Mpumelelo Mkhabela

ANC fires heist suspect, but still employs 'tax-in-transit' kingpins

2018-07-19 08:57
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe at Luthuli House. (File, Gallo Images)

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe at Luthuli House. (File, Gallo Images)

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Luthuli House, the ANC's headquarters, did a marvellous job this week. It fired one of its employees implicated in cash-in-transit heists. 

For those who incorrectly claim that analysts are only interested in the negatives and fail to comment on corrective actions taken by the governing party, here is giving credit where it is due… well done to you, ANC! You behaved in a manner befitting of a governing party guided by the necessary moral responsibility towards society. 

If one could borrow from your political lexicography, which is evidently not understood by some of your members and leaders, you were guided by "revolutionary morality" in the manner you dealt with the matter of Errol Velile Present. 

To cynics it might sound like praising a fish for swimming. But the truth is, the fish at Luthuli House do not always swim in the manner it has in relation to Errol Velile Present, who was arrested and has appeared in court on charges related to heinous crimes of cash-in-transit heists. 

We are accustomed to statements like "innocent until proven guilty" as if a pending court verdict, in the presence of prima facie evidence, has ever prevented an organisation or a government entity from taking action. In some instances, a suspension from the organisation or government institution would suffice to prevent institutional harm while the wheels of justice turn. Such sanctions are indeed rare. So, we have to praise the fish.

But what is particularly pleasing news from Luthuli House is that the governing party not only summarily dismissed Errol Velile Present without a hearing, but it is also considering whether he should keep his party membership. When such remarkable things happen, that's when we say in common speak: "jealous down!"

But the applause for the governing party ends here. It would, of course, be a great pleasure to write lyrically uninterrupted by the intrusive "but", about how the ANC – in government and its party headquarters – is winning the war against cash-in-transit heists.

Unfortunately, victory is far from sight. In fact, it's not clear if the war has begun yet, despite the clear intent from the New Dawn leadership. The biggest cash-in-transit heists, against which a war is yet to be fully waged, are not the dramatic, seasonal ones usually displayed on our television screens with cash vans bombed and injured security personnel. 

To be fair, the violent types are what Police Minister Bheki Cele and the men and women in blue have been good at confronting. The very dramatic nature of the heists draws the nation's collective attention. They also have the ability to embarrass us internationally as a lawless society. They, therefore, summon the urgency of our law enforcement agencies. 

But the biggest cash-in-transit heists, of uninsured tax money, happen behind computers of senior government officials who deliberately hijack money earmarked for the poor. Unlike the violent cash-in-transit heists that we witness with almost instantaneousness, the biggest cash-in-transit heists are not accompanied by outright violence, exchange of gun fire and images of cash vans forced to vomit large sums of money from the security boxes protected by ink and other security features designed to spoil the loot. 

The value of the loot arising from office-based heists is only measurable at the end of the financial year of each state department or state-owned entity, after the Auditor General of the republic has done his constitutional duty. When the Auditor General releases the reports, there is no drama. It's almost as if nothing has happened, despite the evidence presented annually of billions of rands looted from state coffers. 

The evidence of such heists is seen through phrases like "fruitless expenditure", "irregular expenditure", "no supporting documents", "unauthorised expenditure" and other terminologies which do not immediately shock the public like a gun fire exchange between police officers and those attempting to steal money from a cash truck. (The public sector's heist counterparts in the private sector have their own sophisticated ways of hijacking money invested through asset managers through what they call "accounting irregularities". Think: Steinhoff). 

Many of the people implicated in the not-so-shocking looting of billions are well known and have political connections. In some cases, it is the politicians themselves. The lines of authority for hijacking of state funds are well known too. They are the same lines of authority followed in the normal cause of approval of state funds for legitimate purposes. 

But no one has been dismissed with such sweet swiftness as Errol Velile Present, let alone arrested. Could it be that his gods have forsaken him? 

The irony of it all is that the beautiful Luthuli House statement about Errol Velile Present's dismissal came in the name of Pule Mabe, the ANC's national spokesman accused in various media revelations for benefitting from, let's give it a proper phrase, "tax-in-transit" heists. 

Of course, the biggest "tax-in-transit" heists since the dawn of democracy happened under President Jacob Zuma when the Guptas did whatever they liked in state-owned enterprises and some government departments and provinces. They were not done with "tax-in-transit" heists. They were working on intellectual property heists at state-owned arms manufacturer Denel. 

We are yet to see high-profile arrests and court appearances of the kingpins of "tax-in-transit" heists. Let's hope revolutionary morality doesn't start and end with Errol Velile Present. 

- Mkhabela is a political analyst with the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa.

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Read more on:    anc  |  pule mabe  |  cash-in-transit heist

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