The corrupt feel invincible in SA - Helen Zille

The DA leader says the DSO was disbanded because it threatened the ANC's "closed crony politics"

South Africa won't become a winning nation unless we root out corruption, which has spread through every sphere of government like a smothering weed.

Last week, President Motlanthe signed into law two bills disbanding the country's most effective corruption-busting unit, the Scorpions. The dissolution of the Scorpions is the logical outcome of the ANC's model of closed, crony politics in which the interests of the party trump the rights of citizens and the higher law of the party means independent institutions must be undermined or taken over if they thwart the abuse of power by the ANC's ruling clique.

The ANC destroyed the Scorpions because they threatened to break the circle of closed, crony politics. Tomorrow, the man who stands at the centre of that circle, ANC President Jacob Zuma, will appear in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, where a date will be set for his corruption trial.

The ANC is preparing for a huge rally outside the court in support of its President. Arrangements have been made to accommodate over 15 000 people, although the turnout is expected to be much higher. Tonight there is a vigil outside the court in Freedom Square , at which provincial leaders of the ANC are expected to address supporters.

The ANC is turning Jacob Zuma's court appearance into an election rally because it elevates and celebrates the politics of the closed, crony society, putting their leaders above the law and above the Constitution. After all, it was Jacob Zuma who said the ANC is more important than the Constitution.  For the ANC, corruption and power abuse have become a routine to revel in and a practice to praise. That is why Tony Yengeni was carried shoulder high to prison by Baleka Mbete, the current ANC National Chairperson and Deputy President of South Africa .

No wonder the corrupt feel invincible, when they are feted like this by other members of the closed circle. Here in KwaZulu-Natal , the MEC for Health, Peggy Nkonyeni, who was arrested in December on charges of contravening the Corruption Act, takes personal vanity to extremes. She had her portrait put up throughout the Health Department's offices and on banners and billboards. The Department's 2008 annual calendar featured her on the cover and on all but four months. Last year, she suspended a doctor - and embarked on a campaign of retribution against him - after he put her portrait in the dustbin in view of hospital staff.

Nkonyeni is accused of colluding with the owner of an ANC-aligned  Black Economic Empowerment company, Rowmoor Investments, to charge the Health Department R1.5 million for a mammogram machine which should have been bought for R425 000. When she appeared in court last month, she was accompanied by dozens of chanting ANC supporters, wearing ANC T-shirts with slogans such as "60 percent majority" and "Zuma for President".

Nkonyeni's involvement with Rowmoor shows that there is an unholy triangle at work, the three corners of which represent business, the state and the ruling party. Connecting these corners are the cadres that the ANC deploys to the state and to business. These cadres ensure that they and their cronies benefit from state tenders as well as BEE deals in the private sector which they help ‘facilitate'.

It happens in local government, too.

In 2003, the ANC-run City of Durban sold its bus fleet to a company with ANC links called Remant Alton for R70-million in a black economic empowerment deal. After 5 years of mismanagement and unreliability, the City bought the fleet back for R405-million. Remant Alton made a profit of R335-million for its incompetence, which the ratepayers lost. 

To add insult to injury, after the bailout Remant Alton was contracted to operate the bus service. The buses still don't run on time.

It is no surprise to find that Remant Alton is headed by ANC stalwart Diliza Mji, or that other ANC-linked businessmen like Rajan Naidoo sit on its board. This is what happens in the closed, crony society: state contracts get awarded to companies linked to the ANC, regardless of whether those companies can get the job done.

We have seen the same closed, crony politics at work in the rates valuations process in Durban . Many residents across the city are suffering with massive rates increases and simply cannot afford to keep their homes any longer. The ANC awarded the valuation contract to Willy Govender, a well know backer of the ruling party.

The valuation process has been a total shambles with both over-valuations and massive under-valuations. The period for residents to submit objections to their new valuations was only 30 days and many of these objections have not yet been dealt with. This has had a major impact on property prices and, coupled with the interest rates hikes, has led to a depression in the housing market in Durban .

The ANC blurred the boundary between party and state when it deployed Mike Sutcliffe as city manager. Sutcliffe regularly attends the ANC caucus meetings, and he has appointed a number of ANC members into administrative positions in the city. And now the ANC has blurred the boundary between party, state and business - with disastrous consequences.

The DA rejects the blurring of boundaries between the state, the ruling party, and business. Where BEE deals are concerned, we take a broad-based, open-opportunity driven approach. In Cape Town , when the ANC governed, a minimum 30% BEE quota applied to tenders. This was used to advance the economic interests of bidders with top political connections. In 2006 the DA scrapped the policy and implemented an open, equity programme that encourages greater numbers of bidders to apply. The result is a 10% increase in the number of contracts awarded to BEE companies.

And we take a zero-tolerance approach to corruption.

We have has a comprehensive set of plans to bust corruption. We would begin by re-instating the Directorate of Special Operations (or Scorpions). We would also put in place measures to encourage better co-ordination and co-operation between the various corruption-fighting agencies, such as the Asset Forfeiture Unit, the Independent Complaints Directorate and the Special Investigating Unit; increase the budgets of these agencies to help them manage their caseloads better; and increase the capacity of the forensic auditing division in the office of the Auditor-General.

It is time to get tough on corruption and to stop celebrating the corrupt.

This is an extract of a speech by Democratic Alliance leader, Helen Zille, at a public meeting in Umhlanga, February 3 2009

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