Party loy­alty vs abil­ity

SA’s hal­lowed in­sti­tu­tions and state-owned com­pa­nies have been blighted by in­com­pe­tent man­age­ment and cor­rup­tion, but they can be fixed

CityPress - - Voices - Mavuso Msi­mang Msi­mang is a board mem­ber of Cor­rup­tion Watch. This is part two of a speech he de­liv­ered at the in­ter­ac­tive 2015 Risk Lab­o­ra­tory, or­gan­ised by the In­sti­tute of Risk Man­age­ment SA

Sev­eral in­sti­tu­tions in the South African crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem and a string of state-owned com­pa­nies con­sti­tute a grave cor­rup­tion risk with far-reach­ing con­se­quences for law en­force­ment and the econ­omy.

Ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity for this calami­tous state of af­fairs must be laid at the door of those in party po­lit­i­cal and gov­ern­ment cor­ri­dors of power – for the cre­ators of some of the most unin­spired board and ex­ec­u­tive ap­point­ments in some of these in­sti­tu­tions.

Pros­e­cut­ing or...

It is worth not­ing that none of the di­rec­tors of the post-1994 Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA) have yet been able to serve their 10-year term in of­fice. Bule­lani Ngcuka, the first of its di­rec­tors, and his suc­ces­sor, Vusi Pikoli, fell foul of the po­lit­i­cal hur­ri­canes of the time. The con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the de­ci­sion to pros­e­cute Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma on cor­rup­tion charges claimed Ngcuka’s scalp.

For his part, then pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki sus­pended Pikoli for go­ing ahead with the pros­e­cu­tion of then na­tional com­mis­sioner Jackie Selebi. Pikoli was sub­se­quently de­clared fit for of­fice by the Frene Gin­wala In­quiry and re­in­stated. Then in­terim pres­i­dent Kgalema Mot­lanthe fired him any­way.

Pres­i­dent Zuma ap­pointed Menzi Sime­lane as di­rec­tor of the NPA in 2009, but was forced by the courts to re­verse this de­ci­sion.

Mx­olisi Nx­as­ana, ap­pointed in Oc­to­ber 2013, later faced an in­quiry in­sti­tuted by the pres­i­dent “to as­sess his fit­ness to hold such of­fice”. This volte-face was at­trib­uted to the dis­cov­ery that Nx­as­ana failed to dis­close his pre­vi­ous brushes with the law. Nx­as­ana suc­cess­fully chal­lenged the pres­i­dent’s rea­sons for the sus­pen­sion, which re­sulted in a set­tle­ment, the terms of which re­main se­cret. Nx­as­ana left of­fice af­ter a two-year ten­ure – and by no means a poor man. And the pres­i­dent adu­lated him as “pro­fes­sion­ally com­pe­tent with the req­ui­site ex­pe­ri­ence and in­tegrity to hold a se­nior po­si­tion”. The restive­ness at the NPA has oc­curred across the board. Un­seemly bick­er­ing, back-stab­bing, fac­tional du­els among se­nior of­fi­cials and ar­rest war­rants have been the or­der of the day. The con­duct of two of­fi­cers was such that it had to be re­ferred to the Gen­eral Coun­cil of the Bar to de­cide if these in­di­vid­u­als should be struck off the roll.

Polic­ing

There has also been in­sta­bil­ity at the SA Po­lice Ser­vice (SAPS). I am loath to speak ill of the dead, even when it comes to telling hurt­ful truths. Suf­fice to say that the late Jackie Selebi left the po­lice ser­vice in dis­grace, in­ci­den­tally not be­fore or­der­ing the shut­down of the an­ticor­rup­tion unit. He also re­signed as head of In­ter­pol. Selebi was ac­cused of cor­rup­tion, sen­tenced to 15 years’ im­pris­on­ment and lost his ap­peal in court.

The feisty and ebul­lient Gen­eral Bheki Cele lasted all of three years be­fore he was dis­missed by the pres­i­dent on the rec­om­men­da­tions of a board of in­quiry man­dated to es­tab­lish whether he “had acted cor­ruptly, dis­hon­estly or with an undis­closed con­flict of in­ter­est” in re­la­tion to two po­lice lease deals.

Gen­eral Riah Phiyega suc­ceeded Cele in June 2012. Three years on, and per­sis­tent ac­cu­sa­tions in be­tween, Phiyega is deal­ing with the Marikana Com­mis­sion of In­quiry rec­om­men­da­tions that the pres­i­dent in­sti­tute an in­quiry into her fit­ness to hold of­fice. This was based on a find­ing that she was party to a de­ci­sion to mis­lead the com­mis­sion on how it came about that the “tac­ti­cal op­tion” was im­ple­mented on Au­gust 16 2012, the day of the Marikana mas­sacre.

The cat­a­logue of cor­rupt po­lice of­fi­cers, past and present, is noth­ing if not nau­se­at­ing. In July last year, the SAPS re­ported that 1 448 serv­ing po­lice of­fi­cers were ac­tu­ally con­victed crim­i­nals. They in­cluded, among oth­ers, a ma­jor gen­eral, 10 bri­gadiers, 21 colonels, 10 ma­jors, 43 lieu­tenant colonels, 163 cap­tains, 84 lieu­tenants and 716 war­rant of­fi­cers.

Their crim­i­nal­ity ranged from mis­con­duct, theft and sale of arms to gang­sters, so­lic­it­ing bribes, drug deal­ing and mur­der.

