Guptagate: Treating the symptom – not the cause

The response to the Gupta debacle is indicative of a state only dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause of its ills, writes Nickolaus Bauer.

The response to the Gupta debacle is indicative of a state only dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause of its ills, writes Nickolaus Bauer.

Sunday's release of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster's report into the unauthorised landing of a plane carrying 270 guests to the Gupta family wedding has left more questions than answers.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe identified "name-dropping" as the main cause behind the incident and announced that action was being taken against those who made the landing possible.

"Any official that stoops so low as to be intimidated by name-dropping has the option to report this to authorities. Whoever is involved, the law must take its course," he said.

In this regard, police cases have been opened against those alleged to have broken the law and disciplinary measures were also being taken against department officials found to be involved.

Radebe said government would implement a programme to create awareness around the improper practice of name-dropping at the expense of members of the executive.

"All affected departments are to expedite all disciplinary procedures as soon as possible so that justice is seen to be served timeously," he added.

Abusing state protocol
Although, the cluster is encouraging, it will take far more than a few fines and an awareness programme to deal with the problem of politically connected individuals so easily abusing state protocol for their own benefit.

State officials responsible for facilitating the aircraft's landing should be punished, but what of the superiors who create the environment where flouting of procedure is seemingly acceptable if perpetrators have the right connections?

The Gupta's power is not an isolated incident of how some individuals wield power over South Africa's politicians. The South African media are constantly reporting on how those close to the country's leaders are able to score tenders or high-level government positions based on their relationships with our politicians.

One such example is the furore that erupted over the alleged improper relationship between Communications Minister Dina Pule and her alleged romantic interest, businessperson Phosane Mngqibisa.

It is alleged that Pule and Mngqibisa connived to fill key positions in her department, the Post Office and the SABC through nepotism and the promotion of close colleagues.

Rampant problem
For this rampant problem to be firmly dealt with by the state, it would need measures against not only those who broke the rules, but against those who allowed these actions to become the norm.

If it is true that no ministers or the president himself were involved in the Gupta debacle, they are most certainly complicit in the establishment of a political landscape where these deeds are acceptable.

This untenable situation requires action from the most senior figures in government – and most importantly, from the president himself, and the president would be well-served to first unequivocally reveal to the South African public the true nature of his relationship with the Guptas.

The South African public needs to know the truth in order to ascertain whether the Guptas' undue influence is the cause of their links with their number one citizen.

Moreover, Zuma needs to send out a strong message that this type of action is not only unacceptable but will be severely punished.

The president could do this by not only seeing that the people who directly approved the landing on the basis of name-dropping are disciplined but also that more senior members of government – including himself – come under scrutiny for their role in the saga.

If he does not, the vicious circle of political patronage will continue to wreak havoc on South African society.

For now, though, the next installment of the Guptagate saga is set for Parliament where a special sitting has been scheduled for Wednesday when members will debate how this debacle unfolded.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer


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