Guest Column

State capture inquiry: expecting action or a big yawn?

2018-08-22 09:09
Former president Jacob Zuma. (Gallo Images)

Former president Jacob Zuma. (Gallo Images)

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Wayne Duvenage

Jacob Zuma's involvement in the arms deal and his close relationship with convicted criminal Schabir Shaik produced the early signs of a connected and crooked individual, long before he became the president of South Africa. 

It therefore came as no surprise when society was exposed to the Nkandla saga – a multi-million-rand self-enrichment matter at the hands of state spending. But this was small fry compared to the plan he had for his subjects. The fact that a crooked character like Zuma was even allowed to become president speaks to a flaw in the system, but much has been written about this sorry state of affairs and this is not the subject of this article.

The matter of massive state funded transactions being captured by a ring of people connected to the president both inside and outside of government, has captured the attention and frustration of millions of South Africans over the past few years.

A disbelieving section of the pro-Zuma chanters pushed back, claiming that former public protect Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report was part of a witch-hunt during her final days in office. But silenced they were as wave after wave of news headlines emanating from the Guptaleaks since May 2017 exposed the depth and breadth of a cesspool of political meddling and ingenious fraudulent conduct by government officials and their connected cronies. 

By the end of 2017, the decision for a formal commission of inquiry had become impossible to ignore. While many who have followed this saga have gained a sense of the enormity of state capture, what the nation is about to witness over the next year or so through the commission’s work, will be the vivid colours being painted between the lines that have been sketched by reports, opinions and many impressive accounts presented by courageous investigative journalists. 

The time for clarity and substance that will link many who are implicated in state plunder is about to get underway. 

Strictly speaking, while everyone who purchased anything outside the "VAT exempt" basket is a tax payer, it is primarily those who see their PAYE deductions from their salary each month who wonder what has been happening to their personal tax contributions. For millions of citizens the state capture inquiry is extremely meaningful because – unlike Zuma's claims that state capture was a figment of the nation's imagination – it was indeed a cunning plan to rob the people of South Africa of billions of rands, plunging a number of state-owned entities (SOEs) into massive unnecessary debt and taking with them a nation to the brink of economic collapse. 

Despite the fact that much of what will be revealed during the commission's hearings has been heard or read about at various levels of detail in the media, this is a formal process that removes the sensationalism, doubt or speculation expressed in opinions and news articles. This is a process that will gather the facts and hear from the horses' mouths the real live account of how a relatively small connected group of people and a president were able steal a country. 

Closing the net on those who have become unscrupulously wealthy at the expense of you and I gives us all hope. Better still will be the observation of how these extremely wealthy criminals will be held to account and eventually have to pay for their crimes. This is what the public will come to see. 

Sadly, a number of those who saw this process unfolding months ago have already fled to other parts of the world, taking haven in countries where no extradition treaties exist with South Africa. That fact, however, will not keep them entirely out of the clutches of South Africa’s rule of law, as Interpol and other inter-governmental players begin to place pressure on the Emirates and other nations to halt the harbouring of international criminals. 

For many who see this commission as a waste of time and money, maybe it's time to stop the pessimism and look forward to the good that could and should come from it. This is not another farcical "Seriti style" exercise that unfolded almost two decades after the fact, commissioned by the arms-deal kingpin himself whilst in command of the nation. This is hundreds of times bigger than any commission ever held, barring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which exposed the atrocities of apartheid at the advent of our new democracy. 

The state capture commission is relevant and it's current. The political playing fields have changed, as has the leadership of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Hawks. Add to that a louder than ever demand from civil society for accountability – this time around the nation is watching and refuses to be fobbed off by any notion of a half-baked attempt to uncover the truth.

Maybe someone should remind the new acting NPA boss, Silas Ramaite, to call in the passports of a number of suspects of state capture, especially those with charges and complaints already laid against them, to curb a "Dash to Dubai" debacle that would no doubt frustrate the public to no end. 

Let the games begin.

- Duvenage is CEO of OUTA.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    state capture  |  state capture inquiry
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