Editorial: The rot must stop

Our lead article throws new light on the extent to which crony capitalism and influence peddling is reaching high into the African National Congress — a trend that threatens the integrity of the economic system and the democratic order that is not even 10 years old.

The rot must stop and the first step is for the ANC (and indeed all political parties) to get right out of business or they will give empowerment a bad name and make a mockery of the democracy. We won’t even begin to talk about its impact on a fine liberation movement.

Look at the corrosive and corrupting effects of business cronyism on politics in the United States and it is clearly not a pattern we want to follow, though it’s a road we are on. Eventually, policy is put on sale to the highest bidder.

Last year the Mail & Guardian revealed the role of Minister of Public Enterprises Jeff Radebe in pushing a privatisation tender in the direction of Skotaville Publishing, an empowerment company in which the ANC allegedly had a stake. The immediate question was: Who benefited, the ANC or the South African public? Later, we revealed the role of senior party figures — and their relatives — in a Nigerian oil deal that was touted as a coup for South Africa, but from which the country benefited not one jot. The South African Oil Company, recommended to the Nigerian authorities by President Thabo Mbeki, was registered in the tax bolthole of the Cayman Islands and has a secret 25% shareholding. There were suspicions that the ANC benefited from this.

This week’s exposé goes further. It turns the spotlight on mysterious empowerment businessman Sandi Majali, who popped up as a middleman at a time Saddam Hussein was offering Iraqi crude oil in exchange for diplomatic support. Majali’s pleas for oil allocations were apparently sponsored by ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe and treasurer Mendi Msimang, who travelled with him to Baghdad in 2000. Majali’s company, Imvume, is known to support three “charitable trusts”, one of which was founded by Daniel Lengosane, influential head of security in the President’s Office. Another is a fundraising trust for the ANC, whose trustees are Motlanthe, Msimang and the ANC’s policy head, Jeff Radebe.

But the story does not end there. Majali has benefited from two massive state oil tenders, one issued by the Strategic Fuel Fund (SSF), valued at R1-billion, the other by Petro SA. The processing of the SSF contract raised eyebrows in the fuel industry — the contract period was abnormally short, and Imvume’s bid went from dear to cheap in mid-tender. Some insiders believe the outcome was pre-determined.

This is not black economic empowerment as it’s meant to be — it is cronyism and it should have no place. Good empowerment is broad-based; it ensures operational control and creates jobs. Majali’s corporate adventures seem to satisfy none of these requirements.

What is to be done? Firstly, we should pay all our registered political parties more so that party poverty is no excuse; party funding laws need to be jacked up so that all political donations are made transparent.

And while political party office-bearers may argue that it interferes with their freedom of association, surely they should be subject to the same set of interest disclosures that members of Parliament make in office? In fact, should political party office-bearers moonlight as businessmen at all? Should Cabinet ministers? Should senior civil servants? We think not.

The obvious danger is that the ruling party will serve itself and its own ahead of the electorate that voted it into power, and that policy will be determined not by the national interest but by opaque deals from which the party and well-connected individuals stand to gain.

The US is not the only example we don’t want to follow. Let’s not forget that Zimbabwe’s economic collapse was accelerated by a war in the Congo that served no purpose but to enrich a handful of generals and politicians.

The suits must save our soccer
The voices that have, for the past few years, pleaded for someone to “save our soccer” have become hoarse. Yet their wails appear to have gone unheeded. Bafana Bafana returned from the 24th edition of the African Cup of Nations with their pride battered; the soul of the proud nation wounded.

Redemption lies with those who run the game. Minister of Sport and Recreation Ngconde Balfour must spare us the tears and blame-shifting in which he engages every time there is a crisis.

Then the men in suits at Soccer City must learn to make tough decisions. The search for the next national coach must yield a candidate of the highest calibre, one who commands the utmost respect from fans and players here and abroad. As Carlos Quieroz will testify, the administrators have constantly failed to provide support for the national team. Resources must be made available.

Most importantly, the talent that is teeming in our professional ranks must now be harnessed to win a Nations Cup on home soil and to break through the first round of the World Cup finals. We now stand behind the North African triumvirate of Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia as well as Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal in African soccer circles.

Our resources, pedigree and the lessons of 10 years in international football demand that we reap much more impressive rewards.

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