How Cyril can get our broken land fixed

23 December 2017 - 00:00 By peter bruce

There's a persistent rumour doing the rounds that the new president of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, intends to try to establish a version of the old post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with state capture. Probably because we know people literally got away with murder at the first TRC, applying the same principles to state capture sounds like a bit of a cop-out, but it may not be. I think the idea has some merit.
A state capture truth commission would require figures involved directly and indirectly with state capture and the theft, and what the Russians call the "alienation", of more than R200-billion to foreign bank accounts, palaces, swanky apartments, jets and massages, mostly but not exclusively in the United Arab Emirates, to stand before commissioners and tell them what they did.
That would apply from the top: President Jacob Zuma and his son Duduzane, the Gupta brothers, Salim Essa, cabinet ministers like Des van Rooyen and Mosebenzi Zwane through to lesser figures like the chairmen and executives of Eskom, Transnet and Denel, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba and, more recently, private sector figures like Trillian CEO Eric Wood.Pulling in the private sector would be vital to the credibility of the commission and for Ramaphosa's position. It cannot, if he does this, be seen as an attack solely on the Zuma state. The heads of KPMG, McKinsey and the big banks that did work for the Guptas will be there, as well as the lawyers, consultants and accountants who have oiled the Gupta wheels, no doubt complaining about the state of the country while they helped ruin it.
State capture is a deep and squalid story. The commission, helpfully to Ramaphosa and the whole ANC, would sit through the 2019 general election. It would lend him and the party more than a veneer of integrity and transparency and because the commission would be independent he would not be responsible for what it hears or what it decides.
The evidence we have so far, much of it revealed in the Gupta leaks and Thuli Madonsela's last report as public protector, lacks the crucial quality of realism. For that, as recent parliamentary inquiries have demonstrated, you need to see the actual perpetrators, in the flesh, under cross-examination. It is cathartic and cleansing; just what South Africa needs.
Leaders recognise the value of serenity and the dangers of stoking fires they can't put out. I remember when the Spanish Socialist Party won an election after four decades of Franco's fascism; a reporter asked the Socialist leader Felipe González how he was going to change Spain. "I don't want to change Spain," he said. "I want Spain to relax."We need that here too. Politicians love to invent crises and then pretend some enemy is standing in the way of a solution. Land is our current crisis. Strangely, it is there as people leave the land and swarm to the cities. Does anyone even think about the economic boom that would result if the state decided to build two new cities in the Vaal triangle?
Sure, fix the land "crisis". The constitution explicitly allows expropriation without compensation. Let's not make a mountain out of something relatively easy to solve. Let's choose to be sane. The cities are the problem. Tin shacks are the problem. Poor health services are the problem. You want to be a farmer? Join the 0.0000001% of the population who do, and who can actually grow anything.
But I digress. The point of this column is to suggest that Ramaphosa has an extraordinary opportunity to fix South Africa. To put it on a new path. Don't listen to the worry-warts who tell you it'll take years. It would take 20 appointments, from the police through the NPA, through the state-owned enterprises and in the crippled departments of health, education, social development and the like, to begin to turn the ship.

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