State capture, corruption dominating parliamentary process

…Editorial 5 Sept…

Focus has to be state targets not state capture…

It becomes more obvious week by week from parliamentary committee meetings that as worrying as the political issues are surrounding state capture and corruption in high circles, equally disturbing but perhaps not so high-profile is another issue which needs urgent attention.

That of a bloated and underperforming public service.

This issue seems to have got buried under the morass of jostling for political gain in the race for pole position at the elective conference to come, nor is the matter being fully appreciated as being the main reason for under-performance by the governing party.    All parties seem to be ignoring the sickness in government administration in the rush to name culprits for misdemeanours in public and private life.

In the news

Never until now have events in Parliament captured so many newspaper headlines.    One learns with exhausting frequency of issues surrounding state utility failures and grand theft involving political personalities at the highest level, a good deal of this involving the sordid business operations of one family.  Reading all of this is highly time consuming and, sadly, somewhat addictive..

For example, when attending a parliamentary finance committee meeting, the mind can easily wander into the difficult terrain of political intrigue and not to be conscious of the conspiracy theories about SARS being tainted and the theories that abound that the much-vaunted National Treasury is no longer the keeper of the cash box key. 


It is so easy to be distracted by political infighting and displays of economic ignorance in the National Assembly that consequently to attend such gatherings is usually of no value. Very little of business consequence emerges and mostly the slinging matches just add another worry bead to the string of events leading up to possible further Cabinet and Treasury changes.


Attendance at meetings which have no business value is the bane of most in theses troublesome times but a start can be made in Parliament by attending only the working committee meetings where the posturing is far less. Here again, one’s focus must be on what is going to happen rather than what happened.

For example, one learns daily from newspaper headlines of the destruction of major utilities such as SABC, SAA, SASSA which appear mostly due to the appointment of politically connected cronies or totally unqualified persons, none of whom should have been there in the first place.  

Just listening to what employees or utility boards did wrong produces very little business information of value. Such meetings have very indirect and generalised consequence to business in a regulatory, legislative or operational sense.

Where it matters

Instead, as a further example, it is far more important for business to worry about matters concerning progress, one way or another, at Eskom, simply because the certainty in supply of energy affects all commerce and industry in the most basic manner, as does their involvement with the private sector with energy renewables.  Equally, the dubious sale of the nation’s strategic oil reserves is a critical matter involving back-up should fuel supplies go dry. 

For the same reason, that it affects business directly, we report on the parliamentary ups and downs of the nefarious dealings surrounding nuclear energy, involving a mind-boggling R3 trillion in borrowings equating to enough debt to bankrupt any country. It obviously has enormous consequences for suppliers to the energy mix.

Choices of focus

As one enters the parliamentary precinct in any morning, it is often quite difficult to avoid a meeting which is clearly most newsworthy but to choose instead, for example, a briefing on BEE code changes or customs and bonded warehouse re-arrangements thus sticking to business and avoiding the theatrical.

In our current report we give in detail the results of four days of hearings and two days of meetings on new copyright law for South Africa, since this affects directly all data, internet usage, the publishing, international and local music recording and film industry, the creative arts and investment into South Africa by major entities that require clarity at law on this subject. Meanwhile. the background noise to such hearings was the no-confidence debate. We chose the former to focus upon.

Exit signs

On a hopeful note, we see in the too distant future much of the offensive “Zupta” noise in Parliament might well dissapear, coupled with the departure of several associated political incumbents and players. The current shambles within the Cabinet cannot continue much longer. The end game for a political elite involved in robbery, say many in parliamentary circles, cannot be put off much longer.  Hopefully when this happens, the swarm of bees chasing the African honeypot will move on.

Parliament then, in the interests of business and industry, can get back to its proper legislative oversight role and portfolio working committee meetings will be allowed to focus only on the country’s long-term problem – lack of service delivery from a bloated and under-performing public service.

Previous editiorials

Parliament set for tough questioning

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