The true test of our fight against corruption will be whether the arrests and charges we have seen this week will go beyond the likes of former ANC MP Vincent Smith, former Mangaung mayor and MEC Olly Mlamleli, and ANC-connected businessperson Edwin Sodi, and will include all the high-ranking ANC individuals implicated in these scandals.
It is common knowledge that Bosasa bribes were not only paid to Smith, but that senior ANC cadres such as former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni, former environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe were also beneficiaries. Even the president and his son received suspicious payments from this company, which is mired in government corruption. None of these people should be above the law.
Similarly, the Free State asbestos scandal for which Mlamleli and Sodi were arrested along with other officials, also involved several high-ranking ANC individuals, most notably ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. News reports this past week have revealed that Sodi, who landed himself a R255 million contract only to have this ultimately subcontracted out for less than a tenth of the value, made several payments to the ANC, including to ministers Zizi Kodwa, Thulas Nxesi and Pinky Kekana.
These are the names that need to appear on Hawks case files and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) charge sheets. Throwing a handful of small fry under the bus cannot buy the big fish protection from investigation and prosecution. South Africans will not be placated with token arrests while all the big-name ANC politicians remain untouchable.
From the arms deal to Nkandla and the Guptas landing at Air Force Base Waterkloof, we have only ever seen scapegoats take the fall for their political bosses. And although every new NPA boss over the years has promised that they would be the one to follow the rot all the way to the top, we are yet to see this happen. This has led to a breakdown in trust in our institutions responsible for fighting corruption.
With our country on its knees after a lockdown that has obliterated our economy, we cannot afford any corruption to go unpunished. We cannot afford for ANC politicians to get away with receiving “gifts and loans” from their business cronies in exchange for R255 million contracts for work that can be done for R20 million. That is common theft and must be punished.
The only way to stop this rot is to cut it out entirely. That means charging, prosecuting and jailing everyone involved, even if this removes half the governing party’s top structures.
Steenhuisen is interim leader of the DA