Solly Moeng: Thanks for the NPA head. Here's what else we need in 2019
Before those who can afford to start going away for the summer holidays, let us take a bit of time to look at what has been achieved in 2018 and what remains undone.
The year 2018 followed some nine years of what is now aptly described as a python slowly wrapping its coil around an unsuspecting young democracy.
And yes – contrary to what was claimed by former Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ngoako Ramatlhodi at the the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo – it was the unsuspecting South Africa, not the conniving Jacob Zuma, being strangulated by the Gupta python.
The mixed bag
- Jacob Zuma is no longer president – Check
- Jacob Zuma is gone – Not quite
- SOEs are no longer under active Zupta enablers – Check
- Tom Moyane no longer controls SARS – Check
- Brian Molefe is out of the system – Check
- The Guptas are on the run – Check
- Ace Magashule is out of the system – Not quite
- The NPA has a new head – Check
- The NPA has a firm and reliable crime busting partner in the SAPS/Hawks – No check
- National Treasury is under firm, ethical, control - Check
- Bathabile Dlamini is out of the system – No check
- Malusi Gigaba is out of the system – Check
- Nomvula Mokonyane is out of the system – No check
- Cyril Ramaphosa is safe and firmly in control – No check
No doubt, we have a bigger basket of things to celebrate at the end of 2018 than at the end of 2017 – or in the years since Jacob Zuma became president of the ANC and, tragically, of South Africa.
Though interference with the criminal justice system began to accelerate when former interim president Motlanthe sacked then-National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) – highly respected Advocate Vusi Pikoli – following the latter’s refusal to "look-the-other-way” and disregard Jacob Zuma’s growing large criminal file, the slide began under former President Mbeki when he inexplicably suspended the same NDPP after he indicated his intention to arrest his close ally and then criminally captured Police Commissioner, Jackie Selebi, who was subsequently convicted of corruption.
- READ: President fires Pikoli
By choosing to follow a transparent process in the appointment of the new NDPP, President Ramaphosa did the right thing in the current climate.
The move gives him a lovely packet of confidence-building brownie points. One hopes that the precedent he has set will be followed by others in areas whose opacity, especially where presidential prerogative is often opportunistically cited, tend to leave the rest of us powerless, alienated from the rationale that often drives government decision-making even when we all end up paying for such decisions.
But the lingering question remains whether appointing the right person to head the NPA will provide SA with the key it desperately needs to unlock the stubborn doors to criminal investigation and prosecution for all persons implicated in aiding, abetting, and benefitting from state capture.
They are known to those of us who have cared to follow the developments of recent years, often struggling to connect the myriad dots around them. They have been named in former Public Protector Madonsela’s report on the State of Capture; they have been named in many leaks by whistle-blowers and investigative media; and they have been named in journalist Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers.
If resources allow – and civil society in its impressive diversity should stand behind the NPA to insist that it happens – the new NDPP must also add to her 'To-do' basket, investigations into what has been going on in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (Ref. How To Steal A City by Crispian Olver), the Tshwane Municipality-GladAfrica matter, the notorious VBS Heist and all the persons linked to what happened there, and a whole lot of other shady places, including a basket of dodgy tender processes at various Water Boards around the country in recent years.
Then there is former SAA Board Chair Dudu Myeni, Eskom’s Matshela Koko, former Eskom CFO Anoj Singh, and others, who must come and tell us what they were up to.
Many innocent – often competent and ethical – people remain unemployable, sitting at home, after they lost their jobs for refusing to do wrong at the behest of politically parachuted enablers of corruption, or for speaking out against criminal acts.
They, too, silently wait for justice.
But to do all of the above with the interests of South Africa, not political formations, in mind, the new NDPP will need resources, space free of political interference, time, protection from the highest office in the land and, importantly, a collaboration by a capable SAPS-Hawks combination.
We would not need to worry about this, had the ‘coalition of the wounded’ that coalesced around Jacob Zuma after he was fired by Mbeki not seen fit to destroy the Scorpions, which had successfully and effectively housed criminal investigations and prosecutions under one roof.
The Hawks, a crucial partner to any success by the new NDPP, report to a known politician. It is unclear that they will be given the resources and the space necessary to be the partner the NPA will need to deliver justice to South Africans. If the Hawks frustrate any efforts by the new NDPP to go after politically sensitive criminals, the current minister of police will either be suspected of protecting his comrades or of being too afraid to be accused of going after political enemies. His history is known, and so are his political allegiances.
More than ever before, SA needs a crime busting unit that doesn’t report to a politician.
Too early to celebrate?
Given these complications, it might prove to be too early to start celebrating the appointment of a new NDPP. As things stand, it seems impossible to see anything happening against all the crooks implicated in state capture and other forms of corruption before the next elections.
Until then, and as campaigning for the 2019 elections gathers pace, South Africans will come under more strident calls to vote for the ANC – in order, ostensibly, to give president Cyril Ramaphosa the power to do what they expect of him. They will be called to choose between voting for Ramaphosa – a vote that will really be one for the ANC – or risk having president Julius Malema.
Of course, no one in their right mind should wish Julius Malema on South Africa. But would an ANC infested with rot, impunity, and arrogance; one that has run out of ideas and comrades to recycle, offer the solutions South Africa needs? Should South Africans vote out of fear of the devil they don’t know, for the devil they know, or something else?
Will the DA recover from its reputationally self-inflicted wounds of recent months?
Or will the answer lie in spreading the votes to newer, smaller, parties and civic movements that will appear on the 2019 ballot box?
Until we see clear signs that the recent past is irretrievably in our dustbins of history and that a new dawn has indeed begun, our task of connecting the dots will remain far from over.
* Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley Reputation Managers. Views expressed are his own.
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