Major GNU task: Accelerate and win the war against crime, corruption

Solly Phetoe is the General Secretary of Cosatu. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo / Independent Newspapers.

Solly Phetoe is the General Secretary of Cosatu. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo / Independent Newspapers.

Published Jun 24, 2024


By Solly Phetoe

The Government of National Unity will soon be put in place. One of its most important tasks will be to accelerate and win the war against crime and corruption.

These are cancers that have become endemic across society and have had a devastating impact upon working class communities; women and vulnerable persons; the economy and its ability to create jobs; and the fiscus and its resources to fund critical public services.

We need a Cabinet comprising people of unimpeachable integrity, and with the capacity to hit the ground running.

Women workers risk their lives walking to work during the dark. Girls are at risk of the most horrific crimes. Companies struggle due to load shedding and cable theft, creating pressure on their ability to pay workers or taxes.

Key to growing the economy, creating decent jobs, reducing poverty and inequality, rebuilding the state and inspiring hope in millions of working-class families that a better life for all will happen, is decisive leadership and interventions by the GNU, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC.

To ensure we win this war, then, the following critical actions need to happen:

* Reversing the brain drain at SAPS and raising it back to well over 200 000 members; shifting personnel from desks to specialised units and community policing; ensuring vehicles are working and personnel have the necessary tools of the trade; and that SAPS members are paid a living wage.

This includes capacitating SAPS’ forensic capacity and ending its backlogs.

* Ensuring the full implementation of the progressive, gender-based violence amendments to our criminal laws by Parliament, eg, capacitating SAPS members and prosecutors as well as staff at hospitals and clinics.

* Filling prosecutor vacancies at the NPA and bringing on board the necessary forensics and other critical skills to ensure successful convictions.

* Overhauling the management of courts to end the continuous delays in trials, expediting serious crime and corruption cases, and hiring additional staff to ensure matters do not take years to conclude.

* Investing in our Correctional Services facilities to ensure staff are safe from being attacked by prisoners, and that all prisoners are required to undertake skills and education programmes to improve their chances of gainful employment upon leaving prison, and reduce their likelihood of resorting to crime. Early parole for serious offenders must be ended.

* Budget cuts impacting upon the ability of the SANDF to provide support to the SAPS need to be addressed lest we lose its critical capacity to respond to emergencies.

* State Security has repeatedly been found badly wanting and needs a thorough cleansing if it is to fulfil its constitutional mandate and not remain a source of embarrassing scandals.

* SARS has been a positive example of state renewal. It must be given more resources to tackle tax evasion and customs fraud, as these threaten badly-needed local jobs when imports are brought without paying what is due.

Increased revenue compliance generates the funds the state needs to hire additional SAPS and other critical frontline service staff, as well as to invest in the state’s capacity.

Tax compliance is often an easier method to tackle gangs and other sophisticated criminal syndicates.

SARS needs to be mandated to conduct life style audits of public office bearers as well as senior management across government, and in particular in the state-owned enterprises.

* Labour market institutions, in particular the CCMA and Labour Courts, need to be capacitated too, to ensure that workers – in particular domestic, farm, cleaning, construction, transport, retail and hospitality, among other vulnerable workers – are able to enjoy and exercise their full labour rights.

The recent loss of more than 55 workers to horrific accidents at construction sites in George, Ballito and Ngcobo, as well as at sea off the West Coast, are painful examples of the need to drastically improve the capacity of the state to enforce the laws and hold delinquent employers accountable.

These institutions need to be well resourced so that workers are able to access immediate relief and are not subjected to indefinite delays, where many simply choose to give up.

* The Financial Sector Authority and other relevant regulatory authorities need to be fully empowered to audit and hold accountable pension and other investment funds. All too often society assumes that corruption is only a thing of the state, and yet Steinhoff and many other private sector scandals have erupted with little consequence.

All too often businessmen have treated workers’ pension funds, in particular those invested through the Public Investment Corporation, as a slush fund.

There is a need to build a culture of pension fund accountability, including for the PIC to publicly disclose all its investments and returns as required by the PIC Act.

* Alternative materials need to be sourced for copper to overcome the pandemic of cable theft crippling Eskom, Transnet and Metro Rail. Law enforcement can only do so much. The ultimate solution is to utilise alternative materials where an illegal market does not exist.

* Parliament recently passed the Public Procurement Bill. It is important that President Ramaphosa soon sign it to enable its implementation across the state, establishing a uniform, transparent public procurement system that will help deter and expose corruption, in particular in municipalities and SOEs.

* It will be important that Parliament, too, play its role and hold the state accountable for actioning the above.

The above interventions, if actioned, can help ensure South Africa wins this life and death war against crime and corruption. What we cannot afford is to continue along a path of business as usual and expect different results.

Cosatu will continue to play its part in pushing government and the private sector to play their respective roles.

Solly Phetoe is the General Secretary of Cosatu.