gupta family. We know that his ANC comrades attacked him in that meeting, accusing him of ill-discipline, and told him to speak to the villain, Zuma, privately.
The evidence has piled up since then. Ministers have spoken. Opposition leaders have delivered chapter and verse on state capture by the Guptas. Ministers from Ngoako Ramatlhodi to Mcebisi Jonas and public servants like Themba Maseko and Phumla Williams have added detail and colour to the stories. The state capture commission has provided a torrent of further evidence.
No one is in jail. Not the perpetrators, not the enablers. The message is that in SA you can get away with virtually anything.
Compare this non-action that stretches back eight years with what has happened in the US over the past two years. President Donald Trump’s campaign and transition teams were accused of colluding with Russian agents to influence the 2016 presidential election in the then Republican candidate’s favour.
Within months of the accusations Robert Mueller III was appointed to serve as special counsel to investigate the allegations. Mueller is a Vietnam war veteran, a career public servant and a known Republican. Some would have expected him to shield Trump, the fellow Republican who appointed him to investigate.
Not a chance. Mueller continues to act for the US rather than for the Republicans. Mueller’s team has now charged five people closely connected with Trump with criminal offences. So far 35 Russians, as well as three Russian companies, have been charged with various crimes related to trying to influence the 2016 election.
Last week, Mueller’s biggest scalp yet, Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn, appeared in court for lying to federal investigators about his compromising conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. The judge who was to hand down sentence, Emmet G Sullivan, was incensed with Flynn, telling him: “All along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser. Arguably you sold your country out.”
Trump is feeling the heat. He has called Mueller’s actions a “witch hunt” and abused him on Twitter. He realises that 2019 will be dominated by the possibility of an impeachment motion against him. The message here is simple: Crime doesn’t pay. Actions have consequences.
In SA we cannot just keep talking about eradicating corruption when we don’t investigate, arrest or charge corrupt actors. The reason there is so much corruption in our country is because, by not acting against it swiftly and credibly, others jump on the bandwagon.
In SA, crime pays. It certainly has for those who captured and looted the state of billions of rand.
Good luck to Batohi.

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