Gunning for bad guys
QUICKLY and efficiently, new Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is using his broom to sweep away the slime of corruption that enfolded so many state-owned enterprises (SOEs) during the Jacob Zuma era.
So far, it looks as if about R100 billion has been lost to corruption – money that could have been invested in projects needed to break the cycle of poverty that continues to blight the lives of tens of millions of South Africans.
The criminals involved in this large-scale theft deserve our contempt – and many years in jail for their despicable actions.
This week, during his budget vote speech in Parliament, Gordhan promised to retrieve all the stolen money and to “recapture” captured SOEs.
He highlighted some heartening developments during his speech. While he conceded that power utility Eskom had been severely weakened by state capture at the hands of a compromised board, glimmers of hope were now beginning to emerge.
He said the new board that had been appointed in January this year was determined to stamp out corruption – and to ensure that anyone accused of wrongdoing would be prosecuted.
This is good news, as is the fact that a whistleblowing facility set up by Eskom had already investigated 250 cases, with 42 cases of corruption, fraud and other irregularities confirmed.
Gordhan added that lifestyle audits of employees at the utility had begun, and that this process would be completed by the end of July.
The minister had shocking news about the way business was conducted at Transnet, where he said governance structures had been repurposed to enable corruption and rent-seeking to take place. He said there was evidence that contracts had been awarded to people with close links to some Transnet officials – and that these were clear conflicts of interest.
We believe Gordhan has done the right thing by clearing out the boards at Eskom, Transnet and Denel. He has set himself an unenviable task. But he had no other choice. And he dare not fail.
South Africa cannot afford to have its SOEs run by, at the very least, incompetents – and at worst, corrupt people. The ANC government, too, must take a hard look at itself, especially how it employs its cadres. Surely it has many more competent, hardworking and honest people it can deploy to key positions than has been the sad norm for far too long?