Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Carol Paton’s article speaks volumes (Pravin Gordhan still calls the shots at SAA, February 19). Its import goes beyond Gordhan and SAA. It talks to the modus operandi in the ruling party, which is at the root of the myriad problems we witness in our state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

It’s about command and control. It’s about the long and heavy hand of state interference in the companies it owns. It’s about the imperatives from the ruling party in government that impede management from running an efficient organisation.

It’s about the perverse incentives that use the companies under the government’s aegis to buy votes, deploy cadres who milk procurement and split rotten, rent-seeking proceeds between two sets of thieves — the party in government (ANC) and its deployees.

It’s about stealing disguised as socialism. It’s what state control and socialism open the door to.

This is why even the self-styled Mister Clean (aka Pravin Gordhan) cannot clean up the SOEs and allow them to chart a road to recovery. If he were to open up to public scrutiny the pre-existing and current shenanigans in the SOEs that cumulatively bear responsibility and shoulder a debt, underwritten by government and in effect by the fiscus — that’s you and me, by the way — of crippling proportions, the evidence would be on the table.

And that would open the door to prosecution of many in government, their extended families and business partners. It would be the end of the ANC as we know it. It would also be the end of Gordhan. But you cannot expect the ANC to be the undertaker at its own funeral.

In the absence of an independent civil service, the pliant lapdogs of the ministry assist in the creation and maintenance of an opaque veil. That veil is further darkened in large measure by many chairs of parliamentary committees and the parade of obfuscating PowerPoint presentations, which do anything but tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

A long list of SOEs have not presented annual financial statements, and even those that have done so fall short of having two, independent, tier-one audit firms signing off, or not, on what goes on behind the veil, as the circumstances demand.

Gordhan shamelessly seeks to hide behind a dubious legal interpretation of the Public Management Finance Act rules to prevent the moribund SAA from presenting its financial statement to parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) and the portfolio committee on public enterprises. At least the chair of Scopa — the only chair of a committee headed by an opposition party — is holding him to account.

In addition, all the grandstanding bluster of the VBS-tainted EFF, and the invective aimed at Gordhan, should be obvious to most: it is aimed at getting their grubby hands on the same set of spoils currently enjoyed by the ANC.

Gordhan’s half-hearted attempts stand in the way of their designs and collusion with the wing in the ANC that is opposed to Cyril Rapmaphosa. It is this Hobson’s choice that prevents the president and Gordhan from coming clean.

What a tangled web they all weave, while we — ordinary tax-paying South Africans — foot the bill. The whistle has been blown; let’s not shut our ears.

Ghaleb Cachalia, MP
DA shadow public enterprises minister    

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