The Stars Must Align If South Africa Is To Prosper

A good friend of mine told me recently that it is ONLY when Jacob Zuma goes to jail that South Africa will have the faintest chance to survive and prosper. Sadly, that is in fact not true. Yes, it will be a great day for South Africa when Zuma, with all his lying, cheating, and thieving, finds himself in an orange overall. The mere act of placing him in jail, however, will not propel the country on an upward trajectory to success.

Unfortunately, for both Ramaphosa and South Africa the road to success will depend on the alignment of several stars and the extent to which South Africa reaps the rewards of success will depend on how well, accurately, and quickly those stars fall into line.

To my mind these are the stars that need alignment – discussed in no particular order.

Historical Accountability

The first star, and perhaps the one that attracts the most international attention and most likely solicited my friends’ comment, is that there must be accountability for historical wrongs. That means that those people who were previously responsible for corruption, money laundering and other malfeasance should be held accountable. With this, I mean, that redress should apply not only to politicians but to all business people and entities, as well as civil servants.

We are brought up to believe that the bad guys go to jail when they do naughty things. Any prosecuting authority will be overjoyed with a prosecution success of around 80%. That translates to eight out of every ten people are found guilty of fraud, corruption or other malfeasance will be punished and imprisoned for their crimes. The converse is true in that two who commit a crime will walk free. This is enshrined in the ideology that a person is considered innocent and until proven guilty.

Shamila Batohi has previously shown that she is a very capable prosecutor and has a great reputation. However, she does face an uphill battle. From news reports it is promising to see that she is busy turning the NPA around. So, will she be able to achieve an 80% conviction rate? That will be the million-dollar question. The removal of Shaun Abrahams, Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi and the appointment of several deputies – De Kock, Mokhatla, Mzinyathi, Rabaji-Rasethaba and van Rensburg – who all have many years of experience certainly will bolster her efforts. Anton Du Plessis’s recent appointment should also not be overlooked, as his experience at the UN counter-terrorism executive directorate and time at the Scorpions will provide vital additional expertise.

This team is more likely than the old guard to secure an acceptable conviction rate. The recent high-profile arrests, along with their entourage of sidekicks, will likely lead to the indictment of many others as they seek to get some leniency in return for “spilling the beans.” (Please read my previous article – Prediction 2021)

In my books President Ramaphosa scores a resounding pass mark for concerted efforts to achieve Historical Accountability.

Current Accountability

This star refers to a wider form of accountability. This covers not only those persons who are involved in fraud and corruption being removed from their positions and being prosecuted, but here the star refers to those government officials who are removed from their position due to pure incompetence. During much of the time that the ANC has governed South Africa it has been reluctant to dismiss completely incompetent officials. Two complete fools who never got summarily fired for embarrassing the entire nation with their foolishness are Msimang and Casaburi.

In 2006 Manto Tshabalala-Msimang proudly announced that garlic, beetroot and lemon delayed the development of HIV. Dr Garlic was ridiculed both locally and internationally for her complete
misunderstanding of the deadly virus. Schooled at the Leningrad Medical Institute and later at the University of Antwerp obviously played a vital role in her ground-breaking insight into HIV. Harvard University estimated that she was responsible for about 300 000 preventable deaths. Her old buddy Thabo Mbeki stuck by her and she was moved to minister of the presidency by Kgalema Motlanthe.

Ivy Florence Matsepe-Casaburri was the absolute genius who came to the conclusion that AT&T, Orange and Sprint Telecoms were no match for the Saudi funded start-up Cell C. It finally took her death in 2009 to find a suitable / unsuitable replacement.

Sadly, there were many more totally incompetent people who were shielded by the ruling ANC and not removed from office for making a total hash of their responsibilities. Finally, this pattern started to turn when in 2017 David Makhura – a formidable detractor of Jacob Zuma – accepted Health MEC Qedani Dorothy Mahlangu’s resignation following the tragic events unfolding in the Life Esidimeni scandal. Her stance that she be redeployed was supported by Jacob Zuma but somehow Makhura made sure she was removed as health MEC. Admittedly, this happened during Jacob Zuma’s term of office, but I believe that it marked the turning point of exiting incompetent people holding leadership roles in government.

