State-owned enterprises have been in the spotlight recently following the unexpected resignations of Eskom group chief executive Phakamani Hadebe and South African Airways chief executive Vuyani Jarana.
Just as the country was coming to grips with their sudden exit – and the rumours that have accompanied the departures – parastatals have been thrust back into the spotlight, this time by veteran ANC activist Andrew Mlangeni, who, on the occasion of his 94th birthday on Thursday, lambasted officials entrusted with running government owned entities for making self-enrichment their priority, instead of the upliftment of South African citizens whom they are meant to serve.
“I didn’t spend 26 years in prison so that we could be free and for them [officials entrusted with the day-to-day running of state-owned entities] to steal money from the poorest of the poor.
“When we elect people to go to Parliament or to serve our people through various government institutions, such as Transnet, Eskom, the revenue service and many other institutions, we assume that they are people of integrity. But many of them have disappointed us. They have become corrupt and stole millions if not billions of rands from the institutions in which they are employed,” said Mlangeni, who is one of the last surviving Rivonia trialists.
He made these remarks during the annual Andrew Mlangeni integrity lecture held in Sandton on Thursday night. It coincided with the launch of the Mlangeni Lecture Series.
State-owned enterprises have in recent times come under the spotlight particularly before the state capture commission of inquiry. Testimony emerging from the commission has detailed how the parastatals were used as cash cows to enrich political heads and those close to them.
Their haemorrhaging of taxpayers’ money has left most state-owned companies in a state of bother. Eskom’s debt is about R420 billion, said its chairperson Jabu Mabuza, who also indicated that this amount had since risen.
Jarana told reporters at a Capa aviation summit in Dubai earlier in the year that SAA had reached an agreement in principle about extending the maturities of its R9.2 billion debt burden.
Mlangeni said to bring about a turnaround in these companies, they would have to employ at their helm individuals with integrity.
“Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. When you serve your
country, you must have this quality,” said Mlangeni.
He lambasted how the recent crop of leaders who have “enriched themselves with money meant to provide services for people who need houses, electricity, water, toilets, hospitals, clinics and many other things”.
“That is why we see so many protests almost every week throughout the whole country. It is very sad that many of our comrades have sacrificed their lives for us to enjoy this democracy which we are messing up today. We must all help the government to get rid of corruption,” said the veteran.
Mlangeni called on all those who had been implicated before the state capture commission to be brought to book.
“Those mentioned in the commissions of inquiry and found to have been involved in corruption must be arrested and their properties bought with corrupt money confiscated. They must be imprisoned for a long time,” said Mlangeni.