Blade runner Oscar Pistorius has suffered brand damage since his arrest last week for shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. But Pistorius has not been the only casualty of the unfolding drama.
Brand South Africa has taken a hit with the revelations at his bail hearing of police incompetency.
Not only did the world learn that the investigating officer, Hilton Botha, faces charges of attempted murder, but it heard Pistorius’s defence attorney accuse Botha of contaminating the evidence by walking through the crime scene without protected shoe covers. And a claim that the police found testosterone in Pistorius’s home was countered by Botha’s later testimony that the substance had yet to be tested.
The bungling could prove useful to businessman Shrien Dewani, who is accused of hiring a hitman to kill his wife and is desperately trying to avoid extradition from the UK to face the charges. Dewani will be able to use the episode as evidence that all is not well in South Africa’s criminal justice system,
It will also confirm investor perceptions that, at some level, the country is dysfunctional. The Farlam Commission of Inquiry into last year’s Marikana massacre has already highlighted serious problems about the quality of policing in South Africa.
The Pistorius bail hearing has contributed to an impression that justice is random and heavily dependent on the ability of the defendant to hire a big-shot lawyer. While the quality of legal representation affects trial outcomes in all jurisdictions, a competent police investigation could go a long way towards ensuring that justice is done.
Letting a guilty man go free because of botched police work is a crime against society. And sending an innocent man to jail because police have conspired to stitch him up – or are too incompetent to find the real perpetrator – is a crime against humanity.
There was a time when it was possible for the executives of financial institutions, including ratings agencies, to indignantly and successfully protest their innocence when charged with even the slightest transgression of the rules.
But that time is no longer with us; it might of course return, but for now it is history. African Bank’s Leon Kirkinis might mutter about the lack of any substantial case against his bank and hint at a counter legal charge, but the reality is that a lot of people are likely to suspect that there is fire – or at least a few burning ashes – behind the smoke spotted by the National Credit Regulator (NCR).
For financial institutions across the globe the post-2008 reality is that they are deemed guilty, by the court of public opinion, until proven innocent.
Perhaps, before the global financial meltdown, the market might have taken the NCR’s move on African Bank in its stride. But, in 2013, it is deemed by African Bank’s advisors to be a “material issue”. And this is why the bank had to abandon its plans to raise $300 million (R2.7 billion).
African Bank has been hit by a new contagion and it is a contagion that proves yet again that financial markets are indeed global.
Across the globe, even in South Africa where we were relatively unscathed by the factors that nurtured the financial crisis, there is a cynicism about how financial institutions do business.
And it seems that every day something new is uncovered about the rigging of Libor, or mis-selling products, or overpaying executives, that keeps us in a state of keen resentment. But even as we all wait for the US Department of Justice to dig up loads of dirt on rating agency Moody’s, following its comprehensive assault on Standard & Poor’s, we remain enthralled to them as they contemplate our standing in the world’s economy.
“We should put South Africa first. All of us have a patriotic duty and responsibility to build and promote our country,” said President Jacob Zuma yesterday in his reply to the debate on his State of the Nation address.
He detailed all the warm sounding plans of government. “Our cross-cutting strategies such as the New Growth Path, the industrial policy action plan, the departmental strategic plans, annual performance plans and municipal integrated development plans and every other government plan will fall under the umbrella of the National Development Plan (NDP),” he reported at the end of his speech, encouragingly. Government’s framework place “will be precise and clear in identifying indicators and targets to be achieved in the period 2014 to 2019.
“The first draft of the 2014-2019 NDP-aligned framework should be ready for a thorough discussion at the July cabinet lekgotla,” he pledged.
“This can then be refined so that it can be submitted to cabinet for approval as soon as possible after the 2014 elections.
“We look forward to a new way of doing things and a new culture so that by 2030, we can say that we have arrived at the South Africa we all envisaged in 1994.” It was heady stuff.
Noting that Deputy Minister Jeremy Cronin had argued that opposition parties had sidelined themselves “from the broad consensus-building processes under way in the country to address our many challenges”, the president noted that “he was sceptical about their ability to join the mainstream”.
“As we move to the 20th anniversary of freedom, there should emerge a common thread of patriotism that binds us.”
Who was it that said that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel?
Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Ethel Hazelhurst, Ann Crotty and Donwald Pressly.