The once-great, now rotten-to-the-core movement is at the heart of a decade-old criminal network.
By Justice Malala, Sunday Times, SA
In every household across South Africa there should be tears for Babita Deokaran.
Cold-blooded hitmen shot and killed Deokaran in front of her home on the morning of 23 August 2021. She had just dropped her child off at school. Thanks to a quick-witted neighbour who had spotted the killers in the area days before and taken down their car’s registration number, the police have arrested seven suspects. We now know that Deokaran, the Gauteng health department’s acting CFO, was murdered because she had painstakingly put together evidence of fraud and corruption linked to government’s Covid-19 tenders.
A man lights a candle at the memorial vigil for Babita Deokaran at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Johannesburg on 26 August 2021. Pic -Shiraaz Mohamed – Daily Maverick
It is not just Deokaran we should be mourning today. We should cry for our beloved country, for with the hail of bullets fired at Deokaran another terrible reality was underlined. That reality is that our country is rotten from top to bottom, inside and out, right to its core.
Hopefully, over the next few days, the police will arrest the people who gave the order to murder this mother, friend, daughter and public servant. Hopefully, the syndicate that was set to be exposed by her work will be smashed to smithereens.
That will not be enough. The truth about Deokaran’s cold-blooded murder is that we are not just dealing with rotten individuals. We are dealing with a rotten system, a rotten SA, and the work of cleaning it up has just begun — and we might not win.
Over the past 13 years most government contracts or tenders have been parcelled out not to those who can do the work, but to those who are connected to the political class. Across government departments, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and provincial and municipal entities, a lucrative trade has engulfed government. Political players ascend to power, appoint “our people” to key posts in the state and then approve the implementation of projects that are suited to their proxies.
These are not the best people for the job. They are those who will pay bribes along the entire chain — to the public servants, the political heads and the political party, mainly the ANC, and even some of the ANC’s alliance partners in coalition-run municipalities.
This is not something that happens in a few corrupt entities. It is across the entire system. From KwaZulu-Natal municipalities to provincial government departments in North West, from impoverished municipalities in Mpumalanga to SOEs such as SAA, Denel and Eskom, this is what has been going on for more than a decade.
This is the definition of state capture. It is a criminal network at whose heart has been a once-great, but now broken and stolen liberation movement: the ANC.
It is not a coincidence that the ANC is today broke and cannot pay its workers. A large chunk of its monies in the past 11 years were from those who benefited from these corrupt networks. To keep the party sweet, they paid part of their stolen lucre into the ANC’s coffers. The leader of the party, assisted by its national executive committee (NEC), or a large majority of it, encouraged and participated in this sort of behaviour.
At an ANC dinner in October 2015, party president Jacob Zuma underlined the corrupt philosophy: “I always say to business people that if you invest in the ANC, you are wise. If you don’t invest in the ANC, your business is in danger. The TG [ANC treasurer-general] is a nice and a handsome young man. When he knocks, open the doors.”
The treasurer of the ANC at the time was Zweli Mkhize, the disgraced former minister of health who departed his job in August after it emerged his friends were enjoying themselves with millions of rand, thanks to a tender from his department, whose proceeds were channelled back to his family. Don’t point fingers at Mkhize alone for this. Many others in the ranks of the ANC were in on this sort of thing.
The Gauteng premier, David Makhura, faced a barrage of criticism at a vigil to remember Deokaran last week. He responded by saying: “Until people are arrested and serve a jail term for corrupt activities, all the things I’m saying here mean nothing. Until the killers of Babita and those who sent the killer — and I am convinced the person who pulled the trigger is not the only source of this killing — are arrested, what I say means nothing.
“Until I take concrete steps to bring the looters and the corrupted to book, you are right to say that all politicians are rotten.”
These are fine words. Makhura knows the truth, though. The “looters and the corrupted” he is talking about are in the ANC. They are the ANC. For justice for Deokaran to be meaningful, the party has to acknowledge that it birthed and nurtured the environment that allowed her to be murdered.
* Does the tragic story behind Babita Deokaran’s murrder in South Africa strike a chord here? We leave it to readers to draw any parallel and their own conclusions.
* Published in print edition on 3 September 2021
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