Gun­ning for bad guys

The Star Late Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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?

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