Since then, we have seen Dr Zacharia Mathaba (Nov 2020) being fired from his chief executive post at the Far East Rand Hospital. Aaron Motsoaledi confirmed that a home affairs employee based in Windhoek was fired for selling South African visas to non-qualifying Pakistani and Bangladeshi people. Higher up the ladder we have seen Sindiswa Gomba and Bandile Masuku who were MEC’s for health in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, respectively. Since the commencement of the Cyril Ramaphosa’s term of office there have been many more instances of people being removed from office due to alleged corrupt activities or complete incompetence.

The most notable and probably the most senior scalp is Ace Magashule. Recently Ramaphosa, along with the ANC NEC, has resolved that he step aside amidst allegations of corruption and his arrest in that regard. One can be sure that once he has vacated his office at Luthuli House, Bongani Bongo, Nomvula Mokonyane, Carl Neihaus and Malusi Gigaba will be close on Ace’s heels.
So, for Current Accountability I would grade Ramaphosa’s actions as a Pass.

Arms of Government
The executive arms of government must run effectively and efficiently to provide proper law and order. The most important of these are the Policing / Prosecuting Authority / Prison Services, Tax Collections and Education. There a several other areas which are important however either play a smaller role in society as a whole or is better described in the headings below.
Since the departure of George Fivaz in January 2000 several successive commissioners have been unable to complete a single term of office, most being implicated in and charged with misconduct. In 2017 Khehla John Sitole is the first career cop appointed as police commissioner for 22 years. He joined the service in 1986 and attained the rank of major by 1992. His appointment was made by Jacob Zuma under enormous pressure from Cyril Ramaphosa. John Sithole has reshuffled his top management, relentlessly pursued corrupt cops and reinstituted several specialised units to combat crime.

Unfortunately, the same improvement cannot be seen under Arthur Fraser at Correctional Services.

South African Revenue Services also recently saw the dismissal of Tom Moyane, along with a handful of his appointed heads of departments. Edward Kieswetter was appointed and has been making structural changes ever since. Working with SARS daily, I can give first-hand testimony that the service levels at SARS have dramatically improved. On 1 April 2021 SARS announced that it had collected R38bn more than forecast in the February budget.

Shamila Batohi has certainly snatched the headlines and as discussed earlier in this article there certainly appears to be a turnaround at the National Prosecuting Authority.

Although the government deserves much criticism regarding its handling of the education system, the education system has remained largely operative, and compared to the rest of Africa probably the best education system of all.

Yes, I think that Ramaphosa certainly receives an “only just” pass mark for getting major parts of the executive arm of government moving.

Economic Involvement
Government must play a leading role in the direction and ethics of the economy. There can be no doubt that under the Zuma administration the various arms of government were riddled with corruption, nepotism, and general incompetence.

According to the Auditor General’s findings for the past two years they are seeing improvements in audit outcomes. However, sustainable solutions required to prevent accountability failures are not yet in place. There are 111 (26%) – (2019: 98 (23%)) auditees who produced quality financial statements and compliant performance reports. The quality of performance reporting showed an improvement in that 71 % (2019: 60%) of the auditees published credible performance reports. Irregular expenditure reduced from R66.9bn in 2019 to R54.34bn in 2020. This is still unacceptably high, but one should take note of the improvement.

It should be borne in mind that the Auditor General does not audit Eskom and Transnet. So, let us look at a summary of the latest results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There appears to be a slight reduction in long term debt and improved profitability of around R2.5bn. The slight reduction in headcount does not appear to reflect in the Income Statement as severance packages are paid to staff that depart. It was recently announced that Eskom’s workforce will reduce from 44,929 to 40,691 by 2030. This is hardly significant for a bloated workforce.

Transnet: Sweeping changes at the Transnet top board was made early in 2018 and has continued under Portia Derby (appointed 1 Jan 2020) who is determined to remove all management implicated in state Capture. The financial results show some improvements, but this is a big organisation that can negatively affect the fiscus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The encouraging part is that the state-owned enterprise continues to make a profit and it has finally become cash positive however the long-term debt has continued to increase each year. There is an annual investment of R20bn into capital projects which it is assumed that Transnet continues to upgrade infrastructure. To conclude, should there be any significant improvement at Transnet it has not filtered to the financial statements.

