Who’s the crook?

2010-09-07 00:00

WHAT crime have Sandile Zungu and Duduzane Zuma committed?

Is it really fair to accuse someone, anyone, of corruption if you cannot prove it?

The surprise R9 billion empowerment deal involving steel maker ArcelorMittal SA and the Ayigobi Consortium led by businessman Zungu raises precisely this point.

When the deal was announced people were up in arms shouting “disgust” at the top of their voices.

There are a number of issues regarding the ArcelorMittal deal — there are a number of gripes. In fact, there is even possible litigation.

But, at the centre of “disgust” is how politically connected individuals ended up reaping hundreds of millions of rands almost overnight. And one of these individuals is Zungu himself.

But the surprise appearance of President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, set the tongues wagging.

Zuma is said to have walked away with a huge chunk of money following the conclusion of this deal.

The biggest question is how, at the young age of 28, has the president’s son made it so big so quickly?

This is a valid question.

But in my opinion, no matter what Zuma achieves — I mean no matter what — there will always be questions marks and there will always be a stigma attached it. So, in the public’s eyes, his achievements will have happened because “he is the president’s son”. His achievements will always be equated with corruption.

Simply, the young man can never win. So, any argument put forward by him will fall on deaf ears. He will never be able to defend himself because it is almost impossible to discuss this issue objectively. It evokes all kinds of emotions. People want to vomit when they talk about the ArcelorMittal deal. But what is going to be done about him? Should the country take an unconstitutional step and disallow Zuma from participating in business transactions? Would it be fair to him? Would it be fair to companies that wish to do business with him?

What does a president’s son or daughter have to do for a living? Can we define that? Do we need a written code of conduct for the president’s family members? Will it pass a Constitutional Court’s hearing in the event that Zuma chooses to challenge it?

Maybe this should be the debate going forward.

The other man who has been facing a barrage of attacks since the ArcelorMittal deal was signed, Zungu, is truly politically connected. Yes, he is truly close to President Zuma. And yes, he leads the Ayigobi Consortium which benefited hugely from the deal. But does this make him corrupt?

My experience is that people choose to be economical with the truth when it suits them. In fact, I find it very hypocritical.

Fact: powerful, successful companies and individuals the world over are politically connected.

How many influential senior ANC leaders sit on boards of big corporations? From Standard Bank to FirstRand to Bidvest to some of the biggest mining houses, the ANC is there.

Let’s be honest: why do these big corporates want these men and women on their sides?

Do you remember when Nedbank launched a hostile bid for Standard Bank, a bank much bigger than itself?

What happened?

The ANC government stopped the takeover from going ahead with the help of one Saki Macozoma who, while he was Standard Bank’s deputy chairperson, was also a member of the party’s National Working Committee. By the way, Macozoma is still at Standard Bank.

What is the difference between Zungu and Macozoma in this context? When did political connectedness suddenly become a crime?

Did Zungu do anything illegal with regards to the ArcelorMittal deal? If so, what is his crime?

I am really puzzled. Big business is always more than willing to have people like Cyril Ramaphosa sitting on their boards. Why, and who is Ramaphosa?

Please, stop accusing people of corruption if you cannot prove it. It’s unfair.

— Moneyweb.co.za

• Sipho Ngcobo is former deputy editor of Business Report and ex-managing editor of Enterprise Magazine. He has also written for such publications as the Sunday Times, the World Paper in Boston and was employed by the New York Times Group in the United States between 1989 and 1991.

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