NASTASSIA ARENDSE: The Helen Suzman Foundation, supported by Magda Wierzycka, the CEO of Sygnia Asset Managers, has initiated legal proceedings against Eskom, President Jacob Zuma, the Gupta family, Duduzane Zuma and others in a bid to recover billions of rands from illicit expenditure. This is going to be for the benefit of the South African fiscus.
To talk to us more about the rationale behind these legal proceedings is Magda Wierzycka herself. Magda, thank you so much for your time.
MAGDA WIERZYCKA: Absolute pleasure.
NASTASSIA ARENDSE: Take me through the rationale behind these proceedings that you are initiating.
MAGDA WIERZYCKA: The rationale is that in the nominal space, where you have functioning prosecuting authorities, these sort of corruption places should be prosecuted by the state. But clearly the state is, one, captured, and secondly, conflicted. We have lived with GuptaLeaks for, well, less than a year, but we have seen this corruption and the extent of looting and corruption play itself in technicolour across all our screens. If you were to watch South Africa in slow motion, that is all we have talked about this year. Every single international newspaper this week, including The Economist, has carried a story on the corruption in South Africa. And none of that is something that inspires confidence in the country or that attracts foreign investors or that creates jobs. So it’s all kind of a destructive spiral.
We just felt that those who have been responsible need to be brought to account. If the state isn’t going to do it, because the state is captured, again civil society needs to do it, and individuals need to stop whingeing – because we are greater than standing around the braais and complaining, and actually need to do something about it.
We thought we’d go this route. There is a civil court action route that can bring absolutely every individual involved in this looting of the state to account. We are doing it on behalf of the Republic of South Africa, so we are not doing it for our own benefit. We are doing it for South Africa.
We chose Eskom as a case because I think that South Africans can clearly identify with the almost direct link with what has happened at Eskom in terms of the mismanagement, the stealing, the looting, the coal-price increases and the electricity tariff increases that we are all facing. And now Eskom is asking for another 20% hike. This affects every South African – black, white, rich, poor.
So we thought that’s a case. We could have chosen Transnet or any one of the other state-owned enterprises. But Eskom touches the heart and souls of every South African, hopefully. We are all in this together, holding these people to account.
NASTASSIA ARENDSE: The National Prosecuting Authority you would assume – when these things started leaking and there were whispers and murmurs about what is really happening within Eskom, and let’s not even talk about all the other things that you tie in together here – would launch an immediate investigation to try and find out what is exactly going on here.
MAGDA WIERZYCKA: Of course. That is the role of the National Prosecuting Authority, and that is what should be happening. But that is not happening and isn’t going to happen. I personally am aware of actions that could have been taken against the Guptas which were actively stopped within the NPA. So we are not living through times where the NPA is acting in any capacity, although they are very quick to announce action against Steinhoff, an investigation into Steinhoff. But absolutely no investigation is happening into the Guptas, their role in state capture and all the implicated parties.
When you listen to the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom, your blood boils. The problem with the parliamentary inquiry is that as much as they can hold these inquiries and get these people to testify – and they are all denying it, denying, denying – the parliament is kind of paralysed. They can only make a recommendation to the executive to act and the executive isn’t acting.
So I would like to see these people in a court of law being questioned by real folk – not being allowed to just deny, deny, deny – where there is money on the table, where they can actually be held accountable for cash which they owe the fiscus. Actually R5 billion is an estimate. And we don’t really care who stole how much. Let them find out among themselves how much they want to divvy up. But the fact that money has been stolen is no longer under dispute. So action needs to be taken.
NASTASSIA ARENDSE: Magda, thanks so much for your time, and all the best with these proceedings.