Max du Preez

Prosecuting state capturers Ramaphosa's best hope of controlling the ANC

2018-02-27 07:32
Former president Jacob Zuma. (Jaco Marais, Gallo Images, Beeld, file)

Former president Jacob Zuma. (Jaco Marais, Gallo Images, Beeld, file)

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The testimony and evidence that will surface in several criminal trials of public personalities and at Judge Raymond Zondo's state capture inquiry over the next months and probably years can play a cathartic and healing role, almost similar to that of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) twenty years ago.

This process of cleaning out the dirty closets of the Zuma years is President Cyril Ramaphosa's best hope to get the upper hand in the wrestling match against the Zuma-remnants and other cheap populists in the ANC.

The message should be clear: this was the real nature of Jacob Zuma's so-called radical economic transformation – radical looting, pure and simple.

But I think this process will also contribute hugely to the rehabilitation of our depleted national public morality and sense of justice.

We know by now that the old belief of trickle-down economics doesn't work, but it does work in the case of corruption at the top; it inevitably trickles down to the rest of society.

Political accountability from national to local level, in state-owned companies and the private sector virtually disappeared over the last decade, but especially the last four years. Impunity reigned supreme as the president, some members of his cabinet, some premiers and their rich business friends stole billions of taxpayer money.

Corruption and abuse of power became South Africa's new normal, also in the private sector. Many of us mouthed our disgust, but nothing happened. Nothing.

Until now, thanks to a reinvigorated civil society, vigilant investigative reporters and a new head of state.

Despite the many criticisms of the TRC, its impact on the national psyche cannot be disputed.

For three years South Africans lived with accounts of the human rights abuses and the stories of the apartheid past. We could look the perpetrators, victims and survivors in the eye and listen to their voices on a daily basis. Most of us knew: we should never allow anything like this to happen again.

I believe this is one of the reasons we haven't experienced much of a wave of apartheid denialism since then, the type of denialism we have seen after the Holocaust and the gross abuses in the old Soviet Union, Cambodia and China.

Now that the criminal justice system has been freed to do its job, we will, in the months ahead, see Zuma, at least one of his sons, at least four of his cabinet ministers, two premiers, a number of provincial and local politicans and officials, the Gupta brothers and other corrupt business people that connived with the Zuma administration in the dock as criminal accused.

Zuma's first of potentially several court cases, the eighteen counts of corruption and money laundering related to the arms scandal and his relationship with Schabir Shaik, can start very soon. All the evidence is ready and more than a hundred witnesses have been lined up.

The essence of all this evidence has been accepted by three courts, so Zuma's chances to escape conviction appear slim. The minimum sentence if found guilty is fifteen years.

Five years or so ago I would still have argued that a presidential pardon after conviction should be contemplated to calm emotions in his home province, but today, after the massive damage he had done to our society and economy, I believe it is in the interests of justice and the national ethos that he should go to jail.

The people of South Africa need to see Jacob Zuma in an orange overall at least once. No-one, but no-one, can do what he did and simply retire in luxury.

Similarly, we need to see one or all the brothers Gupta behind bars if convicted by a court. No stone should be left unturned to get them extradited.

The value of our TRC above those in most other countries was that our process was open to the public and proceedings were broadcast by radio and television stations for the duration of the proceedings.

In the late 1980s I attended some of the public trials in a football stadium in Burkina Faso where civil servants were charged with corruption.

It was the brainchild of the legendary president Thomas Sankara, one of the most famous corruption fighters in modern African history. He explained to us that it was even more important for the Burkinabe people to witness these trials and participate in them than for the guilty to be punished.

I believe it is in the overwhelming public interest to create dedicated channels on radio and television to broadcast the proceedings of all the corruption trials and judicial inquiries.

We should never allow this to happen again and we all have to continue to struggle to eradicate the remaining manifestations of corruption, state capture and abuse of power.

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Read more on:    trc  |  state capture  |  corruption  |  state capture inquiry

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