SA’S next target is ANC looters
THE astonishing scale of the looting by the Zuma and Gupta families has shaken South Africa to the core. Bell Pottinger, the in-house PR firm of the British elite and dictators around the world for more than 40 years, has been the first major casualty of what is now an escalating global scandal.
The South African section of the international auditing firm KPMG now also seems to be on the ropes.
Mckinsey, a notoriously unethical consulting firm, has also taken some serious body blows.
As the scandal continues to enrage South Africans, and decent people around the world, there will be more causalities.
With the failure of the Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma campaign to get off the ground, and the serious blow dealt to the Zuma faction in Kwazulu-natal by the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, President Jacob Zuma is looking vulnerable. Even the “Premier League” are no longer a united force behind Zuma, as they once were. Increasingly, politicians, and others, are jostling for position in a post-zuma scenario.
A common feature of post-colonial societies is the development of toxic relationships between organs of the state and the corporate sector. Often the underworld is thrown into the mix too. We have seen this too many times in South Africa. For years it looked as though the criminal forces that had captured the state were unstoppable.
But we as a society have fought back. Organised shack dwellers and key trade unions, like the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, have refused to vote for the ANC.
Millions of individuals have just stayed away from the polls. Our best journalists, like Sam Sole, have played an important and courageous role in taking on the rot. And now that the Zuma faction is on the ropes, business is emboldened too.
KMPG is coming under massive pressure. It has repeatedly, and not without good reason, been accused of treason. Certainly the firm’s complicity with corruption of the worst kind, and a brazen attack on the integrity of a state institution, is plain for all to see. Many are calling for the firm, along with Mckinsey, to be driven out of South Africa altogether.
But we must remember that KPMG has 3 400 employees. Many of these people have families and other dependants. Our economy is in a serious mess, largely due to the extreme mismanagement of Zuma’s government. This is not the time to hound a major employer out of business. We need to be of sober senses and recognise that the firm has taken serious action to remedy its gross ethical failings.
The chief and seven senior executives have been forced to resign and the money paid to the firm to produce a fraudulent report will be paid back. Of course the firm should do more. There does, for instance, need to be full disclosure on all aspects of how the firm became an alibi for state capture by a form of political gangsterism.
But we should not forget that the level of accountability that has been demonstrated vastly exceeds what is usually seen in the public sector. We should also not forget that it is not fair to hold ordinary KPMG employees liable for the actions of a fundamentally rotten few in management.
We should also take heart from the fact that the pushback against companies like Bell Pottinger, KPMG and Mckinsey has been so broadly based, and so effective, that no major corporate will ever again think that making a quick buck from the Guptas makes good longterm business sense.
This is a major step forward for our society that offers real hope for a future in which corruption will not be normalised.
This is not something that happens in countries in which corruption is normalised.
As a society we have, therefore, won a major battle. But the real battle is the urgent necessity of securing the decisive political defeat of the looters in the ANC. Without a clear victory on this front there is no possible way that we can begin to rebuild our institutions, get the economy working, fix the disastrous state of education and health and begin to think about how to use the state as an instrument for achieving social justice rather than looting.
Bell Pottinger has been brought to heel. Mckinsey must be next. Already charges of fraud and racketeering have been laid against it. So too must all the other actors who have been complicit with a scale of looting and an attack on our democratic institutions that does, in essence, amount to treason. But our fundamental task is not to relentlessly pursue revenge against an organisation that has conceded that it is in real disgrace, and for good reason.
Our fundamental task is to welcome this concession and then move on, as rapidly and effectively as we can, to remove the corrupt from all forms of public office. This will be the breakthrough that will make it possible to restore the integrity of the state and to begin to seriously address questions of social justice. This is where the energies of all patriots and democrats must be focused. We have won very significant battles. It is now time to push on and win the war.
Buccus is senior research associate at Aliwal Socio-economic Research Institute, research fellow in the School of Social Sciences at UKZN and academic director of a university study abroad programme on political transformation. Buccus promotes #Reading Revolution via Books@antique at Antique Café in Morningside
Former KPMG chief executive, Trevor Hoole.