Not all is lost. Hard-work­ing em­ploy­ees in the NPA and the SAPS con­tinue to keep them go­ing. The Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan has polic­ing rec­om­men­da­tions that can only help.

State-owned com­pa­nies

No fewer than 10 state-owned com­pa­nies are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing lev­els of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion that are se­verely hurt­ing our al­ready be­lea­guered econ­omy and suck­ing bil­lions of rands from the Na­tional Trea­sury. It is proper to de­scribe this as crim­i­nal, es­pe­cially in the face of the des­per­ate so­cial con­di­tions many cit­i­zens are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

With ad­mirable can­dour, Mbeki ad­mit­ted that in 1998 Eskom had asked the gov­ern­ment for per­mis­sion to build new power sta­tions. The gov­ern­ment re­jected the re­quest. In his words: “Eskom was right. We were wrong.”

By the time Eskom started tack­ling ex­pan­sion re­quire­ments, they were fac­ing se­vere skills short­ages: engi­neers, pro­ject man­agers and tech­ni­cians, in par­tic­u­lar.

By 2006, it had be­come clear that it was just a mat­ter of time be­fore the poor main­te­nance of power sta­tions, age­ing in­fra­struc­ture and the skills short­ages had re­sulted in a power cri­sis. In the lat­ter part of 2007, the coun­try started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing rolling black­outs as de­mand out­stripped sup­ply, threat­en­ing to desta­bilise the na­tional grid.

Econ­o­mists’ es­ti­mates in March this year were that the Eskom cri­sis had curbed eco­nomic growth by as much as 10%. A depart­ment of public en­ter­prises pre­sen­ta­tion to Par­lia­ment in the same month said Eskom’s power cuts had cost the na­tional econ­omy be­tween R20 bil­lion and R80.1 bil­lion.

In the midst of this cri­sis, the Eskom board chair­per­son, its CEO and three other ex­ec­u­tives were sus­pended and all but one have since left the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe de­scribed this sit­u­a­tion as a “pos­i­tive cri­sis” as it was stim­u­lated by new de­mand (pre­sum­ably by the pre­vi­ously ex­cluded).

SA Air­ways (SAA) is a peren­nial loss-maker that has gob­bled up bil­lions of rands in suc­ces­sive un­suc­cess­ful bailouts. The turnover of boards, CEOs and ex­ec­u­tives has been high and has cre­ated in­sta­bil­ity. The present chair­per­son, who is also chair­per­son of the Ja­cob Zuma Foun­da­tion, Dudu Myeni, point­edly de­fied an in­struc­tion from Lynne Brown, who as min­is­ter of public en­ter­prises, rep­re­sented the gov­ern­ment on the car­rier. In De­cem­ber, the pres­i­dent trans­ferred the ad­min­is­tra­tion of SAA to Na­tional Trea­sury.

In its last state­ment of 2014, Cab­i­net ex­pressed its con­cern about the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the cash-strapped and strike-riven SA Post Of­fice. Par­lia­ment was re­cently in­formed that the or­gan­i­sa­tion had no money to pay salaries and that it was on the verge of col­lapse. Its fail­ure to up­date its tech­nol­ogy had also re­sulted in a loss of clients. The board re­signed in Novem­ber last year.

The Pas­sen­ger Rail­way Agency of SA (Prasa) is another se­ri­ously trou­bled in­sti­tu­tion. It is plan­ning to in­vest R123 bil­lion in rolling-stock re­newal over the next 20 years.

The board re­cently dis­missed CEO Lucky Mon­tana amid cor­rup­tion ac­cu­sa­tions and coun­ter­ac­cu­sa­tions – all played out in the public do­main.

The Public Pro­tec­tor is about to pub­lish her find­ings on al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion. Prasa is em­broiled in a con­tro­versy over trains that are said not to fit South African rail tracks, a likely R1.3 bil­lion for­eign cur­rency hedg­ing loss is an­tic­i­pated and the chief engi­neer has been sus­pended and is fac­ing fraud charges on al­le­ga­tions of fal­si­fy­ing his aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Mean­while, the sacked CEO is proud to tell the public he be­lieves the engi­neer to be a ge­nius.

There are more state-owned com­pa­nies that are ver­i­ta­ble dens of cor­rup­tion and in­com­pe­tent man­age­ment, which are not men­tioned here for lack of time.

Nkandla

The ele­phant in the Nkandla room has been in a pro­longed ges­ta­tion that has lasted more than 36 months. When its due date ar­rives, there are fears the ele­phant might ac­tu­ally give birth to a mouse.

We have the spec­ta­cle of peo­ple run­ning out of breath, to no pur­pose, in an in­ter­minable process. Thanks to the re­cent visit by par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to the homestead, the public is now aware of the cesspit of sleaze that has been termed pres­i­den­tial se­cu­rity up­grades. Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and ser­vice providers had a field day. How­ever, fail­ure to pre­pare req­ui­site pros­e­cu­tion doc­u­ments, three years on, may as­sure the cul­prits se­cure cus­tody of their ill-got­ten loot – our money.

I wish to con­clude by plead­ing that we, who were the mid­wives of our lib­er­a­tion, must agree that we ought to be held to the high­est eth­i­cal stan­dards of per­for­mance when we acts as trustees of the peo­ple. The de­parted com­rades would have ex­pected noth­ing less.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT From left: Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, Mx­olisi Nx­as­ana, Riah Phiyega and Lucky Mon­tana

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