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Fri Oct 31 16:19:38 SAST 2014

Justice Malala: Meanwhile, back at the trough

Justice Malala | 01 August, 2010 23:230 Comments

Justice Malala: Part of the propaganda around the ousting of President Thabo Mbeki from the Union Buildings in 2008 was that the government had become corrupt during his tenure. Mbeki was accused of paranoia and insecurity; of enriching his friends and sending his enemies to a political and economic Siberia; of turning state institutions into tools for his own use.

Mbeki's faults were trotted out at every turn as the ANC told us it was set on sweeping clean the mess he had caused.

The judiciary, the civil service, the law enforcement agencies and the tendering system needed to be cleaned up and a new ethos of honesty, efficiency and delivery needed to be put in place.

Those of us who pointed out that Jacob Zuma, then the messiah of both the Left and the "coalition of the wounded", was hardly the man to whom to entrust this new ethos were promptly told that our criticisms were based on nothing but hatred for the man.

Today, though, with 14 months of his presidency done, it is impossible not to worry deeply about the crony state that is emerging around the president of this country. If we all thought Zuma was in the pockets of the Shaik family, now we have to worry about how deeply he is beholden to other interests.

Evidence suggests that, for Zuma and many around him, the putsch of September 2008 had nothing to do with cleaning up the state. In fact, it had everything to do with removing Mbeki cronies from the trough and settling their own snouts in.

The story on the front page of the Sunday Times yesterday is a case in point and the latest of many such revelations.

Police commissioner "General" Bheki Cele signed a contract on June 1 to move his staff, the police minister and his deputy, and several police units, into an 18-storey building in central Pretoria.

There were several glaring inconsistencies in the whole deal.

The first is that the contract, worth R500-million, was not put out to tender. Treasury regulations are very clear on this matter: All contracts worth more than R500000 must go through a competitive-bid process. Cele, the head of the police, signed off on the contract despite this very obvious flaw.

Second, the contract was signed on June 1, whereas the building was bought by the new owner only last week. How could Cele have negotiated and signed a lease with an entity that did not own the building he was to move into? Cele's response to this was this mind-boggling statement: "Every day I sign piles and piles of documents and the lease is one of them. If there were any irregularities, maybe supply-chain management can answer that."

Our police chief clearly does not think he should start an investigation into this flagrant breach of the law. Who will investigate this investigator? No one.

The most worrying aspect about all this is that Cele's deal is signed with a businessman reported by the Sunday Times to be close to the new Zuma administration.

Cele and his team are currently in a building owned by the Encha business empire of the Moseneke family, seen as being close to former President Thabo Mbeki.

Promises were made by the Zuma faction of the ANC that the favouring of cronies would end when Mbeki went. The Cele deal and many other instances show otherwise.

Take, for example, the evidence that continues to come through that Zuma's own family seems to be benefiting from various deals due to his ascent to the presidency.

My fellow columnist, S'thembiso Msomi, wrote last week about Khulubuse Zuma snapping up deals.

"It is just that the lightning speed at which he has been snapping up lucrative business deals, especially since his uncle, Jacob Zuma, became president, suggests that he is benefitting mainly from his proximity to the highest office in the land," wrote Msomi.

Msomi could have added that other members of Zuma's family have now suddenly become sought-after businessmen and businesswomen. Zuma's son, Duduzane, is now, by his own admission, an "exclusive partner" of the Gupta family which - surprise, surprise - is bankrolling a new ANC-friendly newspaper. Zuma's daughter now sits on the board of the Guptas' Sahara Computers.

Across the government, it is now par for the course that those who benefit from state tenders are those who chose Zuma at the battle of Polokwane.

In Limpopo, for example, many legitimate business people seen as Mbeki supporters have fled the province because business only goes to business people linked to the Julius Malemas of this world.

The truth is that Jacob Zuma's presidency was never about clean government or ridding the country of an allegedly corrupt Mbeki.

The Zuma train was merely about taking their turn at the trough.

They have succeeded.

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