With the final Zondo report now tabled, the time has come for action. We must restore South Africa’s reputation as a country where the rule of law can be relied on.
The state capture years, through the systematic undermining of public institutions designed to ensure accountability and justice, severely damaged that reputation. Institutional rebuilding has been under way, but there has been reluctance to vigorously investigate and prosecute those responsible for state capture until the Zondo Commission had concluded its work. Now the time has come.
Read Moneyweb’s coverage of the Zondo commission here.
It is a key strategic objective for BLSA to support the prosecuting authorities to succeed. It is critical to our overall mission of ensuring the business environment supports the growth and development of the country.
Ineffective criminal investigation and prosecution, particularly in commercial crime, severely damages the business environment. Trust becomes weak, transaction costs become higher, and our ability to engage with the global economy is undermined.
It is essential for the whole business community to rally around improving the capacity for commercial crime investigation and prosecution.
Of course, we know there are significant capacity constraints in key points of the criminal justice system. Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) has long supported policing through Business Against Crime. But we are now focused on ways we can support the system particularly in complex commercial crime investigation leading to successful prosecutions.
The private sector has these skills – forensic investigators, accountants, attorneys and advocates. As we digest the Zondo report, and its recommendations for actions to be taken against specific individuals, we will be thinking through how BLSA can mobilise and deploy these resources in support of the criminal justice system.
The Zondo report leaves much work to be done. While the 5 500 pages cumulatively produced contain a lot of detail, when it comes to specific actions to take, the recommendations largely consist of calls for further investigation. Those investigations can be made easier by the evidence gathered by the Commission, but there will be much more to do to ensure watertight cases can be brought.
We need this to be done fast. From the Financial Action Task Force, a global body considering grey-listing South Africa for its perceived inability to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, to the local needs of business to operate without fear of extortion or fraud, the economic costs of failure are large. We need to see people prosecuted and sentenced.
There are, of course, signs of progress.
The arrest of two of the Gupta brothers in Dubai and the beginning of extradition proceedings, is important. The National Prosecuting Authority just last week began its court prosecution of a company linked to Iqbal Sharma, alleged to have been fraudulently paid R24.9 million by the Free State Department of Agriculture – money which found its way to a Gupta company. The NPA should be applauded for this work, just as much as we acknowledge how much more there is to be done.
BLSA will be working on ways we can support the process. There will be engagements with members to determine the best routes to follow. I look forward to working with all our members to mobilise the resources necessary.
Busi Mavuso is BLSA CEO.