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Mail & Guardian - - Cabinet Report Cards -

Tri­bunal. The IDC has re­ported a clean au­dit in its lat­est fi­nan­cials, although its im­pair­ment rate on loans has risen to 17%, driven largely by losses on its in­vest­ment in Scaw Met­als and fer­til­izer pro­ducer Foskor. These in­vest­ments were aimed at sav­ing jobs and re­tain­ing in­dus­trial ca­pac­ity in South Africa.

But both have been costly for the state and, crit­ics say, are em­blem­atic of why state in­ter­ven­tion (Pa­tel’s pref­er­ence) does not al­ways work.

But the IDC has in­creased the value of its fund­ing ap­provals by 9% to R16.7-bil­lion and has also saved or cre­ated al­most 30 000 jobs.

Although the Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion re­ceived an un­qual­i­fied au­dit, the au­di­tor gen­eral rapped it over the knuck­les for ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture of al­most R129-mil­lion.

The com­mis­sion has in­creased its use of a pri­vate law firm, Ndz­a­bandz­aba At­tor­neys (led by a for­mer head of the car­tels di­vi­sion), since 2015. Of a to­tal of 44 cases re­ferred to seven ex­ter­nal firms, 31 went to Ndz­a­bandz­aba At­tor­neys, ac­cord­ing to replies to par­lia­men­tary ques­tions. The com­mis­sion has de­nied any wrong­do­ing, and ad­vised Pa­tel that the pool of law firms with com­pe­ti­tion law ex­pe­ri­ence are lim­ited and of­ten act for pri­vate clients against the com­mis­sion. The min­is­ter has ini­ti­ated a broader in­quiry into the ef­fec­tive­ness of the com­pe­ti­tion au­thor­i­ties, which will also in­clude the is­sues raised by the au­di­tor gen­eral.

The work of the com­mis­sion and that of the Com­pe­ti­tion Tri­bunal has nev­er­the­less been a high­light for Pa­tel. Since 2010, com­pe­ti­tion au­thor­i­ties have levied penal­ties or extracted fi­nan­cial con­ces­sions from busi­nesses in ma­jor merg­ers amount­ing to more than R11-bil­lion.

Pa­tel has been in­volved in sev­eral merg­ers in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

An­other key fo­cus of his has been the pass­ing of the Com­pe­ti­tion Amend­ment Bill, which aims to re­duce con­cen­tra­tion in the econ­omy and bar­ri­ers to en­try for small black busi­ness. The Bill, af­ter its in­tro­duc­tion in the leg­is­la­ture ear­lier this year, has al­ready made it to the pres­i­dent for sign­ing.

But the break­neck pace with which it was pro­cessed has caused deep un­ease. Le­gal ex­perts say too lit­tle time has been de­voted to un­der­stand­ing the po­ten­tial eco­nomic con­se­quences of the Bill and there is con­cern about the com­plex­ity and cost of com­pli­ance. But the min­istry has held that it went through ex­ten­sive pub­lic en­gage­ment in the Na­tional Eco­nomic and De­vel­op­ment Labour Coun­cil, along with the par­lia­men­tary process, and that the ex­tent of the changes en­vis­aged are those be­ing con­tem­plated in a world of grow­ing global tech giants and ris­ing in­equal­ity, and ad­dresses South Africa’s chal­lenges pro­por­tion­ately.

Pa­tel was one of the first min­is­ter’s to con­front state cap­ture by, among oth­ers, pur­su­ing the Gup­talinked Oak­bay in court, over loans it re­ceived from the IDC to buy a stake in the Shiva Ura­nium mine.

Pa­tel has also been among the first to at­tempt to quan­tify the costs of state cap­ture through the work of the Pres­i­den­tial In­fra­struc­ture Co-or­di­nat­ing Com­mis­sion (PICC), with which he has been in­ti­mately in­volved.

