The political economy of corruption in our country is eating away at the fibers of our society. And while many have thrown in the towel and taken a more pessimistic stance, others just can’t afford it or don’t let it take center stage.
I’ll be the first to say it’s not an easy fight, but we are fighting more than just some corrupt individuals. Take a look at Eskom, for example.
It was in 2008, shortly before his unceremonious resignation from high office, that former President Thabo Mbeki explained to the nation why we were experiencing a load shedding.
In 1994 our currency reserves were exhausted and the country was largely bankrupt. The economy had not grown for several years and the apartheid government left practically nothing to the new government. At the same time, many stakeholders from the new ANC government made presentations on all sorts of urgent matters that needed attention, including the mass infrastructure required for power generation.
There was also an urgent need for money to fight the HIV / AIDS pandemic, which was rampant in the country at the time, not to mention all the necessary measures to combat poverty.
There was simply not enough money at the time, so it was decided, according to Mbeki, to sort out the mass infrastructure for Eskom at a later date.
This later phase came when we experienced a load shedding and had enough money (savings) to negotiate a much better loan agreement with various international financial institutions, unlike in the mid-1990s.
The question then is why did it take 13 or more years to fix this particular problem?
Even if we accept – and it is now quite obvious – that there were major agreements between the actors of the private sector and corruption during the construction of the Medupi and Kusile power plants – both are still not working optimally – why are we still facing this challenge? these years later?
We can either say that it is gross incompetence on the part of “these blacks” who rule the country and Eskom – a narrative touted by some white South Africans – or we can conclude that there are two clear reasons for this: First, much too long during apartheid, Eskom’s capacity was only made available to a small minority of white suburbs and shops, while the mostly black townships stayed in the dark and made do with kerosene lamps and open fires for cooking. Since all citizens are now treated equally, the demand is of course much greater.
Second, those who are supposed to fix the problem are part of the problem. The contractors and engineering firms – and not least the unionized workers at Eskom – are responsible for and perpetuating this ongoing problem.
You see, the types of the private sector know how desperate we are as a country to solve this problem, and that’s a great position – there’s nothing like relying on others to solve a big problem. The cost is increasing day by day to secure profits. As for the workers, their petty yet profitable corrupt practices have secured additional income to increase their salaries, and so the status quo must be maintained.
It is no coincidence that the Numsa spokesman tells us that Eskom’s new CEO Andre de Ruyter is a racist. In fact, it goes as far as to say that Brian Molefe was a better boss than him. Didn’t she listen to the Zondo Commission and hear how Molefe and the Guptas sold our land downstream?
Put it another way: when Mbeki stepped down in 2008, Eskom’s debt was a modest, manageable R 30 billion, more or less. A decade later, after the Zuma government and the leadership of Molefe, the debt stood at 492 billion yuan.
Well, for the math fans out there – clearly not the Numsa people – that’s an increase of about R462 billion over a nine-year period. That’s just wrong in every book.
In the 18 months since he took office, De Ruyter has managed to reduce this debt by 90 billion ren. It’s just amazing. Shedding the fat, curbing useless spending, managing procurement inefficiencies – these are some of the measures the new CEO is sure to take. Imagine we give him another 18 months – that looks very promising indeed.
Corruption thrives when there is chaos and system failures. And apparently you are a racist if you create order, put in place systems and procedures. Because as a white man, you have to deal effectively with a predominantly black workforce, many of which can be corrupt. We have to call it what it is and not fall for lame dirty tricks.
Look at the PPE corruption during this pandemic. Since we are all in panic mode, some in the confusion and chaos thought that they could take advantage of this and be corrupt. But now we are with them.
As my good friend Robert McBride always says, it is not us who persecute the corrupt person, it is never personal, it is the evidence that persecutes you wrongdoers.
So if Numsa members and others in the private sector do not want to end up in jail, their best bet is to put an end to their corrupt practices and become part of putting our country back on a path to renewal and growth.
Like SAA, Eskom is being dismantled and, yes, private partners are being sought. This is the most logical and intelligent thing. It is not that Cyril Ramaphosa is pushing a neoliberal, imperialist agenda – on the contrary.
We have shown over the past two decades that the state-owned enterprise model doesn’t work – and it didn’t work in the apartheid era either. We tried very hard to make it work, but the ultimate irony is that if we didn’t have corruption and we were all on the same page about success in Mzansi, it might have worked.
But the architecture of corruption is such that we always want more: gross accumulation is the order of the day and to hell with the rest – or should I say, to hell with the people.
Our South African Police Service is a corrupt criminal syndicate and as such we will ensure that we as active citizens keep an eye on SAPS in the media and elsewhere. Why the President and Police Minister are not actively addressing this reality is worrying.
In short, we will endeavor to tear down every wall of corruption brick by brick.
Who is with me DM
Oscar van Heerden
Oscar van Heerden holds a scholarship from International Relations (IR) with a focus on international political economy with a focus on Africa and in particular SADC. He completed his PhD and Master’s studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). He completed his undergraduate studies at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently Assistant Vice Chancellor of Fort Hare University, writing in his personal capacity.