Voices

CR17 funders and the many forms of capture

2019-08-27 01:20

If the bank statements revealing how President Cyril Ramaphosa bought himself the ANC’s presidency, and with it the highest office in the land, are anything to go by, then the new dawn is increasingly being exposed as a gigantic sham.

In February last year, Ramaphosa replaced the wrecking ball that was former president Jacob Zuma as head of state, capping a decade in which South Africa was catapulted into being one of the world’s leading scandalous nations.

Since replacing the calamitous and clueless Zuma, Ramaphosa has spent the past 18 months putting out raging fires.

He started well and has made bold and timely interventions at the National Prosecuting Authority, the SA Revenue Service, the SABC and elsewhere.

But following a series of exposés about the CR17 campaign’s financiers, Ramaphosa’s new dawn, which was supposed to propel the country into a new trajectory, is increasingly looking and sounding like an empty refrain designed to pull the wool over starry-eyed South Africans.

Pretty much like how the radical economic transformation rhetoric was hurled at South Africans to justify the Guptas’ theft.

While on the ANC’s campaign trail, Ramaphosa spent a considerable amount of time telling whoever cared to listen that, as soon as he stepped into Mahlamba Ndlopfu, state capture and corruption would be dealt with resolutely.

The revelations that his campaign was funded by, among others, some of the country’s most influential businesspeople and families suggest that state capture could be an albatross around the country’s neck well into the distant future.

Could South Africans have evicted the Guptas from the feeding trough only for Ramaphosa to replace them with a fresh but sophisticated band of captors?

Ramaphosa’s supporters have leapt to his defence, short-sightedly arguing that the president did not commit any crime and that the pouring of millions into political campaigns by businesspeople is an international phenomenon.

Further, they have contended that the donors of the CR17 campaign did not benefit from government procurement, and as such could not have captured him.

It should be a concern to all that Ramaphosa’s supporters are blinded to the fact that while the influential donors may have no interest in tenders, they could get returns from their investments in other subtle but equally destructive ways.

One such way is through influencing the implementation of legislation which will protect the businesspeople and entrench their business interests.

Influencing the initiation of laws to protect business interests is a sophisticated form of state capture that is decidedly more dangerous than the Guptas’ audacious raid of state-owned enterprises and government departments.

Capturing the legislative process is also much harder to reverse.

Any legislation that will be passed by the current Parliament which is perceived as “business friendly” could be used by Ramaphosa’s detractors to damage him politically.

As it is, Ramaphosa is working overtime to fend off malicious allegations that he is handled by “white monopoly capital”.

There is also no escaping that a fair number of the donors did so with the hope that they would get tenders in return.

Recently, a prominent businessperson vented his anger to me about how Ramaphosa had treated him shabbily by ignoring his pleas for help with a department that was refusing to pay him for a job he had completed on time and according to specifications.

The businessman complained that Ramaphosa did not intervene despite him having spent a considerable amount of time and money to make sure that the CR17 campaign was a success.

The man was unequivocal that he was expecting returns from his investment on the CR17 campaign.

He concluded that the Zuma years were better for tenderpreneurs.

To his credit, Ramaphosa ignored the businessperson, who is probably an ANC card-carrying member.

Other than benefiting from favourable legislation and tenders, there are other ways to benefit from sponsoring political campaigns. One of them is immunity from criminal prosecution.

Consider the Kimberley Mental Health Hospital, whose construction began in 2005 but is still standing incomplete today.

The initial budget was R290 million, but the expenditure on the hospital currently stands at more than R2 billion.

Would Ramaphosa have the guts to arrest and jail the contractors responsible for that mess had they donated R50 million to the CR17 campaign? Your guess is as good as mine.

Lastly, as they say, charity begins at home. The fight against corruption will be a complete waste of time if it doesn’t make a decent attempt to disentangle the ANC from the state capture mess.

A good start would be to draw clear lines between the ANC and the state.

Currently, the ANC sees government as an extension of the party. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in how the ANC finances events such as the annual January 8 statement celebrations.

Earlier this year, a chief executive of a state-owned enterprise received a call while we were having lunch.

After hanging up, he told me that the call was from a senior ANC official who was instructing him to spend R50 000 of taxpayers’ money to pay for the transportation and food for some of the party’s supporters who wished to attend the organisation’s election manifesto launch at Moses Mabhida Stadium on January 12.

Individual ANC politicians also feel entitled to the kitty. About three months ago, a former director-general said the country’s perennial problem with significant cost overruns on projects was a direct consequence of political corruption.

Politicians, he said, help businesspeople win tenders in return for kickbacks.

That politicians facilitate the awarding of tenders to preferred businesses in return for bribes is hardly news.

What is news is that politicians are now demanding upfront payment of up to 10% of the value of contracts as soon as tenders are secured.

Previously, politicians would wait for contractors to get their projects off the ground and submit invoices before demanding payment.

In construction projects where profit margins are less than 5%, contractors are left with no option but to find creative ways to significantly increase cost overruns to pay bribes to a string of politicians and still manage to get profits.

It is fair to conclude that owing to the capturing of the state by ANC politicians and creepy businesspeople, most projects currently under way are inflated and overpriced, and this is in order to cover the cost of bribes and kickbacks.

If Ramaphosa’s fight against state capture is to maintain its legitimacy, he should come clean about the people who financed his campaign and his association with them.

He will not be able to dismantle state capture if allegations of being captured are hovering above his head.


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October 13 2019