Guptas are ruining South Africa’s reputation

Posted on August 30, 2017 12:09 am

Gupta family in South Africa has made corruption and integrity issues remain in the spotlight during the last one year amid continued revelations of corrupt conduct and misconduct across various sectors by the Indian family.The Hawks are said to be looking into the Gupta emails, Gupta family wedding which was allegedly bankrolled by South African taxpayers.Most South Africans perceive that corruption has worsened in the country based on the frequency of electronic and print media outlets producing corruption-related news reports and they believed corruption had worsened in the years since President Jacob Zuma took office. Although South Africans think that the number of corruption cases are increasing, they also believe that the country is not serious about eradicating corruption and that the government was not serious enough.Majority of South Africans believe most graft convicts received light punishments, which led to the increase in corruption cases.Court judges tend to impose punishments on graft convicts that were lighter than what prosecutors had demanded, thereby not creating a deterrent effect. Never has South Africa had a better time to think seriously about how it wants to tackle the real problems and risks of corruption.For several years now, South Africa has been slipping on the worldwide corruption perception index. Failure to upgrade institutions to deal with issues such as foreign bribery by government-owned companies, fix the mess of political donation laws, and tackle union and business corruption, are helping feed this fall in reputation. In addiction, the ongoing Gupta brothers graft episodes are not helping at all.The political interference deadlock over the non partisan organizations like South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation commonly known as HAWKS, a mainstay in the government’s bid to stem corruption, is a good opportunity to think about solutions.South Africa’s prosperity will benefit enormously if it can rebuild its reputation as a country of clean and fair institutions, in the interests of all, not just Guptas family members but business owners, investors, consumers and citizens alike.What’s also clear is that South Africa’s strategy should not be piecemeal.But, unfortunately, the risks of a piecemeal response have been increased by confusion over what needs to be done with Guptas family.Debate has confused many issues from politicians corruption, business corruption, public and private sectors, particular industries, workplace law reforms and making it important and timely to separate them and deal with each issue properly.

Many South Africa commentators also are confusing the need for government anti corruption agency which is real with the lead role in fighting criminal corruption across the wider society, including politicians and business.Both are needed, but the key issue right now is how to do the second of these things, whether it is better to combat society-wide criminal corruption on an industry by industry basis or take a broader approach, recognizing that corruption can arise in any industry and moves between them.Your blogger feels that South Africa need to take a broader approach. The government’s seriousness about fighting corruption in the building industry makes it the perfect time to deal with economic and industrial corruption as a whole, in a coherent, holistic way that aligns with its responsibilities. Reports of how funding was redirected from the Free State Provincial public money to the lavish wedding in Sun City after reports originating Gupta leaks are very saddening for a country that prides itself as the most democratic and developed country in Africa.As a result, the South African government needs to broaden the proposed increase budget for organizations like Hawks to create bodies that are better equipped to tackle criminal corruption across a wider range of industries, and in unions and business alike. They should also initiate separate reforms to better co-ordinate anti-corruption measures within the government itself, including proper processes for examining options to address issues like the Guptas family graft allegations.Such agencies would give independence and permanence to these specialized law enforcement functions. The government also could still adjust the powers of the existing organizations to better enforce workplace relations laws in that industry but this is a different issue to fighting corruption properly in that or any other industry.To ensure their effectiveness, the government could give the South Africa’s fraud and corruption office directions to prioritize particular industries with corruption issues from time to time. Building and construction could be one, or commercial sport, or banking and finance.But corruption does not respect artificial boundaries between jurisdictions, industries or industrial roles. So it is time for a holistic approach as the case with Guptas has proved.Another benefit of the plan would be to give greater independence to corruption and fraud investigations involving senior officials, including parliamentarians, rather than these being handled internally by government.Sadly, South Africa’s serious fraud and corruption office would not meet all the needs for overdue anti-corruption reform within government itself. It would help deal with criminal corruption in the public sector, but public sector anti-corruption including dealing with non-criminal corruption and serious misconduct requires a wider range of policy, education and oversight roles that still have to be done by someone else otherwise Guptas like case are just gonna be the beginning of such corruption and state capture problem in South Africa.

Contador Harrison