EDITORIAL: Maybe SA should consider Thuli’s suggestion of amnesty for corrupt individuals
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One the one hand, we should welcome the arrests of the deputy national police commissioner for human resources, Lieutenant-General Bonang Mgwenya, former acting national commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, and several other senior officers for their alleged roles in a multimillion-rand tender fraud scheme.
On the other hand, the development is cause for despair. If the most senior police officers in the country – those tasked with overseeing the fight against fraud and corruption – are themselves charged with fraud and corruption, what hope is there that the guilty will be arrested and punished?
The officers’ arrests relate to a R200 million tender for police emergency warning equipment, in terms of which the service issued a contract to install warning lights in police vehicles in 2017. Documents indicate that service providers were paid R65m, but the police service forked out a total of R191m, meaning nearly R130m remains to be accounted for.
The officers’ arrests follow those of senior politicians including Vincent Smith, on one charge of corruption and one of fraud, for allegedly receiving payments and services valued at about R900 000 from Bosasa or its officials.
As chairperson of Parliament’s Correctional Services Committee, Smith should have investigated Bosasa contracts as a priority, but is accused of using his position instead to allay concerns about the improper awarding of prison contracts to the company.
With the rot evidently lying so deep at both political and administrative levels, is former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s suggestion of offering amnesty to corrupt individuals really so far-fetched?
Critics tore into Madonsela for saying the country should consider less harsh consequences for people who played a “minimal but critical” role in corruption.
But, as she points out, when we consider the speed at which information has been trickling in at the state capture inquiry, and the inquiry’s cost – which already nears R1 billion – it is perhaps worth looking at another option that will save time and money.
Offering an amnesty does not mean the guilty must go unpunished, but it could encourage those with information on malfeasance in which they have participated to come forward.