EDITORIAL: The heat is on in state capture revelations, but action remains slow
It is tempting to get excited, all of a sudden, that the deluge of damning disclosures about the Guptas and state capture is about to prompt some action.
Eskom has finally succumbed to pressure from its funders, led by the Development Bank of SA, and has put its chief financial officer, Anoj Singh, on special leave (whatever that means), pending a promised investigation.
The Treasury has completed a damning report on Eskom’s Tegeta-related deals, as well as some questionable Transnet deals that involved Singh. The Treasury appears to be set to bring in a forensic-audit firm to investigate and to report the matters to law enforcement agencies for investigation in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. The report has already been sent to Parliament’s committee on public accounts, as well as to the Hawks.
Even the National Prosecuting Authority appears to have put its head above the parapet at last, with the Sunday Times reporting that director Shaun Abrahams has appointed a team of top prosecutors to focus exclusively on criminal cases related to state capture and the Guptas. The team is supposed to assist the Hawks to pursue investigations, even though the Hawks unit seems to be pursuing these as slowly as it can.
This, in essence, is why no one should get too excited yet that anyone will be held accountable for selling SA and its state-owned enterprises to the Guptas, much less that anyone will be charged or imprisoned for fraud and corruption, despite the huge amount of evidence that has emerged.
If anyone still doubted that the leaked Gupta e-mails were legitimate, the Treasury report at the very least seems to confirm that they are and that they warrant urgent action.
So too do Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s comments, in a radio interview, in which he distanced himself from the Guptas and recognised that the issues are "quite grave", for governance, for the investor community, for lenders and for rating agencies.
Coming from Gigaba, who was responsible for appointing Gupta-linked boards at state-owned enterprises, that’s rich.
Nonetheless, the heat is clearly on and Singh’s "special leave" reflects that, given how keen Eskom’s board and the public enterprises and finance ministers have seemed to be to protect him — and quite possibly President Jacob Zuma too.
The heat is not just on Eskom, but on Transnet too, where Singh and former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe were a team before they were moved over to Eskom.
Any sign the law is coming down on the perpetrators would be welcome
All of this is probably just the tip of the iceberg of state capture. With evidence mounting daily — and the damage to SA’s public purse, its political landscape and its social fabric becoming ever more severe — any sign that the law is coming down on the perpetrators would be welcome.
Sadly, however, the law enforcement agencies have if anything been even more thoroughly captured, over an even longer period of time, than the state-owned enterprises. The capacity of key institutions including the National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit, have been systematically eroded.
At this stage, it’s not clear they even have the competence to prosecute the Guptas, their cronies in government and the state-owned enterprises, even if they had the appetite, which under this political leadership, they do not.
But the danger is growing that as the evidence mounts, the police could at some stage take action under a different political leadership. And the political leadership changes in December. Everything changes when Zuma goes.
Meanwhile, some cronies are seemingly becoming too expensive to keep, even for the Guptas. And with lenders and investors becoming ever more uncomfortable, the likes of Singh may have to be sacrificed.