A powerful elite centred around President Jacob Zuma has systematically siphoned off state assets, and corruption is so pervasive that it threatens South Africa’s constitutional democracy, according to testimony given to a panel established by the nation’s main church organisation.
“South Africa may just be a few inches from the throes of a mafia state from which there may be no return — a recipe for a failed state,” Malusi Mpumlwana, secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches, said on Thursday during the release of the findings of the Unburdening Panel in Johannesburg. “What we see at present is the government has lost moral legitimacy.”
Zuma has been implicated in a succession of scandals since he took power in May 2009, including a finding by the constitutional court that he violated his oath of office when he refused to repay taxpayer funds spent on his private home. Last year, the nation’s ombudsman called for a judicial panel to probe allegations that Zuma allowed members of the Gupta family, who are in business with his son, to influence cabinet appointments and the awarding of state contracts.
Those who made the allegations, which were denied by Zuma and the Guptas, included ex-deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and Vytjie Mentor, a former lawmaker for the ruling ANC. While the party established its own probe, only one person provided it with written evidence. The church council then established a panel to collate testimony from people who said they didn’t feel safe providing information to the ANC, Mpumlwana said.
The people who testified revealed how government officials diverted budgets, rigged tender processes and tailored regulations to benefit a select few, and how a powerful elite was working to capture state-owned companies, weed out skilled professionals and gain control of their procurement processes, according to Mpumlwana. He declined to say how many people provided evidence, saying some still feared for their lives.
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa and Phumla Williams, the acting head of the Government Communication and Information System, didn’t answer calls to their mobile phones.
The church council said it sent the findings to ANC officials and urged them to take appropriate action.
“They are responsible for that government,” Mpumlwana said. “They are the ones who can pull back that government if something is wrong. The problem is far greater than corruption, but organised chaos.” — (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP