It's time to end the culture of impunity for the corrupt

03 February 2019 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES

The proceedings of the Zondo commission have gripped the nation, not only because of the intrigue and brazenness of the acts of corruption, but because South Africans finally have an insight to the core of the government they elected. The consequence, however, is that the world is watching and is also progressively being astounded by the depth of corruption in the South African state.
It can be no surprise that some in the investor community have taken fright and are worried about doing business with an inherently corrupt state. They have concerns about committing money to an openly corrupt state where criminality is the normal course of doing business.
It would be a legitimate concern for investors whether part of their budgets have to be allocated to bribe politicians and officials to make their businesses sustainable.
This has prompted intervention by diplomats from Britain, Germany, the US, the Netherlands and Switzerland to propel the South African government towards taking tangible action against those involved in state capture.
These governments say they want to help by responding to President Cyril Ramaphosa's appeal for new investments in the country, but have problems convincing their investors to put money on the table when SA appears to be a corruption free-for-all.
There is an argument to be made about whether it is appropriate for the world powers to dictate what ought to be happening to ensure clean governance and the rule of law, particularly given their own legacies of colonialism and interference in the affairs of sovereign nations.
But these governments say their unprecedented move should be understood in the spirit it was intended. They are keen to do business but there needs to be demonstrable action to show that SA has turned the corner.
It cannot be disputed that the failure to bring a single major corruption case to court gives the impression that there is a culture of impunity in our country and that high-profile politicians and corrupt business networks are immune from prosecution.
This is a frustration shared by many South Africans, too.
Ramaphosa has been preaching the gospel of clean governance since he became president a year ago, and it seems that he has put his money where his mouth is. There is a major overhaul in key positions of the state to purge those who abetted state capture.
While we understand the frustration, we hope that the installation of Shamila Batohi as national director of public prosecutions will end the era of impunity.
There is movement at entities such as the South African Revenue Service, Eskom, Transnet and Denel. Just this week, revelations of corruption at the Public Investment Corporation led to the entire board resigning, including the chair, Mondli Gungubele, the deputy minister of finance.
The lucrative contracts scored by Bosasa through corruption and bribery are also being reviewed as a consequence of testimony at the Zondo commission.
The capture of the state was entrenched and the cleanup is going to be a long, arduous journey.
The message from the investor community is that the "new dawn" rhetoric is not sufficient to commit money to SA and that it is time to start marching people into the dock.
Hopefully, Ramaphosa will get an opportunity on Thursday to address these concerns and those of many other South Africans when he delivers his state of the nation address.

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