OPINION: SA owes a debt of gratitude to judiciary, business, civil society
Nowhere is this truer than in the open and transparent work of the four commissions of inquiry set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa to probe criminal wrongdoing by senior politicians, public officials and business people during Zuma's presidency.
- The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, which continues to expose the rot.
- The Nugent Commission of Inquiry into the SA Revenue Service (Sars), which has ensured the removal of Tom Moyane and the appointment of a new commissioner, Edward Kieswetter, to rebuild this essential institution.
- The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Commission, which continues to expose in remarkable detail how politically connected senior officials benefited from the largest asset manager on the continent. The PIC is responsible for managing more than R2 trillion of public servants’ money.
- The Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, which has exposed the criminal conduct of Nomgcobo Jiya and Lawrence Mrwebi in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The appointment of advocate Shamila Batohi as the new National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) to lead the revival of the NPA and move towards establishing an investigating directorate dealing with serious corruption and associated offences in the office of the NDPP will no doubt prove decisive in ongoing efforts to strengthen the fight against crime and corruption.
Just how far the cancerous rot has spread, robbing the people of South Africa of billions of rands and undermining the very foundations of our democratic state, has been on full display in startling evidence produced by the various commissions.
The “denuding” of the state and consequent loss of key people in government and the shameless looting of public resources through the systematic re-purposing of state-owned enterprises by public officials to serve narrow interests have been the obnoxious face of corruption.
The collateral socio-economic consequences have been declining confidence in government and the erosion of trust, rising policy and institutional uncertainty, sharply declining business confidence, declining investment levels, and rising poverty and inequality.
Corruption has not only resulted in the loss of state revenue for economic and social development and service delivery, but also eroded the capacity and legitimacy of the state.
We therefore applaud the volume and frequency of evidence and bold remedial measures produced by the various commissions as decisive steps in re-establishing the rule of law, rebuilding citizen and investor confidence in our public institutions, and setting South Africa back on a path of institutional and economic renewal towards growth and prosperity for all.
They reaffirm our conviction of the sanctity of the Constitution and the exclusive judicial powers conferred on the courts, which, in a series of judgments, have continued the important task of reaffirming the integrity of the institutional and legal framework.
Indeed, it is the rigorous system of checks and balances embedded in the Constitution, in the face of pervasive state capture, that has been a key element of our democracy.
As always, the danger is that the public becomes inured to the volume and frequency of exposés, and simply switches off.
However, thanks to the resilience of the legal framework and the spirit of active citizenry that this democracy is built on, many South African civil society organisations, particularly Freedom Under Law, Corruption Watch and organised business under Business Leadership SA (BLSA), have been instrumental in enabling the significant progress in restoring the integrity and capacity of strategic public institutions.
In particular, we commend the interventions of private sector organisations such as Webber Wentzel who acted pro bono for Freedom Under Law for four years in the Jiba and Mrwebi matter.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude as BLSA and as a country for the incredible support they have provided to Freedom Under Law and other civil society organisations.
A cardinal lesson (and positive harbinger of the future) is a simple proposition: a strong, legally independent judiciary and active citizenry are a powerful bulwark against the worst excesses of individuals who presume to be more powerful than institutions.
We look forward to the next phase of the process in which the capacity of the justice system to bring to book those responsible for theft will no doubt be tested.
To paraphrase the president in his State of the Nation Address earlier this year, the action we take now to end corruption and hold to account those responsible will determine the pace and trajectory of the change we seek.
Bonang Mohale is the chief executive of Business Leadership SA (BLSA).