Thinking about what I’m thinking… State Capture!

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I was asked today, on my FB page to share my thoughts on State Capture. While I have shared Information on issues relating to State Capture I realise I have not addressed it specifically so here goes!

Quoting from my book ‘Through My Eyes’ I would first like to remind my audience that ‘I can be wrong’! “I purposed to always be open to the possibility that I could be wrong, as I was aware of how blind our cultural biases can make us, and how often we confuse our cultural norms with what is expected of us as Christians. I know that even when I feel strongly that I am right, I am largely reliant on my own experience, knowledge, information and positioning and can have missed something. None of us have the full picture which is why we need to listen to each other and consider many things before we form an opinion. We cannot possibly know all there is to know.”

Secondly I would like to share with this audience another quote from my book about “the light-bulb moment I had with regard to there being no perfect solutions in this imperfect world—a concept that I believe is critically important to internalise, if we are to balance our idealism with practical input that is relevant (which) changed my approach to my work in Parliament radically. Moving me from an all or nothing mentality of opposing everything on the grounds that it was imperfect… to influencing decisions in a way that would move us in the direction of God’s values and rightful authority. The words of Scriptures I had often quoted about “not despising the day of small beginnings” and “little by little” became even more meaningful”.

This brings me to a third quote from my book which I think is relevant here. “When, in 2018, I called on the majority party to mandate and capacitate parliamentary committees to investigate all accusations of state capture… I called on them through their Chief Whip (Jackson Mthembu) in a Chief Whip’s Forum, and while he was sceptical, he took the proposal to the ANC Caucus. A week later, he acknowledged me for having made the proposal and said the caucus had supported it. This was phenomenal!  Taking the initiative in this way, Parliament succeeded in accelerating efforts to uncover and deal with corruption and I couldn’t be more grateful to God for the inspiration I felt to motivate this at the time. I had said that we, as Parliament had dropped the ball and we had lost the respect of the people of South Africa. This was a chance for us as Parliament to make amends and restore respect for this important institution, and its dignity. In my opinion, this was a victory for democracy and would move us in the direction of a shared future.”

Again quoting from “Through my Eyes”, I came to understand that “Biblical political justice… accepts the imperfection of the world (which is fallen) and seeks to serve, preserve and bless, making society as just as possible. It measures political systems by the quality of justice the system secures for the poorest of the poor and weakest of the weak, it seeks ways to work with whatever political leadership we have, not accepting the myth that one leader will be all good and another all bad, and it is always looking for ways to move our justice system away from punishment towards redemptive restitution and restorative justice.”

Still quoting from my book, “As I was capturing thoughts, pre-COVID, the revelations of the Zondo Commission into State Capture continued to unfold and people were fiercely keen for those responsible for maintaining law and order to ensure people are held accountable and face relevant consequences. While I agree absolutely, I believe this can be done with a degree of humility and without the same disregard and lack of compassion for others that was responsible for the crimes in the first place. The corruption inquiries certainly highlight the dangers of oversight of the Executive, being done by MPs who are not prepared to rise above party loyalties and politics in this duty.

A while later, a discussion on the possible use of amnesty processes to help lift South Africa out of the corruption mire we are in, caught and held my attention, reminding me that while we transition from the old ways of doing business in a less transparent world to new and more acceptable ways in our new world, creative solutions like this one should possibly be considered.”  In an article in the Daily Maverick in March 2020, much was said “for and against the idea of amnesty, and it all made sense but, my gut instinct was that there was something profound in the reasoning behind this concept. The article refers to what could well have been South Africa in our present situation, but is, in fact, a description of the toxic environment once prevalent in Hong Kong during the 1970s with its pervasive corruption, combined with the influence of powerful leaders who retained power despite being implicated, and a citizenry caught up in shady transactions. Despite the professed commitment to clean governance by authorities, many holding positions of power were able to obstruct efforts that might expose their own involvement in corrupt dealings. Hong Kong city is known for it’s clean government and a police force that has been described as “Asia’s finest.” One of the primary reasons for Hong Kong’s rapid turnaround lies in its successful utilisation of an amnesty process that was made available to those who had participated in past corrupt activities, particularly the members of the police force.

The corruption that has come to characterise the years of the Zuma presidency had reared its head early in our new democracy, and has resulted in serious consequences for society and the South African economy. While President Ramaphosa has prioritised the rooting-out of corruption and state capture and the recovery of stolen public monies, efforts to prosecute the corrupt and recover funds looted is proving more difficult than anticipated. A new approach, like offering amnesty for corruption and an opportunity for offenders to make amends, could be just what the doctor ordered. Amnesty potentially applies to a range of different situations such as previous amnesties used in South Africa, and the corruption amnesty used in other jurisdictions (such as Hong Kong). Maybe it is time for South Africans to accept that, while in an ideal society all those involved in corrupt activities and the looting of state coffers ought to be tried, convicted and incarcerated for their actions, as things presently stand in South Africa, it is simply not possible to bring all those involved in corruption to justice. If South Africa were to embark on an amnesty process that permits government officials and the general population to start afresh, free from the corruption that has ensnared us, and empowered by reparations agreed on, the country could focus on resuscitating the South African economy for the benefit of society as a whole.

Critics might argue that the amnesty process would merely be a duplication of similar processes currently underway in the Zondo Commission. The Zondo Commission and the amnesty process, as the authors point out, could however, together achieve greater disclosure, a larger number of confessions and restitution, that neither the Commission nor the amnesty process could have achieved on their own. Amnesty would not condone the actions of perpetrators, but provide an opportunity for restorative justice. In addition, the reparations would be of greater benefit to society than simply locking people away.

Restorative justice requires that the offender assumes responsibility for the actual harm done and takes corrective action. Retributive justice, which we are all more familiar with, has punishment as its primary aim—the punishment being considered sufficient compensation to the victim and society. This is not, in fact, a biblical response which more often required making amends and compensation. A structured corruption amnesty with clear guidelines on what must be paid back, I believe, would serve us better en route to a thriving economy, greater justice and the jobs we all want to see in our not too distant future. This for me is the way to go!”

Having said this I want to congratulate the Zondo Commission on the job it has done to date, we can be very proud of their achievements. I also want to congratulate the current President, Cyril Ramaphosa for his consistency, straight and honest communications, having the courage of his convictions while showing the humility needed to be a true leader – all of which have helped guide us through troubled times and made recovery a distinct possibility.

I personally thank God for his leadership and prayerfully join those who say “long live the President, long live!”

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