SA’S next tar­get is ANC loot­ers

Sunday Tribune - - BIG ISSUE - IM­RAAN BUC­CUS

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.

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