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Government missed a diplomatic opportunity to publicly challenge some of the developed countries to ensure their multinational companies that do business in South Africa subscribe to domestic laws, writes Mpumelelo Mkhabela.
There is no
self-respecting government in the world that would like South Africa's
constitutional democracy to collapse. Only dodgy governments could entertain
such a despicable idea.
of our many internal problems and our occasional self-harming behaviour, we are
a responsible member of the international community. The West and the East, to
use Cold War-era language, would like South Africa to succeed. We are of
strategic importance to them.
government is sometime accused of siding with dictators who habitually violate
human rights, but that's largely because we want to appease everyone. It makes
our foreign policy stance look jelly-fishy. Yet, our democracy is in line with
and in some respects better than some developed countries.
READ: SA's hysterical reaction to 'Western imperialists' will simply drive away investment
are signs that we are losing our way, those countries with which we share
democratic ideals and values would be the first to be concerned and speak out. They
wouldn't want to lose a valuable ally who also happen to be a host of their
material interests in terms of foreign direct investment. The fact that our government
prefers quiet diplomacy and defers too much to the principle of sovereignty in
its dealings with other states doesn't mean that they will apply the same
diplomatic instrument on us.
It was in
this context that the document sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa by some developed
countries, in which they raised concerns about the rule of law and corruption,
should be understood. The public uproar that followed was unnecessary. South
African officials elevated procedure (protocol) above substance.
right-thinking South Africans and Ramaphosa himself have raised the same
concerns contained in the diplomatic submission. There was no need for alarm. The
diplomats were adding their voice to legitimate domestic concerns. As
diplomatic friends of South Africa they were entitled to do so given the
gravity of the governance issues that threaten to derail our national progress.
Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has since met with diplomats from the United
States, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland and the Netherlands. After the
meeting her department issued a measured statement saying there was "misunderstanding".
was. But there is little doubt that the document – long submitted to Ramaphosa's
office – was strategically leaked to reinforce the message contained in it. The
public nature of the concerns raised and Ramaphosa's subsequent measured
response mean that the submission had received the necessary attention. It
served the purpose.
type of response from some people at Luthuli House was unnecessary. South
Africa is not Zimbabwe. The ANC must not conduct itself like Zanu-PF. Labelling
concerns raised by developed countries who are heavily invested in South Africa
as some form of regime change was extreme.
government missed a diplomatic opportunity to publicly challenge some of the
developed countries to ensure their multinational companies that do business in
South Africa subscribe to domestic laws. Some of them have worked with dodgy
politicians and Gupta-linked companies to enable state capture.
& Company is an American company with headquarters in New York. It earned
handsome profits from Transnet and Eskom through corrupt relationships with a Gupta-linked
entity. McKinsey returned some of the money.
enough. To ensure there is the rule of law as suggested by, among others, the
US diplomat who co-authored the submission to Ramaphosa, McKinsey must reveal
to the South African authorities how the deals were done. McKinsey must approach
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo with evidence of how it got to do deals with
state entities via the Guptas. Were McKinsey's officials coerced to enter into
an arrangement with Gupta-linked Trillian or were they acting on their own? Who
were the politicians and officials behind the deals?
ALSO READ: When the filth of corruption infiltrates an entire society
US-based consultancy, Bain & Company which has headquarters in Boston,
Massachusetts, was at the centre of the governance collapse of the South
African Revenue Service under Tom Moyane. Evidence before retired Judge Robert
Nugent inquiry showed how Bain's consultancy deal was struck with Moyane even
before he was employed as a boss of the revenue collector. Bain also offered to
return the loot. But the South African government should challenge the US
government to publicly condemn such behaviour.
The same should
apply to SAP, the German software developer that admitted to having paid
commissions to Gupta-linked entities. For South Africa to restore the rule of
law, Germany could be of assistance in ensuring that companies like SAP respect
the laws of the country where they are invested. Where they break the law the
German government should assist in ensuring there is recourse.
government was largely quiet when British PR firm Bell Pottinger sought to
trigger racial tension in South Africa as part of state capture. It took South
Africa's official opposition, civil society, the media and British MP Peter
Hain to publicly campaign vigorously against the activities of Bell Pottinger.
The company collapsed thanks to those efforts. Now, who said megaphone
diplomacy doesn't work?
countries on whose behalf a memo was sent to Ramaphosa, South Africa is
signatory to the OECD convention on bribery. In the spirit of the convention,
these countries should work together with South Africa to prevent looting of
public funds and restore the rule of law in the private and public sectors.
submission to Ramaphosa must not be allowed to go to waste. He must use it to
South Africa's advantage by procuring assistance from these countries to deal
with corruption. The Western countries should also speak out if South African
authorities reject whatever assistance they offer.
- Mkhabela is a regular columnist for News24.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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