SA’s latest pursuit of truth has gone up a gear as it enters a new phase in which the stakes are raised for all the protagonists. After a slow start in 2018, a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture has received startling evidence over the past two weeks. Granular detail has been provided about corrupt payments over the past decade to a long list of senior ANC politicians and government officials.

The evidence has been given by Angelo Agrizzi, the former COO of private security firm Bosasa. Agrizzi has painted himself as having been central to the corrupt deals by the company, which secured several government contracts running into billions of rand. He has claimed that he is coming clean after a “near death” experience convinced him he needed to do the right thing.

Agrizzi spent more than a week on the stand describing dispassionately how Bosasa paid about R4m-R6m a month in cash bribes to senior government officials. The payments were in exchange for government contracts and prosecutorial immunity. The evidence has opened up an entire new window on corruption in SA. Prior to Agrizzi’s evidence, corruption had been associated primarily with the notorious Gupta family. Its relationship with former president Jacob Zuma and his immediate circle of family and cronies dominated the first phase of the commission’s work in 2018. Unsurprisingly, the public outcry to Agrizzi’s evidence has been intense. And there have been calls for immediate action in the form of resignations, firings and prosecutions of those implicated are understandable. But it’s important to keep perspective, and to cast an eye beyond the headline-grabbing evidence and to ask, will any of this matter? We believe that it will under two conditions. The first is that President Cyril ...

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