Time for massive clean-up

2019-01-30 06:01

ANGELO Agrizzi’s testimony before the Zondo Commission has not involved the spectacular capture of entire state-owned enterprises, interference with the appointment of cabinet ministers or a R5 billion commission on train purchases. And yet his more mundane stories of gifts of liquor and groceries, and monthly bribes to officials and politicians, seem to have made a huge impact; a last straw of sorts in the public sphere.

South Africans suspected that corruption and bribery were fairly widespread, but Agrizzi’s tales have made it sink in how commonplace they are. They make us suspect that virtually all tenders and transactions between the state and the private sector are dubious. And we’re finally sick of it. My hard-earned tax is lining the pockets of greedy crooks. The Guptas have fled the country and Jacob Zuma is cornered, but the Bosasa type of shenanigans will remain with us. How many other Bosasas are there?

I tweeted yesterday: “What SA now needs, is a massive clean-up operation like Operation Car Wash in Brazil where some 200 people were indicted and 100 convicted of bribery and corruption, many in very high places.”

Within hours, more than 2 000 people had retweeted it and 1 000 “liked” it on my timeline alone. There were also a few voices pointing out that Operation Car Wash was politically abused. Benjamin Fogel, a South African living in Brazil and researching this very phenomenon, responded: “No, we really don’t. Operation Car Wash was a politically driven right-wing project that more or less brought the fascist Jair Bolsonaro into power. In return, its leading figure Sergio Moro was given a ministry with enhanced powers. We need to do better than Brazil.”

A good red light to flash, I suppose. I actually meant the size of the Brazilian anti-corruption campaign rather than how it was conducted. There are risks, but I would make the point that SA is different: we’re a constitutional rather than parliamentary democracy; our civil liberties and the rule of law are entrenched in the Bill of Rights in our Constitution, which is guarded over by an independent and assertive Constitutional Court; our history, demographics and class structures are different from Brazil’s; our civil society is progressive, proactive and our media alert.

We cannot afford to wait for new appointments at the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to find their feet and for more expert staff to be recruited. It’s crunch time in SA; we need to move faster. The slower our economic growth, the more crucial it becomes that every cent be used properly to alleviate poverty and inequality.

News24 editor Adriaan Basson showed this week that he and others have been exposing Bosasa’s corruption for years, yet no one has been prosecuted. Constitutional lawyer Pierre de Vos remarked that it is “surprising that the Hawks have not yet (as far as we know) applied for search and seizure warrants to search the Bosasa premises as well as any other places where Gavin Watson may be hiding evidence. Neither (as far as we know) have the Hawks applied for warrants to search the offices and homes of those politicians and officials like Jacob Zuma allegedly implicated in Agrizzi’s testimony.”

Not good enough. Taxpaying citizens are angry that corruption is tearing at the fabric of our society and sabotaging our children’s future, and demand action. Action not only to stop bribery and fraud in national government, but the corruption that has virtually destroyed most of our local governments.

We do need a special campaign, a special task force aided by lawyers, accountants and forensic investigators seconded by the private sector, to be unleashed on corruption. And yes, one that will remain strictly inside the parameters of our laws and will be immune to selective prosecutions and political manipulation. Is there anyone who has watched Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo conduct his inquiry who doesn’t believe that he is a man of absolute integrity?

In the absence of a special task force, two other developments could make a dent: a dramatic increase in the number of whistle-blowers, and a few high-profile politicians, public servants and corrupt businesspeople being led in orange overalls through the gates of prison.

I sense the public culture of tolerance of corruption is shifting. The public should push harder for more decisive action while political parties are vying for our support before we go to the ballot box in May. — News24.

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