Ralph Mathekga

Bosasa's big brother bonanza

2018-09-10 08:29
Minister of Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe

Minister of Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe

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South Africa's politics would make an incredible comedy if only it wasn't a tragic real life experience with consequences for people's lives. 

Just when you thought it couldn't get more bizarre, it did. 

I'm not talking about President Cyril Ramaphosa's recent insistence that we are not in recession. (It's only a "technical recession"!) I have heard other people saying it's not a recession yet! 

This reminds me of another interesting idea that enjoys our attention here in South Africa: "negative growth". If you insist on using the word "growth" to refer to economic contraction, then be my guest. We can indulge for another quarter in the technicalities of recession. 

But I don't want to talk about the economy today, so let me not digress. I want to focus only on the political economy of corruption, starring a facility management company once known as Bosasa.

The last two weeks we have been treated to steady instalments of how the controversial company allegedly cozied up to senior politicians to secure massive tenders worth billions to manage facilities including our prisons. Bosasa was once on National Treasury's blacklist as a company that government should not be doing business with following allegations that it had paid bribes to secure tenders. 

I wonder what happened to Treasury's idea of blacklisting companies. Most companies would resolve this little blacklisting hiccup by simply changing their names and returning to do business with government.  

Anyway, it was alleged that ANC MP Vincent Smith received loans and payments from Bosasa. Ironic, since Smith's job in Parliament is to watch the relationship between Bosasa and government. But as the allegations go, he redefined his job description and decided to rather watch out for his own pocket as he secured "loans" and security installations at his house – all courtesy of Bosasa, or the newly named African Global Operations. 

Another instalment of the saga over the weekend alleged that the company also treated a few more key politicians to a five-star security upgrade at their homes. 

While most of us in Mzanzi face the risk of running into intruders whenever we step out of our houses to catch some air at night, it is reported that Gwede Mantashe, Nomvula Mokonyane, and Thabang Makwetla are enjoying the privilege of spotting intruders on their high-tech security monitors, installed by Bosasa free of charge. 

The hilarious part of the deal is that all the individuals who received security installations from Bosasa insist that they have been working very hard to pay Bosasa for it. The problem is that Bosasa has not had time to issue invoices to our honest politicians, who have always known it is improper to receive such free services, least of all from a company embroiled in a tender scandal. 

Before you go the obvious route and blame these politicians, please understand that the problem lies with Bosasa, which is still trying to locate its invoicing book. On this one, I choose to believe Smith, Mantashe, Makwetla and Mokonyane's version that they have been hounding Bosasa to pay the company for the installations!

What I find difficult to live with however is the very idea that politicians who receive favour from a controversial company will allow the same company to come and install security cameras at their homes; effectively placing themselves under surveillance. 

It defies common sense that one would get into a potentially corrupt relationship with a company that is known to be controversial and then top the relationship by volunteering to be under surveillance by that very company. It defies common sense that politicians volunteered to be under Bosasa's cameras. 

As the politicians are fighting for their reputations after reports that they are compromised, Bosasa is possibly sitting with incredible intelligence about what went on at their houses in the last few months. This will make it very difficult for these politicians to fight back against Bosasa, or even challenge reports coming out. 

So far, those who have been implicated in the Bosasa big brother bonanza (BBBB) have admitted to various things. It all began with Smith offering an explanation that would really offend primary school children. 

He said he entered into a payment arrangement that would see him repaying the loan from Bosasa by 2023, yet no single repayment has been recorded thus far. 

Others are still waiting for invoices from the tardy Bosasa. By installing cameras at the houses of the ministers however, Bosasa knows who's been in and out of the premises. Things might get even nastier for those politicians if they tried to disconnect from Bosasa.

Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.

 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:    bosasa  |  gwede mantashe  |  vincent smith


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