/ 10 February 2022

Sona 2022: Business to assist NPA; Kenya helps Ramaphosa on metal theft

Safrica Politics Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo by Nic BOTHMA / POOL / AFP)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has started “outsourcing” his governance responsibilities, caused by a “failing dummy cabinet”, as the private sector steps in to assist institute successful corruption prosecutions in complex graft crimes, according to opposition parties reacting to the president’s State of the Nation address (Sona) on Thursday. 

The president announced that the private sector, working through the treasury, would give a much-need boost to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as it begins what Ramaphosa called its obligation to deal with “the scourge of corruption”. 

Kenya appears to have shown Ramaphosa the way, with the president speaking of planned regulations to curb scrap metal theft that costs Eskom more than R7-billion a year, and has ground the rail transport sector to a halt. 

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced in January that exports and trade in scrap metal would be banned until the East African country promulgates guidelines to regulate the sector. 

Although falling short of banning trade in scrap metal, Ramaphosa did announce that stricter regulations are being developed to guide commerce in the product locally. 

In a recent Reuters article, Eskom revealed that copper theft was costing it between R5-billion and R7-billion annually, including an additional R2-billion a year to replace stolen cables.

Ramaphosa said the government would deal with the issue this year. 

“The damage caused by the theft of scrap metal and cable on our infrastructure like electricity, trains and other vital services is enormous,” the president said. 

“We will take decisive steps this year, both through improved law enforcement, and by considering further measures to address the sale or export of such scrap metal.” 

Business will boost NPA capacity 

Ramaphosa also acknowledged that the NPA lacked skills — without going into detail about what those were — when dealing with graft prosecutions, and that business would join forces with the prosecuting authority to boost its capacity. 

“We have gratefully acknowledged the offer of support from the private sector to assist in providing those skills, which we lack in government, to enable investigation and prosecution of crime.

“To ensure that the prosecuting authority remains true to its constitutional obligation and mandate, and to ensure transparency, we are developing a framework for private sector co-operation that will be managed through the treasury,” Ramaphosa said.

An emphasis would be placed on what the president called the state capture cases. Two reports flowing from the commission of inquiry, chaired by Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, have already been released, with the third and final report expected at the end of February. 

The first two reports dealt with rampant corruption at state-owned enterprises that allegedly involved ministers, other politicians, senior executives, the notorious Gupta family, and alleged collusion with multinational private companies such as the US-headquartered management and consulting firm, Bain, as well as financial and auditing company KPMG.     

“While the definite conclusion [of the state capture commission of inquiry report] has yet to be delivered at the end of this month, the first two parts of the report make it plain that there was indeed state capture.

“This means that public institutions and state-owned enterprises were infiltrated by a criminal network intent on looting public money for private gain,” the president said. 

“My responsibility is to ensure that the commission’s report is properly and carefully considered, and then acted upon. 

“By no later than June, I will present the plan of action in response to the commission’s recommendations, and I will present it to you sitting right here [in parliament],” Ramaphosa added, saying discussions were being held with the judiciary “for the creation of special court rolls for state capture and corruption cases”. 

In 2020, the regulations for the state capture commission were amended to allow for the inquiry’s personnel not only to share information with the country’s law-enforcement agencies, but to be actively involved in the cases before and during the prosecution stage. 

Ramaphosa said the Investigating Directorate, which hasn’t had a head since the resignation of Hermione Cronje in December, would be the lead office in prosecuting state capture and corruption cases. 

“The Investigating Directorate in the NPA is now poised to deliver on its crucial mandate, and a dedicated team has been established to pursue these cases,” Ramaphosa said, adding that Cronje’s replacement would be appointed soon, without giving a timeframe. 

Opposition reacts 

John Steenhuisen, the leader of the official national opposition, the Democratic Alliance, welcomed Ramaphosa’s inclusion of the private sector in the country’s development, saying it was “straight out of the DA’s playbook”. 

“I’m delighted that, for the first time now, we have an ANC president admitting that the statist approach is not going to get growth, and that you need the private sector. 

“So, this is a major shift. I hope that the president will be able to convince his party that that is the case,” Steenhuisen said, lauding the inclusion of private-sector appointments in the presidency to deal with sourcing funds for climate-friendly energy investments

“It’s clear that he feels that he has a dummy cabinet that can’t implement all the things that he wants done, so he is now going to pull people into his office to get things done,” Steenhuisen asserted. 

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema said that the involvement of the private sector in state affairs was a sign of a failing government and an admission by Ramaphosa that his administration had failed. 

“So, generally, they have outsourced the responsibility of governing our people to the private sector,” Malema said.