The scourge of man­u­fac­tured emer­gen­cies

CityPress - - Voices - Mam­phela Ram­phele voices@city­

The man­u­fac­tur­ing of emer­gen­cies to jus­tify the flout­ing of pro­cure­ment reg­u­la­tions is a wide­spread prac­tice within the pub­lic sec­tor – just look at the SA So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency. The cul­ture of im­punity has em­bed­ded it­self so deeply in our pub­lic ser­vice that rais­ing ques­tions of ac­count­abil­ity is now re­garded as abuse of those re­spon­si­ble.

De­flec­tion of pub­lic con­ver­sa­tions away from the de­mand of ac­count­abil­ity to fo­cus­ing on the man­u­fac­tured cri­sis is be­ing used to great ef­fect by the ANC gov­ern­ment. So­cial Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini has pre­dictably brought us to the point of fo­cus­ing on the catas­tro­phe that would re­sult from not pay­ing out so­cial grants to the 17 mil­lion cit­i­zens whose mea­gre source of in­come is un­der threat. Cit­i­zens are made to face a choice be­tween de­mand­ing com­pli­ance with the law and leav­ing poor peo­ple with­out the means to sur­vive.

Ques­tions about why Dlamini has failed to es­tab­lish an al­ter­na­tive sys­tem of grant pay­ment, as or­dered by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court in 2013, are de­flected by the mantra that grants will be paid come April 1. Why is Dlamini so keen to sus­tain the un­law­ful con­tract with Cash Pay­mas­ter Ser­vices (CPS), and ig­nore all ad­vice from within and out­side her depart­ment, in­clud­ing Trea­sury?

We are told that there is no al­ter­na­tive to CPS. The SA Post Of­fice’s of­fer to step in to the role of pay­mas­ter has been dis­missed for fear of up­set­ting CPS. Of­fi­cials have been dis­missed or have re­signed from the depart­ment for dar­ing to in­ter­fere with the min­is­ter’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to con­tinue the re­la­tion­ship with CPS.

What makes CPS so at­trac­tive that tax­pay­ers have to pay more than R10 bil­lion for its ser­vices? Why con­tinue with this un­law­ful con­tract de­spite the re­puted abuse of priv­i­leged per­sonal data for com­mer­cial pur­poses, which leads to the fur­ther ex­ploita­tion of the most vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety? Who is ben­e­fit­ing from this con­tract?

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s fail­ure to hold Dlamini ac­count­able for this mon­u­men­tal in­com­pe­tence is com­pounded by his call­ing on the me­dia and cit­i­zens not to ask ques­tions, but to wait and see what hap­pens on April 1. What does he know that we don’t? What is in it for him and his party as they in­sist on con­tin­u­ing with a ser­vice provider that does not meet the cri­te­ria of good gov­er­nance?

We need to lean heav­ily on the words of Chief Jus­tice Mo­go­eng Mo­go­eng in the judg­ment on the Nkandla mat­ter as we as­sert our right as cit­i­zens to hold the pres­i­dent and the min­is­ter to ac­count on this is­sue: “Con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism, ac­count­abil­ity and the rule of law con­sti­tute the sharp and mighty sword that stands ready to chop the ugly head of im­punity off its stiff­ened neck.”

The so­cial grant saga is not the only man­u­fac­tured cri­sis in the coun­try. Come with me to a place of plenty – Bo­janala in North West. Cit­i­zens of this district have yet to en­joy a safe, reg­u­lar wa­ter sup­ply. In the Bo­janala Plat­inum District Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, there has been a wa­ter cri­sis for 10 years.

“We have plenty of wa­ter in the Crocodile River,” says district coun­cil mem­ber Paul Hen­driks, “but we need big­ger pumps; we need big­ger pipes; the pu­rifi­ca­tion sta­tion should have been up­graded. We have been promised these things, and money is bud­geted, but noth­ing hap­pens. The money dis­ap­pears.”

Coun­cil­lors have de­lib­er­ately been sab­o­tag­ing wa­ter sup­ply in this area for 10 years. They, to­gether with their friends, buy wa­ter trucks and get paid hand­somely to de­liver wa­ter to the dry towns. There are 10 trucks, for which the coun­cil pays about R1.3 mil­lion per month. This works out to about R4 000 per truck per day. There is no way of mea­sur­ing how much wa­ter is be­ing de­liv­ered, or even if it is be­ing de­liv­ered at all. Here is a decade-long, self-made cri­sis that is good busi­ness for cor­rupt coun­cil­lors.

Re­mem­ber the vot­ers’ roll cri­sis be­fore the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions last year? The In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) failed to im­ple­ment a 2003 Elec­toral Court rul­ing to up­date the na­tional vot­ers’ roll to en­sure that res­i­den­tial ad­dresses were au­then­ti­cated. In a court chal­lenge, in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates in Tlokwe, North West, charged that vot­ers were bussed into wards that the ANC feared it could lose, so they had no way of ver­i­fy­ing el­i­gi­ble vot­ers.

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court in that case saw through the trap and said: “Sub­stan­tively, what we have to grap­ple with is unique. The IEC – by its own do­ing – faces a quin­tes­sen­tial catch-22. At the time of ar­gu­ment, the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the vot­ers’ roll for pur­poses of the Au­gust 2016 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions was im­mi­nent. For pur­poses of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, the IEC had to ei­ther use a vot­ers’ roll that would be de­fec­tive for con­tain­ing names of vot­ers with­out cor­re­spond­ing ad­dresses, or re­move those names from the roll with­out fol­low­ing the due process of law; an in­im­i­cal lim­i­ta­tion of the af­fected vot­ers’ right to vote ... That ex­plains the ap­proach to us to res­cue it from this seem­ingly in­tractable prob­lem.”

Now, Dlamini is ask­ing tax­pay­ers to con­done her in­com­pe­tence by us­ing poor peo­ple’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity as a shield. Cit­i­zens should ask why her depart­ment failed to work with oth­ers in gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor to up­root poverty and pro­mote so­cial devel­op­ment to re­store the dig­nity of mil­lions who have been re­duced to sup­pli­cants.

The in­dig­nity of old, dis­abled and poor moth­ers of young chil­dren hav­ing to travel long dis­tances and queue for hours for their mis­er­able R350 per month child grant or R1 300 old age or dis­abil­ity grant should make us all hang our heads in shame. Ours is not a poor coun­try, but we seem to have ac­cepted that poverty and in­equal­ity are in­evitable fea­tures of our con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy.

We need to recom­mit to the ideals spelt out in the pre­am­ble of our Con­sti­tu­tion: “To heal the di­vi­sions of the past and es­tab­lish a so­ci­ety based on demo­cratic val­ues, so­cial jus­tice and fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights.” Chal­leng­ing the cul­ture of im­punity that Zuma has em­bed­ded in the pub­lic ser­vice by his own ex­am­ple and by his fail­ure to hold his erring min­is­ters ac­count­able is es­sen­tial. We have a sharp and mighty sword in our Con­sti­tu­tion to do so with­out fear or favour.

Ram­phele is co-founder of Reimag­ineSA

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Batha­bile Dlamini ap­pears be­fore Par­lia­ment’s Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Ac­counts

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