Commission of inquiry into State Capture: Lessons for Zimbabwe

The ongoing commission of inquiry into state capture in South Africa is a big lesson for Zimbabwe in its quest to charter a new course in total state reformation particularly in SOEs and government department. The commission of inquiry is a judicial undertaking to investigate allegations of state capture, fraud and other allegations in the Public Sector including organs of the state in South Africa during the Jacob Zuma era. It was launched in August 2018 by Zuma’s successor Cyril Ramaphosa. To date a range of testimonies have been given on a number of corruption and state capture related issues such as accusations of state capture by the Gupta brothers, ranging from the running of their media enterprises to contracts that companies associated with the brothers received from state owned companies.

Accusations of maladministration and corruption at national rail monopoly and state owned enterprise Transnet, Law enforcement agencies, national energy utility Eskom, South African Broadcasting Corporation, State and South African Airways, have been levelled and enquired on. A key highlight of the testimonies now running for almost a year is the appearance of former President Jacob Zuma who over the last 3 sittings has been a subject of testimony. He has testified “cross examined” over alleged corruption involving key entities of the state.

Eskom for example now has a debt of close to R500 million and has not been selling enough power to cover its operating costs and interest payments. It has been forced to implement rotating blackouts over the past few years to prevent a collapse of the national grid as its fleet of aging and poorly maintained plants struggled to keep pace with demand. Sadly this has been a similar state in Zimbabwe, which is presently rolling out 16 hour power cuts for 2 months now amid aging serious corruption allegations. However according to the inquiry the Tegeta Exploration & Resources, a company owned by the Guptas, has been alleged of syphoning funds running into several million from the power supplier, through the help of President Zuma, in typical Chivhayo style. Similar allegations run across key parastatals including SAA and Transnet.

What is key however, is that South Africa, unlike Zimbabwe, has chosen to walk the talk and not just a random walk. It has devised a systematic way to deal with the rot at parastatals which is mainly a result of corruption instigated or abated by government officials. On assuming power in almost similar circumstances as Ramaphosa, Emmerson Mnangagwa, began preaching the gospel of reformation and reengagement while declaring that Zimbabwe is now open for business. There has however been little substance in the execution of the reforms largely stemming from a lack of control in certain levers of the State by the President and a lax approach in dealing with fellow comrades. A sincere exercise to rout out corruption begins from a point of inquiry, investigation and then prosecution of the nabbed elements. This sends a clearer message of reformation. In China, which Zimbabwe’s government looks upto, corruption in government is not tolerated at all. A former governor in China, was last year (2018) hanged to death for taking bribes of up to $130 million. In Angola, the new President who came to power after Mnangagwa, has prosecuted the former President’s son for abusing state funds via the Sovereign Wealth Fund. In Zimbabwe however, the President has said let bygones be bygones in apparent reference to the looting which has been done since independence by his government, under Robert Mugabe’s watch.

This is not a prudent and effective way to manage national and particularly fiscal matters. Such matters if not exhaustively dealt with will remain a deterrent to reformation of the state and its entities. Truth precedes reconciliation even as it demonstrates sincerity of process and resolve.  Since the “new dispensation, a couple of former ministers, implicated in running down parastatals such as ZESA, Netone, AirZim, NRZ and Zupco, to name just a few, have been let loose, perhaps as political ponies for political leverage just as in the old times. Even the former President himself should have been tried or at least testified given the deep level of corruption which has characterised Zimbabwe government’s operations for 4 decades. In as much as government is moving to privatise some of the entities, the degree of corruption in State entities needs a more elaborate exercise which begins with investigations and not just disposal of assets most of which have untenable debt levels and are unattractive. Infact parastatals are not a bad thing as long as they are properly managed and capitalised. Those found guilty in running down parastatals could help cover losses through forfeiture of assets and commensurate sentences before the current steps of SOEs reformation comes to effect.

– Equity Axis News

Respect Gwenzi

Respect is the Lead Analyst and Managing Director at Equity Axis. He has 8 years experience in respective fields of finance and media. Particular areas of expertise include Asset Management, Stockbroking and Financial Media. Respect is on a mission to change the course of Financial Media in Africa through digitalization

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