It appears that the concept of conflict of interest is one that is frequently ignored in South African politics. Examples such as allowing the previous finance minister, Trevor Manuel, to remain in his position whilst being involved with Maria Ramos, the CEO of one of the largest banks in South Africa are plentiful. The most recent of these involves president Jacob Zuma and the resurrected arms deal scandal.
Last week, the presidency declared that Jacob Zuma will be appointing a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of dodgy dealings in a decade-old arms deal. Formally known as the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages, the arms deal was basically a R30 Billion deal to buy European military equipment. Clearly this made perfect sense 10 years ago because of the then impending threat that Swaziland would invade South Africa with a hostile submarine attack.
The arms deal led to the convictions of a few officials for bribery a couple of years back. Then-deputy president Jacob Zuma himself was implicated through his financial advisor Schabir Shaik, but was not convicted. All charges against Zuma were miraculously dropped in 2009 before he ascended to his current position.
Now Mr Zuma may be completely innocent – make no mistake about that. The issue that Wonkie has however, revolves around conflict of interest. How does it support South Africa’s cause to stamp out corruption when its very institutions are creating formidable mechanisms to hide, or even worse, entrench it? Even an idiot can see that it would be foolish to allow a man that may be implicated in a crime to select his own jury. It’s just a pity that South Africa has a dire lack of such idiots.
As an added example, consider the Protection of Information Bill, hereafter known as the Government Corruption Enablement Bill. Without a public interest clause in such legislation, the government essentially has carte blanche to hide whatever it chooses to.
The strongest enemies of corruption are transparency and good governance, both of which appear to be rapidly disintegrating in South Africa rather than taking shape.
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