An ‘unthinkable’ failure: Zondo blasts SA’s SOE ‘disaster’

Politicians, boards of directors and former executives botched their jobs and should be held responsible for this, he says

09 November 2020 - 18:58 By Mawande AmaShabalala
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo says the collapse of state-owned companies must be pinned on all those who have occupied positions of power and did nothing to stop wrongs committed and incompetency.
DISPLEASURE Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo says the collapse of state-owned companies must be pinned on all those who have occupied positions of power and did nothing to stop wrongs committed and incompetency.
Image: Gallo Images/Sowetan/Thulani Mbele

Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, the state capture commission chairperson, says it is unacceptable that almost all prominent state-owned companies are on their knees.

For this, politicians, boards of directors and former executives who failed at doing their jobs must take full responsibility.

Zondo says someone would be forgiven for thinking these SOEs have been on autopilot, looking at the level of impunity and lack of consequence management.

According to Zondo, pretending no one saw the coming collapse of the SOEs would be disingenuous.

Zondo’s reaction was triggered by Denel-related evidence led before him on Monday.

He heard how Denel Land System’s biggest development yet – known as the Hoefyster Project – was nowhere near completion, nine years after its initial completion date. And this despite it being planned in the early 2000, with a target finish year of 2011.

In 2020, Denel estimated the project would be completed in 2023, which would be 11 years late.

Despite the delays, Armscor, the acquisition agency for the department of defence, had channelled R7.3bn towards the project.

These kinds of delays reflect nothing else but a disaster.
Raymond Zondo

“These kinds of delays reflect nothing else but a disaster. It is completely unacceptable,” a visibly frustrated Zondo vented.

“How can something that was required and promised to be delivered in 2012, still not be delivered eight years later?

“What has been done over the years? Why is this situation allowed to continue? Has anybody been fired for failing to do their job? Has anything happened? It is just unthinkable.” 

Zondo said this “disaster” was no different to the much talked about digital migration, about which little is being done.

The judge said that looking at these two incidents, it was no surprise state-owned companies were “in trouble”.

For this state of affairs, politicians, accounting authorities and management of SOEs over the years must take collective responsibility for their incompetence.

“It is like there is nobody who supervises, whether or not ministers do their job, DGs do their job, heads of SOEs do their job, people under CEOs do their job, and boards of SOEs do their job,” opined Zondo.

“Leaders are put in leadership positions so that they can make decisions and lead. This is now the story of the SOEs, so many of them appear to be in serious trouble, didn’t somebody see a long time ago that there was trouble coming and took steps to ensure that that the SOEs did not get to where they are now.

“Were there no politicians, were there no ministers, was there no presidents who were supposed to make sure their ministers did their job? Were there no ministers that were supposed to see to it that the CEOs and boards did their jobs and if they did not do their jobs they got fired and people who knew what they were doing were brought in?” he continued.

“And the boards of these SOEs, what did they do when the CFOs and CEOs were not doing their jobs? When you see a problems like this, just going on and on for years, you cannot understand why there is no leadership, be it at political or management level that says this cannot be allowed to go on.”

Zondo believes it is high time for the country to have decisive and bold people in positions of power within the SOEs and political leadership space.

In closing his monologue, he said: “You do not know whether people are afraid of making wrong decisions, but if you are a leader or manager, you must be able to take decisions whether you are wrong or not wrong, you must take a decision.

“The worst thing is for you not to make a decision because you are scared of making a wrong decision. It seems intolerable.”

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