Will SA continue to rot under rule of corruption?
IN EARLY February, the embassies of Germany, the UK, the US, the Netherlands and Switzerland sent a joint memo to President Cyril Ramaphosa noting their concern about South Africa’s stance on corruption, among other issues.
The response from the Department of International Relations was puzzling, to say the least. Instead of outlining a course of action for ridding the country of this rot, it lashed out against the countries in question, calling out their “holier than thou” tone and calling them imperialists.
It did, however, state that “South Africa has embarked upon the process of ridding our country of state capture and related corruption. We are using our institutions and constitutional obligation to do so.”
A little more clarity in this would be widely welcomed.
On the one hand, nary a day passes without mention of the State Capture hearings, so we know that this is at least a high priority on the country’s agenda.
President Cyril Ramaphosa also gave the issue of corruption its due in his recent State of the Nation Address (Sona) speech.
With corruption so firmly entrenched on the radar of all South Africans, it’s highly unlikely that the offenders will be able to get away without reparations of some sort. The recent appointment of Shamila Batohi as the new national director of public prosecutions appears to bode well in this regard.
Batohi has given every indication of viewing her job in the most serious light, and understands the importance area of moving swiftly to make prosecutions in the State Capture, and other high-profile matters.
On the other hand, we do not have a sound record of bringing those responsible for corruption to task.
Last year, it appeared that Tom Moyane would be made to pay the price for bringing the SA Revenue Service to its knees – but we’re still waiting for this to happen. Similarly, the greatest challenge facing Jacob Zuma in recent months seems to be the cancellation of his record deal.
This is the milieu into which Angelo Agrizzi, with his explosive revelations, has stepped, giving us pause to ask: Well, what happens next? Are we simply going to cover our mouths in shock, tut about the ghastliness of it all, and do nothing? Or is someone finally going to make sure that those who have tainted our systems and set fire to public trust are actually treated like the criminals they are?
It’s heartening to see that during his early days as president, Ramaphosa quickly took action to change the regulations for the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture gazetted by his predecessor, making it possible to use any testimony given by individuals under prosecution during the inquiry to be used in criminal proceedings. This is reassuring, because it means that come what may, those guilty of corruption can be made to pay.
We need to see this happen. South African society has been rent by corruption. Our society is floundering. When it seems that people are above the law, each person becomes a law unto himself.
Is it possible to undo the damage? My answer, judging by the action taken by other countries, is yes.
Almost two years ago, in November 2017, Financier Worldwide published an editorial lamenting the fact that “despite its gravity, white-collar crime often goes unpunished. In the UK, this has historically been the case, with authorities more inclined to avoid prosecuting corporate entities in favour of a settlement, an approach that was especially common in the aftermath of the financial crash.”
The article further noted that the prosecution of white collar crimes had fallen by 12 percent in the 12 months between 2016 and 2017, and called on the Serious Fraud Office to take a stronger stance – or risk disbandment.
Clearly, this warning did not go unheeded. Just a few months later, in May 2018, Globalinvestigationsreview.com commended the Serious Fraud Office for its hard work.
“Anti-corruption investigations and enforcement actions in the UK have continued to gather pace over the past 12 months. The commencement and pursuit of numerous high-profile investigations and prosecutions by the Serious Fraud Office, as well as the UK’s other investigative, regulatory and prosecutorial bodies, coupled with the cementing of deferred prosecution agreements in the centre of the UK’s enforcement landscape, have continued to lend weight to the argument that the UK is now at the forefront of the global anti-corruption movement.”
The US is also taking an increasingly hard line against corrupt practices.
Rolls-Royce, for example, has been made to pay a $800 million (R11.1 billion) global resolution after being found guilty of bribing government officials in exchange for lucrative government contracts.
Panasonic Avionics Corporation, a division of Panasonic, was caught in an equally dirty deal, accused of “retaining consultants and concealing payments to third party agents,” according to www.justice.gov, and now has to pay a criminal penalty totalling $137.4m.
In addition to these significant fines, there is the reputational damage that may well end up costing the companies a great deal more; particularly given the current emphasis on responsible and conscious consumerism. Will buyers continue to support businesses they know to be corrupt? Most likely not.
Is South Africa ready to take strong a stand? We wait and see. as
David Loxton heads up Africa Forensics & Cyber, specialists in fraud, online and white collar crime. He is also the chief executive of Loxton Attorneys.