This week brought a very welcome surprise with the arrest of two of the three Gupta brothers – Atul and Rajesh (Tony) Gupta – in Dubai. You can imagine the joy in the OUTA office, especially since we received a copy of the Gupta Leaks almost exactly five years ago. OUTA’s state capture expert, Rudie Heyneke, led our team’s extensive investigation into the more than 2 million documents on the hard drive, while our legal team under the guidance of Adv. Stefanie Fick built watertight cases and compiled files full of evidence to hand over to the NPA to assist with their investigations. We dedicated hundreds of hours to exposing the scale of the looting that happened under the Guptas, and finally it started to pay off.
I’m sure you also can’t wait for the Gupta brothers to be extradited to South Africa. Their arrest relates to specific charges on a corrupt tender linked to the Estina Dairy project in the Free State – where they received R21m of a corrupt R25m tender awarded to the director of Nulane Investments, Iqbal Sharma – we are hopeful that this is just the start of many days and weeks in court for the infamous brothers.
At the end of May we were equally pleased to read about the arrests of several people implicated in the corruption that took place at Transnet during the “state capture” years. In addition to the good news of these arrests, we were uplifted by the recognition of our work from the Independent Directorate (ID) spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka, who was quoted in a Business Day article as saying: “The prosecuting authority’s Independent Directorate received ‘significant assistance’ from the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) in building its case against former Transnet executives and Gupta associates.”
After many years of the NPA operating in “Shaun Abrahams” mode, it would appear the backlog is now being addressed with not only the Guptas, but also some of their big-fish lieutenants now starting to be reeled in. Other recent criminal cases (albeit drawn out) with Ace Magashule, Edwin Sodi, Kuben Moodley, Iqbal Sharma, Bathabile Dlamini and others in the dock, give us even more hope that the tide against corruption is turning at the NPA. But let us not kid ourselves, these cases represent just a handful of many that should follow against corrupt individuals who assisted with state capture. We remain hopeful that many more will soon feel the heat of our criminal justice system.
While the current price of fuel remains extremely high, we were pleased to see the introduction of some unprecedented decisions by government, after years of calls by OUTA and others for a cessation of annual increases to the fuel levy and road accident fund (RAF). This is precisely what transpired in this year’s annual budget presentation, but even more encouraging, was the decision by the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, to introduce a temporary reduction in the fuel levy to ease the pain of recent high fuel prices. Never before has the fuel levy or any other tax mechanism been reduced, in order to temporarily relieve the tax burden on society at large.
To us at OUTA, these are the signs that civil activism resilience is starting to pay off. But these few swallows make not the summer – we still need to see real and meaningful change to correct the damage inflicted on our country during a decade of ineffective governance.
Our single biggest challenge remains a lack of citizen centric and accountable leadership.
Prioritisation of our biggest challenges are required, but even then, where does one start? Loadshedding, unemployment and economic growth, policing of rampant crime, education and water security are just a few that make it to the top of anyone’s list. Some of these will take years to fix.
The words “government leadership” appears to be an oxymoron and our country’s nemesis. Until we can have leadership in positions of power who don’t waste time on matters of massive flags and sculptures, and who instead, begin to display citizen-centricity in everything they do, we will continue to flounder and punch well below our weight as a nation. The public outrage caused by the “vanity flag” project recently was extremely encouraging, and definitely indicates heightened active citizenry. While this is becoming the order of the day, as South Africans witness wide-ranging issues of poor service delivery and the collapse of our towns and cities across the country, it is sad to see how politicians still lack the moral courage to do what is right.
As we head to a crucial political development for the country’s future, the national ANC elections in December 2022, expect more of this, with internal factionalism to result in charges, counter charges and many rumours that will muddy the political waters. This will – no doubt – divert even more attention from the real issues our country is facing, as politicians will take their eyes off the real work of repair and good governance that our country so desperately needs. The ruling party’s internal fights will no doubt also result in many politicians and connected cadres frantically trying to make a few more quick bucks from flawed procurement decisions.
This might just become our biggest challenge yet: to stave off the irrational and bloated contracts and procurement deals happening during what may very well be the last years of the ruling party’s time in Government on the back of a majority vote. All predictions are there that in May 2024, the ruling party will not receive a majority vote, which in turn means that the struggles and challenges of a coalition government at national level will become our new reality. This will no doubt trigger more feathering of personal nests leading up to the 2024 elections, something which will require even more vigilance from civil society to expose and halt over-inflated contracts and deals that have no real benefit for society at large.
If there was ever a time we needed to dig deep into our reserves of resilience, civil courage, and tenacity, it is now. We have too much going for us as a nation to give up. The world has yet to enjoy the fruits and products of an amazing people and country located at the southern tip of Africa.
We, the ordinary people of South Africa, must make the change we want to see, happen.
Thank you again for your donation to OUTA – your contribution enables our ever-intensifying fight for a better South Africa for all. And to give you an idea of how we used your money, we dedicate this month’s newsletter to our 2021 annual report. Hopefully this gives you a better idea of how much we could do to help our country because of you.
Wayne and the OUTA team.