All too ingewikkeld

2010-01-23 00:00

POWER corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The latest revelation that the ANC is a 25% shareholder in Hitachi, the company that won a tender to construct a R20-billion boiler in Limpopo, raises some mind-boggling questions about the relationship between the party and the state.

In a nutshell, the state owns parastatals, such as Eskom, among others, while the ANC, which controls the state, has interests in various enterprises.

During the old era, that is the Thabo Mbeki era, the cabinet was synonymous with the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) as a lot of the members of the latter were appointed as ministers of the former.

This resulted in the decision-making process being short-circuited as cabinet members did not need to go to Luthuli House for a stamp of approval from the NEC as they constituted most of the NEC anyway. Mbeki’s iron fist made the autocratic machinery very efficient.

I wait with bated breathe to see how the ANC plans to get out of this one. It is inexcusable for a government to channel tenders to the ruling party, directly or indirectly.

What are they saying, that the DA provincial government in the Western Cape can award a multibillion rand tender to a company they own a percentage of?

Eskom, who issued the boiler tender, will fund it through an electricity price increase that will be detrimental to the poorest of the poor, businesses and their employees alike.

Is it not enough that “comrades” are already benefitting from tenders won by their own companies and are channelling some of the funds to the party?

Under the rules of corporate governance, this is corrupt practice and the government should know better. It cannot prescribe rules and regulations and then not follow them itself. In addition, a lot of businesses are littered with members of the ruling party who have pledged their allegiance to the ANC. This means that other companies do not stand a chance, as Alstom did not.

This also brings to mind the issue of party funding, an issue that political parties have all been very reluctant to deal with. The lack of regulations suit them all too well and they do as they like in the political banana republic.

Companies that are awarded tenders fund the political parties that govern the public institutions that award them tenders in the first place. Be it at a local, provincial or national level, companies grease the hand that feeds them as they queue up for more opportunities to milk the public coffers.

This means that drug or blood money can end up in the coffers of political parties, which makes them criminals. This is a clear case of the player being the referee.

The government, together with opposition parties, needs to take an ethical line on all these contentious issues to pave a way for transparent and decisive governance. If not, the parties will get all the meat and gravy and the people will get the leftover gravy, if they are lucky.

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