What’s in it for us? The root cause of all corruption in SA

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma. File picture: Zwelizwe Ndlovu

When the Zuma administration swung into town it is clear given the evidence emerging out of the state of capture inquiry that there was a corruption frenzy that escalated to shocking heights. Of course what is emerging is only a confirmation of what many of us have always known but have had no platform to have this thoroughly exposed and interrogated. 

The Gupta leaks emails have already placed in the public arena irrefutable evidence of what has been going on in the name of the people. But due to the spinelessness of the national prosecuting authority that was also caught up in the vicious cycle of that corruption, no one has been prosecuted for what are clearly illegal acts that are at the heart of state capture. One hopes that unlike other commissions we have seen this commission will lead to consequences not a white wash that will tell us that no one is going to be punished. Having said this, what stood out for me was one of the pillars of the debilitating corruption was the loss of selflessness especially amongst our leaders whether be it at executive level or at the leadership of our parastatals. In this regard the emerging horror stories at GCIS, Transnet and, USSASA are a case in point.

A few years ago when the  Zuma administration was preparing to take over one of the big items they had their eyes on was the manufacturing of set top boxes and the entire value chain linked to digital migration. A very senior minister who was part of the panel to appoint both the DG of telecommunications and the CEO of USSASA rejected a few candidates that were in the running with an astounding refrain ;” What’s in it for us?”.Candidates that were referred to her were not part of the feeding frenzy that would allow this Minister and her cronies to access the largesse of the up to 80 billion rands that was envisaged to be spent in that department knowing this episode I was not surprised to learn of the fight over largesse that is going on at USSASA where the CEO was mysteriously suspended an action found to be totally illegal by the public protector. It is clear that the question – What’s in it for us? – was not answered adequately when Lumko Mtimde was appointed. My information is that he put the breaks on the biggest cash heist that was about to happen at USSASA. The rush to get rid of him was suspicious and pointed to interests beyond the board itself.  The allegations leveled against him were in total contrast to the AG’s report about the organizations’ financial health. It Is also clear that his refusal to go and bow in front of the King of Nkandla precipitated his misery at the organization and led to his unceremonious removal.

This USSASA saga explains why South Africa has missed so many deadlines on digital migration. The policy flip flop that we saw resulting in court cases brought by the private sector as well as the inexplicable fights within the cabinet point to a horrific selfishness and incompetence of successive ministers of communications that have bowed to commercial interests in the lucrative industry. It all boils down to the question :”What is in it for us?” The modus operandi of the public service instead of servants of the people mantra of Batho Pele – People First. Unfortunately the modus operandi is Politicians first. It is glaring in the case of USSASA that the board had puppet Masters at the highest levels of government who saw their sitting on the board as an opportunity to grove to those who were in power at the time.

Upon arriving at both Prasa and Transnet Popo Molefe had a shock of his life. It is clear that the abuse of public funds was and remains at its height. The Prasa situation seem to continue with Minister Nzimande inexplicable reappointment of a CEO that was fired by the previous board. At Transnet it is emerging that the previous leadership seems to have allowed rampant looting to carry on unabated with billions being revealed as wasteful expenditure as recently as last month.  Its is clear that in both the cases of Prasa and Transnet someone answered What is in it for us and the thieving machinery went into full swing.

Finally one has to wonder why since ‘Jimmy’ Manyi was CEO back in 2012 the GCIS has not had a permanent CEO. The testimony by both Themba Maseko and Phumla Williams tells us volumes. It is clear that the Zuma administration was looking for someone pliable who will do their bidding in channelling public funds to Zuma’s vanity project of propping up a propaganda machinery that will be unrelated to him and the ANC. There were no serious takers who could answer the question to the satisfaction of the corrupt around Zuma who wanted to know: “What’s in it for us?” What a shame.


Onkgopotse JJ Tabane is Author of Let’s Talk Frankly , Host of Power Perspective Mondays to Thursday 8pm to 12am and Host of Frankly Speaking on SABC 3 and 404 Sundays at 2030.