The fight against corruption has given workers new hope – Cosatu

South Africa’s painful experiences with state capture and corruption are well known and need little relitigating.

The decade of state capture cost South Africa and workers dearly.  It is natural for society to be skeptical of politicians given the experience of state capture.

The Zondo Commission into state capture and corruption shone a powerful spotlight into the inner workings of state capture, revealing at times a horror story. 

It is painful how some among us use the opportunity to lead as a license to loot.

This has a devastating impact on the workers and society.  Key economic assets the nation depends on are misused.

Important state entities such as Eskom, Transnet, Metro Rail, and the infrastructure, were systematically stripped to feed the insatiable appetites of an elite in the public and private sector.

This has bled the state of resources to fund public services working classes communities depend upon.  It has meant vacancies could not be filled and investors deterred.

Government making progress in fighting graft

It is easy to become demoralised when facing this painful decade.  Yet despite these difficult setbacks, we have been heartened by the impressive strides by government.  Under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, government has made strides in the war against crime and corruption.

The first key step the president took was to remove compromised architects of state capture. They were removed from the highest positions across the state. These include  cabinet, SA Revenue Service (Sars) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).  Also the SAPS, SABC, Denel, Eskom and Transnet.

This step has enabled the rebuilding of the critical institutions.

The appointment of competent leadership to key positions across the state was key to allowing a fresh start to happen.

The ANC took a firm decision that any leaders charged will be required to step aside.  This has been implemented without fear or favour.

What are the results?

We no longer need to worry about members of cabinet using their positions to loot and feast on the state coffers.

Overhaul of government departments to root out corruption

An inclusive and transparent process was undertaken to appoint the head of the NPA.  This has insulated the NPA from being abused for political or corrupt objectives, as had been  the case previously.

The president has now signed the NPA Amendment Bill, establishing a specialised anti-corruption directorate.

Compromised leadership at the SAPS has been removed. And the brain drain that saw the SAPS personnel numbers fall to dangerous levels are being reversed.

Parliament has recently passed the most significant legislation to overhaul the intelligence services. This to firmly reassert oversight and accountability of security organs that had previously been riddled with corruption and illegal activities.

The revenue service has experienced a great turnaround, with revenue compliance boosted. This in turn providing the revenue the state needs to fund public services and stimulate the economy.  Sars has now begun to aggressively crack down on tax evasion and customs fraud. It is scoring impressive victories at court and securing stiff jail sentences. This in addition to significant tax settlements by the wealthy.

Public Procurement Bill

Public procurement across the state has been the epicentre of state capture and corruption.  Parliament, after extensive engagement with business and labour, recently passed the Public Procurement Bill. 

Key provisions in the Bill require all tender information to be made publicly available on an online portal. The prohibition of public representatives from doing business with the state. The disclosure of relatives of public representatives receiving state tenders. And empowering Treasury’s chief procurement officer to suspend and cancel contracts falling foul of the law.

Other key legislation passed to ramp up the fight against crime and corruption include:

  • Auditing Profession Amendment Act setting checks and balances over the auditing profession. This to ensure they fulfill their duty to provide legitimate audits of the institutions they are contracted to. And not to repeat the cover ups some were implicated in.
  • The same Act empowering the state to hold personally financially liable officials implicated in corruption.
  • General Laws Amendment tightening money laundering provisions.
  • Public Investment Corporation Amendment Act providing for labour representation on the PIC Board. Also on clear investment criteria and accountability mechanisms.
cleansing and renewal of not only the ANC

It is not always easy to see the progress we are making as a society.  It is easy to become distracted by media headlines and miss the bigger picture.

Yet what we are seeing unfolding is the cleansing and renewal of not only the ANC as the elected governing party, but the state and society itself.

Systems are being put in place, legislation tightened, corrupt elements purged into political obscurity. 

Perhaps the biggest sign of how far we have come is that we are now a society where a police commissioner can be arrested. A speaker of the National Assembly can be charged, and even a former president convicted.  That is accountability.  That is exactly the message society needs to know, that crime comes with consequences. And these consequences will now be felt by the perpetrators.

Enough motivation for workers to vote

It is this progress that has heartened Cosatu and millions of workers that we are firmly on the path to renewal.  This is what is motivating workers to come out in the numbers on election day. To renew the mandate of President Ramaphosa and the ANC. To accelerate and intensify the war against state capture, crime, and corruption.

This is a war we can, must and will win.

  • Solly Phetoe is the general secretary of Cosatu

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