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JUDITH FEBRUARY: How long until the ANC gets the proverbial wake-up call?

OPINION

Bongani Bongo, former Minister of State Security has been arrested for fraud.

It’s not quite skittles falling, but it does provide some comfort as the public cries out for justice given the degree of looting and corruption that happened during the Zuma presidency.

Bongo has been charged with trying to disrupt the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom in 2017 by attempting to bribe an advocate acting on behalf of the inquiry. It is worth remembering that Bongo, who came from relative obscurity, was a staunch ally of Zuma’s and was elected chair of the Home Affairs portfolio committee of Parliament in July. If the ANC’s integrity committee did not deem fit to sanction Bongo, then the courts will need to step in, it seems.

Recently the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, and head of the NPA Investigative Directorate, Hermione Cronje, have both said we can expect further prosecutions in 2020.

This is probably music to most South Africans’ ears. Not a day goes by without the average citizen being reminded of the cost of state capture. The years of looting at SAA have resulted in a bankrupt airline with few options for survival. Ditto Eskom, Denel, Prasa and the rest of the draining SOEs.

The ‘drip drip’ information coming out of the Zondo Commission beamed into our living rooms daily does not help in lifting the mood of anger there is at years of corruption and state capture. As for Eskom, its dire state threatens the very survival of our economy.

There can be no doubt that Batohi and Cronje are feeling the pressure.

Yet, what is far more important than the pressure of ‘now’ is that matters are prepared for prosecution thoroughly and carefully with good prospects for success. There may be nothing more debilitating and soul-destroying than botched prosecutions. The NPA can and must exercise its mandate without fear or favour (and this is especially important in prosecuting high-profile individuals and politicians) and leave the rest to the transparent court processes.

Batohi and Cronje are both smart enough to know this and while their cautious approach may be frustrating, they must be allowed to do their work as best they can given their in-depth knowledge of available evidence.

Speaking of Bongo, after his arrest, the ANC chief whip, Pemmy Majodina said somewhat cheerily that the ANC might have to ‘reconsider’ Bongo’s position as chair of the Home Affairs portfolio committee. ‘Reconsider’? She is waiting for the ANC to receive a ‘detailed report’ on the matter apparently. Quite what the ANC needs to consider is perplexing. Bongo has been arrested and is out on bail. One also wonders whether the ANC’s integrity committee will again be found wanting when it hears this latest bit of news? And the same can be asked of Parliament’s Ethics committee.

This past week Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu again exposed the mismanagement of public funds. As he was reporting on the audit results for national and provincial departments, he said, in what must be an auditor’s understatement, that the results were ‘disappointing’. Makwetu said that irregular expenditure had increased to R62.60 billion from the R52 billion reported last year, while unauthorised expenditure was at R1.365 billion. Fruitless and wasteful expenditure continued to rise.

Pondering those numbers alone makes it clear that most of this money has been misspent by ANC members who are in positions of authority across national and provincial departments.

The party has an ambivalent relationship with ethics and good governance, especially in the provinces and municipalities. How many more times can Makwetu highlight the amount of money either stolen or wasted before the ANC gets the proverbial wake-up call?

But why would anyone in the ANC be incentivised to catch a wake-up call when its secretary-general Ace Magashule has been linked to several dirty deals and remains in his position?

Furthermore, in the latest most egregious example, Bathabile Dlamini has made a comeback of sorts. Here is a woman who heads up the near-pointless ANC Women’s League, who was found to have lied to the ConCourt in the Sassa social grants case, so much so that she was ordered to pay the costs of litigation herself.

This is the same woman who thereby jeopardised the livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable in our country and who left the Ministry of Social Development in a mess. The same Bathabile Dlamini who is unable to string together an intelligible sentence and whom President Ramaphosa removed from his Cabinet has yet again been protected through her appointment as interim chair of the Social Housing Regulatory Authority. This entity seems another cash cow ripe for looting given its R1 billion budget to ensure the delivery of housing projects.

Lindiwe Sisulu, the Minister of Human Settlements, defended the appointment, saying that Dlamini had the ‘institutional memory’ needed to do the job and that she would not be in charge of the budget. What is clear is that Dlamini is a failed politician and has proven herself to be incapable and dishonest. She is unfit for public office. The only reason Sisulu appointed her is because of her influence within the ANC Women’s League. That tells us about Sisulu’s naked political ambition more than anything else. It also tells us that she is prepared to undermine her boss, Ramaphosa. Shame on her, really.

But one wonders what Ramaphosa will do about this? Doubtless, he will let it slide as a means of winning wars and not fighting every mini battle that comes his way.

It’s a disappointing turn of events. More than that, however, it shows how hard (impossible?) it is for senior ANC members like Sisulu to take the high road when it comes to matters of principle. It also shows a complete disdain for ordinary citizens.

No surprises there, given the near-decade of state capture we have had to abide.

So, if the ANC cannot and will not take the ethical path, then we will have to rely on the NPA and the courts to do so. It will be a slow and painful path, but it has to be taken.

No doubt Batohi and Cronje know this all too well. Strength to their arm.

Judith February is based at the Institute for Security Studies and is also a Visiting Fellow at the Wits School of Governance. She is the author of 'Turning and turning: exploring the complexities of South Africa’s democracy' which is available. Follow her on Twitter: @judith_february

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