Howard Feldman

State capture battle scars will remain for some time

2019-02-27 16:00
Commission into state capture. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

Commission into state capture. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

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Expectations in South Africa need to be managed. While there are positive signs in terms of the elimination of corruption, it is becoming sadly apparent that the difficulties are not going to be solved in a day, writes Howard Feldman.

It took years to rebuild the cities of Europe after World War Two. Cities that had fallen to the Nazis and then liberated could not simply return to the way they were prior to having been captured. They were broken and damaged, with almost every facet of a functioning infrastructure destroyed.

It would take commitment, sacrifice and time for them to rebuild. It would take years for the residence to regain some of what they had lost.

South Africa in many ways resembles a plundered Europe. If we consider the law enforcement agencies as we would cities in Europe, the metaphor might become clearer. One by one they fell to the Zuma faction, just as country after country fell to the advancing Germans.

SARS, the NPA, Home Affairs, the SA Police and the Scorpions (replaced by the Hawks), each, in turn controlled by the "enemy" of compliance. The added complexity was that the fight to conquer South Africa began as a subversive and an undeclared one, with some of the organisations being captured before the country was even aware that it had happened.

For many of us it really only began when an unauthorised plane landed at Waterkloof Military Airforce Base and was confirmed when Des van Rooyen became minister of finance for the weekend.

It took most of us too much time to understand that we were at war and that many of the battles had already been lost.

One by one, the "cities" fell. Shaun Abrahams was made the head of the NPA. Jackie Selebie and then Bheki Cele as head of the SAPS. Malusi Gigaba head of Home Affairs. The Scorpions ceased to exist, and Tom Moyane headed up SARS. The only sector not captured was the judiciary, who along with an outspoken press, continued to protect the democratic nature of the country and to fight for the Constitution

In times of war, special measures are required to defeat the invader. War rooms are set up, civilians are conscripted and those with special skills are asked to utilise them for the greater good of the country. The goal is to deal with the crises as quickly as possible so that life can return to normality.

Under the South African circumstances, it is unreasonable and unrealistic for us to expect each agency to police themselves and to determine the extent of the corruption from within their ranks. Paris didn't libertate itself. Nor did Warsaw of Antwerp or Amsterdam. It took an outside army to do this.

In South Africa's case, an alternative method might be to "conscript" civilians to assist in fighting the battle. An example might be that each accounting firm, depending on their size, should be asked to contribute a number of accountants for financial forensic investigations. Law firms could do the same with regard to questions of law as well as to assist in the prosecution of corruption offenders. 

Although this might place some burden on the private sector, it would assist in getting the country out of the situation it finds itself in. I would also improve training, develop skill and get the 'civilian' invested in the future of the country. This could be for a limited period and until the government enforcement agencies are able to function as they should.

Expectations in South Africa need to be managed. Whereas there are very obvious positive signs in terms of the elimination of corruption, it is becoming sadly apparent that the difficulties that this has caused are not going to be solved in a day. It is more likely going to take some years to undo the damage that Zuma and those who facilitated him caused.

But it is naïve to think that the current agencies are equipped to police themselves and able to recover some of the looted funds that they might have been complicit in facilitating.

South Africa needs to view itself as a country at war. The enemy is not an outside invader, but rather a no less ruthless force that exists within us. We need to liberate our agencies, we need to hold those responsible to account for their "war crimes" and we need to reclaim and rebuild those that have already fallen.

- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of two books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.

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.

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