An injunction to support South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s drive against corruption in public life, which is encountering resistance from factions in the ruling party, is written into the economic recovery plan he intends to present to a special sitting of Parliament on Thursday.
The 48-page document, presented to Cabinet a week ago, makes interventions against crime and corruption a key part of the government’s efforts to rebuild an economy beaten into its biggest contraction in 60 years by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A list of six points in this regard includes “supporting efforts by the president to act against public office bearers and officials who may be, or are, guilty of corruption and the waste of public resources, including through enforcing existing legislation with urgency”.
The list also includes an undertaking to boost the financial and human resources of law enforcement agencies and the judicial system “so that prosecutions can be speeded up, including of those against whom allegations have been made at the Zondo commission”.
As testimony of the large-scale looting of public funds continues to unfold before that commission of inquiry into state capture, the plan stresses the need to ensure that henceforth “all government transactions are reported in a transparent manner”.
It calls for lifestyle audits of public officials and for business organisations to act against private companies that “facilitate collusion and corruption, including state capture”.
Under a section on resource management, it calls for an end to abuse of public funds and argues that funding from the private sector would flow in if such enabling steps were taken.
The blueprint has been tabled to Cabinet as the National Prosecuting Authority and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) began making high-level arrests in scandals ranging from the Free State asbestos audit to the fraud that led to the collapse of VBS Mutual Bank.
More arrests are expected to follow amid clear signs of a pushback by factions within the ruling African National Congress.
The battle spilled into the open in extraordinary fashion on Monday as Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula tackled ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule, who is implicated in the asbestos saga, and his supporters in a series of tweets.
Mbalula went as far as saying “Karl (sic) Niehaus is a well-known thug employed by Magashule at Luthuli House” but later deleted the tweet.
Carl Niehaus is a former ANC spokesperson and open supporter of South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma, who will be summonsed to appear before the Zondo commission.
Magashule last week pre-empted any plan to arrest him by warning the NPA and the Hawks, through his lawyers, that such a move would be baseless.
The Hawks have dismissed his suggestions of an imminent arrest.