We live in a greater-than-thou society; no white lies, no covering up when cornered, no dishonesty with spouses, complete honesty involved in trying to attain Vitality platinum status, all speed limits adhered to, complete transparency and honesty when claiming an insurance payout … and we don’t forgive, no, never …
Nhlanhla Nene has fallen on his sword, like an honourable man. Yes, he may have ‘lied’ in answering a question that he had most probably not been expecting in a TV interview. The reasons for his cover-up are not clear. But was he guilty of corruption?
Under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (Act No 12 of 2004), a person will be guilty of the offence of corruption if they:
- Accept, or give or offer to give any other person any gratification;
- Act (or try to influence anyone else to act), in a manner that is “illegal, dishonest, unauthorised, incomplete, or biased”;
- Misuse or sell any material in the “carrying out or performance of any powers, duties or functions arising out of a constitutional, statutory, contractual or any other legal obligation”, in a way that that abused a position of authority; was a breach of trust; or violated a legal duty or set of rules; in order to achieve an unjustified result; or that amounted to any “other unauthorised or improper inducement to do or not to do anything”.
Not all of us are Brett Kavanaughs who keep scrappy diaries on hand to prove who we met, and when and where. Not all of us complete an index card of every person we have ever met, and carefully note every engagement, social or otherwise, on the card. Most of us are normal. We meet people at business meetings, bump into them socially, and at times form a contact. This becomes blurred. How many of us ask an accountant, tax advisor or doctor for advice at a social occasion?
However, this is a lesson to all government officials to be more careful about who they meet socially, and to follow strict protocols when on official business.
Sadly, there have been other more serious transgressions by public officials.
To name a few:
Oilgate: Government sold 10 million barrels of crude oil at US$28 a barrel. No credible reason has been given, no one has been charged. The loss to the SA economy is well over R1.5 billion.
Fireblade: In Fireblade Aviation Proprietary Limited versus Minister of Home Affairs (Malusi Gigaba) and Others (including the director-general of Home Affairs as well as Denel and Sars), the court said the following:
– In regard to Gigaba’s submission that major stakeholders had indicated that the project could go ahead, “on the basis that they always understood the request to be that Fireblade wanted a port of entry within a port of entry” the court held: “This submission is palpably untrue.”
– In regard to Gigaba denying that the minute is a true reflection of what happened at the meeting, the court held: “This denial of the minister is uncreditworthy.”
– Further opinions of the court: “This explanation is nonsensical and palpably untrue”.
– What is of concern is that Denel and Sars joined hands with the minister in this matter against Fireblade, trying to go back on an agreement.
In the matter of the Minister of Home Affairs (Malusi Gigaba) and Others versus Fireblade Aviation, in which leave to appeal was refused with costs, Judge Malcolm Wallis said: “The minister cannot rely on his own unlawful attempt to circumvent the decision he had lawfully made to grant Fireblade’s application.”
The Sars saga: This has ruined the careers of dedicated public officials, and the ultimate cost to the country will be well in excess of R60 billion.
State capture: This saga continues, and will take a long time to resolve.
Wayward state-owned entities: Reeling under the weight of corruption, they are steadily devouring taxpayers’ money. Most have not even been able to file their annual reports on time.
Nene did not sign off on the nuclear deal, nor did he grant the Guptas any special favours. He is sincerely sorry: “I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness …”. Nene ultimately stood up to the Guptas, but many didn’t. In my view, he deserves our forgiveness, respect and support.
At the end of the day, Nene himself decided that the country is more important than the man. What an example to follow. Will the more corrupt please start handing in your resignations!
Note to self: Never take part in another panel discussion or interview without receiving the typed questions beforehand … and this is a warning to others too.