Fix the system’s anomalies. End corruption

2012-02-04 10:53

As South Africa holds its ­collective breath on the outcome of the ANC disciplinary appeal committee hearing involving ANC Youth League ­leader Julius Malema and his ­kindergarten comrades, political ­analysts have gone into overdrive examining the party’s internal ­political machinations leading to Mangaung in December.

But Malema’s woes do not end within the political confines of the ANC as the Hawks and other state agencies are circling around his ever-expanding waist in search of ill-gotten sushi and Moët.

Most have written off the league leader and begun mapping a future political landscape sans Malema.

As we await Malema’s verdict, a vexing question facing entrepreneurs, particularly in Limpopo, is: will banishing the enfant terrible to the political wilderness or charging a few Limpopo tender-loving comrades with malfeasance bring an end to the pervasive scourge of corruption facing our nascent ­democracy? Sadly, I don’t think so.

The perennial challenges faced by entrepreneurs in South Africa will subsist given the anomalies within our current ­political system, which engenders cronyism and sycophancy.

For as long as our system of ­governance allows, for example, an active businessman to also serve as a councillor in a municipality, the temptation to run for political office to feather one’s own nest will always exist. The attendant ­blurring of lines between public service and self-enrichment hampers service delivery as politicians compete unfairly with entrepreneurs for government business.

The ANC’s political rationale of deploying inept and corrupt ­cadres in the civil service is not ­only manifestly flawed, it is also ­behind most service delivery problems, as evidenced recently in the Limpopo saga.

In this instance, critical hospital supplies and patient meals became unavailable for a myriad reasons. These included failure by the ­provincial government to pay ­suppliers, mostly small black ­businesses, and, as alleged by ­Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, “political sabotage”, ostensibly by those opposed to the current ­Cabinet intervention in Limpopo.

Assuming the minister is ­correct, this would be a serious ­indictment of the governing party and symptomatic of the extent to which ordinary citizens, including the sick and frail, become fodder in the conflict between tenderpreneurs, on the one hand, and upright civil servants in their pursuit of good governance, on the other.

It is ­understandable why wary Limpopo entrepreneurs are elated at the long-overdue intervention. What this shows us is that the fight against corruption by Cabinet should not only end in Limpopo and a few other provinces.

The apparent vigour with which investigations against corruption in Limpopo and by Malema are dealt with need to be applied everywhere where allegations of fraud, corruption and malfeasance are raised. Especially where family members of the executive, governing party elite and their sympathisers are involved.

Anything less than that would only help fuel suspicions that the governing party’s disciplinary ­procedures and Cabinet intervention are used as a tool to settle political scores as is now alleged to be the case in Limpopo and with the youth league.

Most importantly, the fight against corruption should not be left to government alone as Cosatu has ably demonstrated this week with the launch of its Corruption Watch, which strives for partnership between civil society, business and government in tackling this perennial challenge.

The media has also demonstrated its potency in exposing corruption in Limpopo, and any attempt to muzzle the media must be ­discouraged.

Government must also eradicate red tape and improve on transparency in its dealings with business.

The fact that some entrepreneurs do not even bother to participate in the public request for ­tenders by the government due to a common belief that only those with political connections or deep pockets will be awarded state ­business, as evident in Limpopo, should be cause for concern.

» Khaas is founder and president of the SA SMME Forum, a public benefit ­organisation that advances the interests of small ­businesses

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