Get­ting Outa the cof­fee shop

CityPress - - News - Wayne Du­ve­nage

Amo­tion of no con­fi­dence by op­po­si­tion par­ties against Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma may have failed this week, but a ded­i­cated team of staff at the Or­gan­i­sa­tion Un­do­ing Tax Abuse (Outa) plan to take the fight to the courts. Outa, a non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, launched an at­tack on Zuma in Par­lia­ment late last month when it handed its dossier, No Room to Hide: A Pres­i­dent Caught in the Act, to the par­lia­men­tary port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on public en­ter­prises.

Outa chair­per­son Wayne Du­ve­nage, who re­signed from his job in 2012 to fo­cus on the or­gan­i­sa­tion, was joined by Rob Hutchinson and John Clarke in 2013. Op­er­at­ing from home and out of cof­fee shops for the next two years, Du­ve­nage, Hutchinson and

Clarke worked with a team of ad­vis­ers to keep the or­gan­i­sa­tion go­ing.

Ini­tially, Outa was funded by a num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing the SA Ve­hi­cle Rental and Leas­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, chaired by Du­ve­nage, to fight e-tolls. The or­gan­i­sa­tion also gave them “two other sol­diers”, ad­vis­ers Paul Pauwen and Marc Cor­co­ran.

Du­ve­nage said be­fore the news of the #GuptaLeaks broke that the Outa team met with se­nior coun­sel to ex­plore al­ter­na­tive routes to hav­ing Zuma re­moved from of­fice.

“As much as we ac­knowl­edge that we are a democ­racy with a sound elec­tion process ... there is suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to civil so­ci­ety that our govern­ment is fail­ing us, and badly. Too much tax­payer money was be­ing wasted through mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion and cor­rup­tion,” he said. “Nat­u­rally, the Gupta leaks added a lot of wind to the sails of our ev­i­dence build­ing, and helped us to fast-track and com­pile our case doc­u­ment.”

Outa’s dossier al­leges that Zuma lied to Par­lia­ment and the na­tion, abused his po­si­tion to en­rich him­self and his “cronies”, al­lowed him­self to be ma­nip­u­lated when mak­ing Cab­i­net choices and abused state re­sources to avoid pros­e­cu­tion. It also de­tails al­leged ev­i­dence of Zuma’s links to cor­rup­tion and state cap­ture, which was com­piled by its new team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors and foren­sic ex­perts.

It was pre­sented to MPs late last month as part of the par­lia­men­tary port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on public en­ter­prises’ pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion into state cap­ture.

The 175-page sub­mis­sion, struc­tured as a le­gal doc­u­ment, shows how far Outa has come from its days in the cof­fee shop.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion now has 38 full-time staff based at the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s of­fices in Rand­burg. They spe­cialise in in­ves­ti­ga­tions, lit­i­ga­tion, re­search, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and project man­age­ment. Their back-of­fice team man­ages fi­nance, sup­porter queries, gov­er­nance, mar­ket­ing and growth strategies.

Aside from the per­ma­nent em­ploy­ees, they also con­tract foren­sic ex­perts and plan to hire more full-time spe­cial­ists. Other ex­pan­sion plans in­clude an of­fice in Cape Town to deal with par­lia­men­tary en­gage­ment, lob­by­ing and ad­vo­cacy.

Al­though he de­clined to re­veal specifics, Du­ve­nage said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was wholly funded by South Africans – “in­di­vid­u­als and mainly small and medium busi­nesses, who do­nate small amounts rang­ing from R115 to R420 a month”.

“Lately, many of our donors have asked to in­crease their monthly do­na­tion amounts, in light of the im­por­tance of the work we are do­ing. In short, some de­scribe this as crowd­fund­ing for South Africa’s pros­per­ity,” he said, adding that they worked with other civil so­ci­ety groups. Du­ve­nage said that, lead­ing up to this week’s mo­tion of no con­fi­dence vote, they needed to share their dossier with MPs so that “they had a com­pelling ev­i­dence-based ref­er­ence point on the re­al­ity of state cap­ture and the im­pli­ca­tions of Zuma thereto”.

“Most im­por­tantly, how­ever, was the fact that if Par­lia­ment’s mo­tion of no con­fi­dence was un­suc­cess­ful in re­mov­ing Zuma, this would en­able Outa to turn to the courts with a com­pelling case and plea from so­ci­ety to seek rem­edy on a need for ac­tion to have Zuma re­moved,” Du­ve­nage said.

“We need to not only turn to the courts for pro­tec­tion to have this un­war­ranted con­duct and be­hav­iour at­tended to, but also dis­play that we have ex­hausted all other av­enues avail­able to so­ci­ety. We sim­ply can­not sit back and wait for elec­tions to come around un­der such a dire sit­u­a­tion.”

Outa’s ini­tial fight was over e-tolls in 2012, and it is still not over as the court bat­tle con­tin­ues. Last year, the or­gan­i­sa­tion re­launched, broad­en­ing the scope of its work to in­clude tack­ling govern­ment cor­rup­tion and in­ef­fi­cient tax poli­cies. “Due to our ex­pe­ri­ence gained in chal­leng­ing govern­ment on the e-toll matter, plus other learn­ings and the re­al­i­sa­tion of a need that a lot of work needed to be done in this area, we de­cided to ex­pand our man­date, pro­vided that we were able to de­velop a funding model to ob­tain suf­fi­cient and sus­tain­able in­come needed to pay the salaries of a struc­tured team of peo­ple re­quired to do the work, plus rent, and [money] for com­put­ers and com­mu­ni­ca­tion costs,” he said. by Msin­disi Fengu

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