Selebi’s beginning of the end

2010-07-04 13:58

Two cases before the courts mark the end of any serious attempt to fight corruption and the beginning of entrenched cronyism in the state.

The conviction on Friday of former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi is likely to be the last effort at a state-led attempt to deal with political corruption.

And in the Northern Cape a corporate legal drama involving the Sishen iron ore company heralds the further entrenchment of graft.

The National Prosecuting Authority, under director of public prosecutions Menzi Simelane, is more executive-minded than it has ever been.

One of Simelane’s first actions as prosecutions boss was to end the international cooperation to continue the investigation of Fana Hlongwane, the arms deal lynchpin.

The arms deal corruption makes Selebi’s look like lunch money.

Hlongwane has evaded investigation but holds all the answers to who got the biggest bribes in the course of that deal.

His record shows Simelane to be a malleable and ambitious man who is unlikely to tackle grand corruption.

The Hawks, the elite crime-fighting force, is hard-working but until now has shown no interest in investigating political corruption.

And it is structured to be a sub-division of the SA Police Service, not an independent body made up of teams with both investigative and prosecutorial skills.

Selebi’s case may never have seen the light of day if the Hawks had been tasked with the investigation.

The Scorpions, which investigated and prosecuted Selebi’s alleged corruption, was independent of the police though its former head, Leonard McCarthy, failed the integrity test in his biased support for former president Thabo Mbeki.

McCarthy’s taped conversations in which he displayed political bias in the prosecution of Jacob Zuma on charges of corruption was one of the key factors used when the case against Zuma was thrown out last year.

McCarthy, ironically the vice-president for anti-corruption efforts at the World Bank, must take responsibility for neutering the legal fight against corruption.

Zuma is now unlikely to countenance any serious investigation of corruption because this will return his own case to the political spotlight.

We have caught a national bout of amnesia related to the serious graft charges our first citizen will never have to answer and appear to be a country which has lowered the bar in efforts to uproot corruption despite political rhetoric to the contrary.

The other less well-known case now before court displays graphically how cronyism is becoming the entrenched way of doing business.

Administrative law and the rule of law have both been given a punch to the ribs. The Sishen iron ore case is complex and has thus not received sufficient airplay but it demands our national attention.

A company called Imperial Crown Trading (ICT), owned by the Gupta executive Jagdish Parekh, has secured the rights to mine from under the nose of Kumba, the Anglo-American-owned company which runs the Sishen mine with a minority stake owned by Arcelor-Mittal.

The Gupta’s own Sahara Computers, which has the first daughter, Dudu Zuma, as a director. Her twin brother, Duduzane Zuma, is a business partner of Parekh.

The mining rights application by ICT is reportedly flawed and sloppy, and court papers suggest that officials of the mining department may have showed Kumba’s application to the connected newcomer.

Unless this decision is overturned and public opprobrium ratcheted up, it will enshrine cronyist business practices, where mining law becomes an ass.

Already, the country has not benefited sufficiently from the commodities boom and if practices like these become entrenched, we will fall into the trap of other commodity-rich developing countries where national wealth is sapped by foreign elites working with local cronies.

The impact is the direct opposite of that intended by the ANC, which changed the mining rights regime so that greater mineral wealth flows to the fiscus and to the people. 

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