With an ex­pected restruc­tur­ing of Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cab­i­net af­ter elec­tions next year, it is not clear what the depart­ment’s fu­ture is. But the PICC is al­ready a key el­e­ment of Ramaphosa’s in­vest­ment drive and it is ex­pected, what­ever the fu­ture Cab­i­net looks like, it could in­clude Pa­tel. this was es­pe­cially true. (Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s shuf­fling of Mokonyane to en­vi­ron­ment shows that this min­now sta­tus con­tin­ues.)

Be­cause of this, in the depart­ment has given con­ces­sions to Eskom and Sa­sol, al­low­ing them to pol­lute the air more than they should, and to mines, al­low­ing them do dig up wet­lands and pro­tected ar­eas. Pol­luters do not pay in this sys­tem. Luck­ily, the court sys­tem has over­turned these de­ci­sions, thanks to the work of civil so­ci­ety groups.

And this is the cen­tral prob­lem of the depart­ment Molewa built. It is small, ef­fi­cient and doesn’t get red-flagged by the au­di­tor gen­eral. But it has none of the po­lit­i­cal mus­cle needed to look af­ter the en­vi­ron­ment. Its vic­to­ries — such as declar­ing 22 new ma­rine pro­tected ar­eas — are eas­ily un­done by other de­part­ments.

For man­ag­ing a fu­ture with dan­ger­ous cli­mate change, this does not bode well.

SU­SAN SHA­BANGU

Min­is­ter of So­cial De­vel­op­ment

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The run­ning of the depart­ment of so­cial de­vel­op­ment would have been a tough feat for any new min­is­ter. It cer­tainly hasn’t been easy for Su­san Sha­bangu, es­pe­cially af­ter the depart­ment of women in the pres­i­dency, which was in­ac­tive at the busiest of times.

Sha­bangu came in to the so­cial de­vel­op­ment depart­ment at a time when the pay­ment of so­cial grants was in cri­sis. Although there was a sput­ter­ing start, grant pay­ments have been mostly event­less. This is a big win for the depart­ment.

But, says the min­is­ter’s spokesper­son, Thuli Nh­lapo, more needs to be done. “I am not go­ing to say things are per­fect. There are chal­lenges with Sapo [the South African Post Of­fice], but we are ad­dress­ing them. We have sub­mit­ted our plans to the Concourt. When we first started, there were no chairs or wa­ter for old people at some of the post of­fices. The aim is to build proper post of­fices start­ing in the ru­ral ar­eas.”

Sha­bangu has other is­sues to at­tend to as well. When the depart­ment pre­sented its an­nual re­port to Par­lia­ment, it said it had failed to meet some of its tar­gets, in­clud­ing con­duct­ing fraud aware­ness cam­paigns, es­pe­cially for the in­for­mal­sec­tor work­ers in so­cial se­cu­rity.

The pub­lic ac­counts com­mit­tee wanted to know how she was deal­ing with bag­gage left by her pre­de­ces­sor, Batha­bile Dlamini, which in­cludes the depart­ment pro­vid­ing per­sonal se­cu­rity for for­mer South African So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency chief ex­ec­u­tive Pearl Bengu, Lumka Oliphant and her chil­dren, and an­other for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive, Vir­ginia Petersen, all of which was ir­reg­u­lar.

“Su­san said she was go­ing to in­sti­tute an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. She in­her­ited a sys­tem where struc­tures had col­lapsed. We are wait­ing for a pro­nounce­ment from the pres­i­dent,” Nh­lapo said.

The depart­ment has main­tained a clean au­dit this year.

Sub­stance and drug abuse, hu­man traf­fick­ing and deal­ing with rape are also key man­dates to which the depart­ment has not paid ad­e­quate at­ten­tion, ac­cord­ing to Par­lia­ment.

Nh­lapo ad­mits that the depart­ment needs to put more ef­fort into all its pro­grammes. She said, be­cause the Cash Pay­mas­ter Ser­vices prob­lem was now largely out of the way, the real work of ful­fill­ing the depart­ment’s man­date had be­gun.

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