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The new sheriff is rounding up his posse

In November 2021, new Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said he was the ’new sheriff in town’ and would tackle the outlaws. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

In November 2021, new Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said he was the ’new sheriff in town’ and would tackle the outlaws. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Feb 24, 2022

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IN NOVEMBER 2021, new Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said he was the “new sheriff in town” and would tackle the outlaws.

In February 2022, the country watched as the minister, armed in a suit and jaunty tie, with bold blue and white stripes against a brave purple background, proclaimed that the time had come to round up the posse to take down South Africa’s skelms.

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Riding at his side to combat the Wild West of South Africa’s dodgy dealings, came his posse: the National Treasury, the South African Revenue Service (Sars), and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), with the big guns: extended help from international agencies such as Interpol and tax authorities from around the world.

The template for this international posse pursuing outlaws in various jurisdictions was the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal − a large corruption, bribery and money laundering scam that started in 2009 in Malaysia, but became global in scope when it was exposed in 2015.

But on our South African soil, the underbelly of that beast we call “State Capture”, which began in 2009, reared its ugly head and was exposed in 2016, showing the country that the cookie jar was nearly empty.

Since then the citizens of our country have born witness to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, with the dulcet tones of Chief Justice Raymond Zondo probing all types of maleficence.

For four years, the Zondo Commission heard evidence on State Capture, the bags of cash from members of the Gupta family with tales of whiskey and undercover dealings.

Justice Zondo has since handed in two reports detailing how state capture took place with the assistance of several auditing and consultancy companies.

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Edward Kieswetter, the Commissioner of Sars, who sat on the same podium as Godongwana at the media briefing before the Budget Speech, said several investigations were continuing, the details of which he could not share with the media.

But he did say that 43 cases had been sent to the NPA, which had already resulted in 11 convictions.

Kieswetter said it took time to prepare the cases, and they did not want to rush the process in case the outlaws got off on a technicality.

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The new sheriff, however, was not only concerned with hounding the outlaws out of town, but also called upon the local townsfolk to clean up their act. In this, he was referring to the state-owned enterprises (SOE) that have been a drain on the purse of the Treasury for many years.

Godongwana said that apart from the money budgeted to help Eskom reduce its debt, other SOEs should get their houses in order. That did not mean that he would not listen to pleas for help, but any such help would come with conditions.

“The SOEs will not get blanket support. They need to move out of dependency on the state. Any help you get must depend on how you demonstrate that you are a good child,” Godongwana said.

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Eskom has already been provided with R136 billion to pay off its debt, with a further R88bn budgeted for until 2025/26.

Godongwana acknowledged, however, that Eskom faced a huge debt that remains a challenge to service without government support, which is why the Treasury is working on a sustainable solution to deal with the power utility’s debt in a manner that was equitable and fair to all stakeholders.

Any proposed solution would be contingent on continued progress to reform South Africa’s electricity sector, and Eskom’s own progress on its turnaround plan and restructuring.

To help with debt reduction, the government expects Eskom to take further steps towards cost containment, conclude the sale of assets and implement operational improvements to enhance the reliability of the electricity supply.

But Godongwana was not averse to helping deserving causes, which is why he announced a R20bn “Bounce Back” allocation that would help small businesses recover from the harsh Covid-induced lockdown restrictions that saw several small businesses shut down as they had no reserves to weather the storm of reduced tourism and restaurant activity.

And although Godongwana stumbled slightly on his words at times, his message was clear: gone were the biblical verses and rainbows and aloes of former years. Godongwana means business. He plans to walk the talk.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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