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.
Minister of Social Development
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.