Overall Ramaphosa should score at least a very narrow pass. With the Auditor General recognising improvements and the big SOE’s not realistically posing an immediate drain to the fiscus are all pointing to positive signs

Local Government
There is no doubt when one looks at the state of roads and the abysmal provision of service delivery at many of the smaller towns and cities in South Africa you will be correct to conclude that the ANC government has been especially bad at governing where it really matters. Service delivery protests have become common place of late. Protestors have been very lenient on ANC councillors and Mayors, who have squandered public money, spoiling themselves on lavish overseas holidays and luxury German vehicles. They have hidden their malfeasance behind allegations of racism and anti-transformation agendas, but in reality, that is simply a ruse to cover up their own incompetence and greed.

There are sporadic incidents where central government has taken over the operations of certain local governments with the purpose of restoring service delivery. In December 2020 the High Court in Mahikeng found that the Kgetlengrivier Local municipality was in breach of its legal obligations. The municipal manager would be jailed for 90 days if the local government did not restore water supply, stop sewage flowing into the local rivers or it would allow the resident association to run the local government and the Central Government would have to pay the residents for doing their jobs. That is exactly what happened and now the town is operating properly. This trend is continuing in Delmas and Senekal and soon to several local governments in the Eastern Cape who are especially hard hit.

The Makhanda High Court ordered that the Makana Local Municipality be dissolved after even provincial intervention could not restore services. This trend is unfortunate but has spread to Mpumalanga and other provinces around the country. Minister Dlamini-Zuma recently confirmed that a team of experts will provide ‘technical support’ to these regions.

In a recent development the District Development Model has been launched, whereby the Minister of COGTA with the assistance of the United Nations will combine to assist struggling municipalities. In effect this allows national forces to ‘take control’ in these municipalities and get them up to speed with their more successful counterparts.

The model will foster a “One Plan” approach to local development that seeks to incorporate public, private and civil society participation and investment in a joint effort to provide service delivery, localize procurement and create jobs. The COGTA-UN partnership will initially focus on the three DDM pilot districts, namely: O.R. Tambo (Eastern Cape), Waterberg (Limpopo) and eThekwini (KwaZulu-Natal). The partnership will give practical expression to the DDM principles which are based on cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders.

The question here is whether Dlamini-Zuma, who has demonstrated her total incompetence and total unsuitability to run even the most basic of government roles, has the capacity to implement the desired changes.

Ramaphosa has completely and utterly failed in this star. He does not even attain the grade that his predecessor, who had no formal education and was notoriously financially illiterate, achieved. This is the one instance where the rubber meets the road, as local government is where the citizens experience government’s capacity and resolve to deliver basic services. The person living in a shack does not actually care if Jacob Zuma goes to jail or not. They worry about cable theft slowing down the trains and getting them to work late. They worry about having to use a pit latrine, or to carry water to bath their young. This area is probably the most important for his approval rating and receives the least attention. Strange as I always believed him to be a thoughtful and intelligent man.

Conclusion
Scoring four out of five would normally put you into the 80 % category. Ramaphosa has done a great job in aligning a number of the stars and these are all very important to the long-term prospects for South Africa, but he fails miserably at the place where most people actually feel it the most. His political opponents are fortunately too inept to see the stark reality. Julius Malema is too busy voicing his stance on race, and the DA is so busy playing Prog (PFP) politics (This is where Tony Leon cut his political teeth – where you sit on the side-line and bitch like hell about everything but are unable to arrange a good booze up in a brewery).

So, unfortunately, in the one area where Ramaphosa scores a “fail” his political opponents are just to useless to actually drive home their advantage and spur him on to make tangible improvements.

So, does South Africa have a chance? I believe the answer is YES. We need to keep the stars that are properly aligned in their proper orbit. Local government needs very urgent attention and then as always with any turnaround a big helping of good luck will certainly make for a less bumpy ride.

Peter Carlisle CA (SA)
April 2021