The scandals slowly consuming firms associated with the Gupta-parastatal nexus are well reported. Companies are alleged to have overly close relationships with quasi-political actors, overlooked or even actively covered-up corruption and patronage, and utilised suspect partners to the same ends. All this seems plainly illegal and immoral. Yet a deeper truth is missed in all this coverage, particularly around black economic empowerment (BEE) and the country’s partnering requirements. It is not just a legal requirement as part of broad-based BEE for partnering by foreign firms to occur when doing public sector business, but also a simple factor of doing business in SA. More than this, however, it is well known that preferred partners have often been pushed by government departments and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) themselves. Understanding this reality of doing business is key to seeing that reforming the system will be impossible as long as politically connected preferred partners ...

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