Last year I asked our law and constitution writer, Franny Rabkin, to find out how many people had been successfully prosecuted using the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004 (Precca).
It had been more than 10 years since Parliament passed the law and reflection would have been good.
I wasn’t hopeful, however. This is the sort of law the Scorpions would have used to great effect had they been allowed to live. They were killed by the ANC’s factional battles, so I had doubts anybody would care to use the law.
She tried. She asked the National Prosecuting Authority and the justice department for the figures and never got far. It seemed they either didn’t know, had never thought of collating any figures or no one had been prosecuted. I doubt anyone would have been prosecuted, as the police appear unaware the law even exists.
There were three instances just this past year where the law could have been used but wasn’t. The most recent was Truman Prince, the notorious ANC mayor of Beaufort West in the Western Cape. Prince wrote the now infamous letter in which, among others, he asked that tenders be awarded to companies that would later donate to the ANC.
In terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) — and common sense, really — the criteria of where some of the profit from municipal contracts is diverted to cannot form part of selection criteria. In effect, he was asking for the selection process to be rigged, corrupted in order to benefit the ANC.
So let us go back to Precca. It makes it a criminal offence to ask anyone to produce a gratification (corrupt benefit) for themselves or a third party. In this instance, Prince was asking for the flouting of the MFMA in order to corruptly benefit the ANC.
It goes further to say that even if the request or instruction was not adhered to, the person who asked is liable to prosecution and conviction of a criminal offence if the allegation is proven. In this case, there is a letter whose authorship and content are not in dispute. You would expect Prince to be in serious trouble but he isn’t.
The ANC has "punished" him with a fine of R10 000, small money for a mayor. I can say without fear of contradiction that nothing else will be done by law enforcement agencies. It will take intense public pressure for them to at least open a docket that then lies dormant forever.
If you ever wanted to know what political decay looks like, look no further. It is a relatively small case, but the Prince example is repeated in many municipalities and public entities across the country. The small, struggling companies that just want to grow are made to conform to a system of corruption that alters the very foundation of their business models.
In the end you have a corrupted value system where people no longer realise they are doing wrong, such as Prince who thought nothing of putting brazen criminality on paper. When such a system becomes a way of life and doing business, you can only worry about future generations. They are raised at the knee of corrupt men and women who instil a perverse sense of entitlement to such a system as the "right way".
It is this system that has produced the widespread phenomenon of "imbongi" — praise singers who hail the purveyors of corruption as people of fine mettle who deserve respect. Theirs is to leech the system, only to change colours and support new rulers when the political tide turns.
Their material success at doing this creates a fraudulent system of role models where no link is drawn between success and principle because upward movement is often linked to lack of principle. The most successful of these perverse human beings are those gifted with words that are continuously spun to produce the most amazing sophistry.
One day soon this system shall collapse, of course. I hope it will not be replaced by another corrupt network that was able to gain moral capital because the one it is replacing could only be seen as the worst.
The City Press reports that many ANC MPs feel let down by President Jacob Zuma’s about-turn at the Constitutional Court last week where his advocate conceded that he should pay back some of the public money spent on his personal comfort in Nkandla. They fought tooth and nail to sustain exactly the opposite position.
Amazingly, it appears they expected some kind of consultation, as if this would make any difference. When they allowed themselves to be used as instruments in shielding corruption from accountability, they sowed the seeds of their disaffection later.
I do not remember a single time anyone consulted instruments. Instruments are used to perform a task or to achieve an end. They are then either put away in a container for later use or discarded. It appears these MPs are finding it difficult to reconcile themselves with the consequences of the moral and legal station they chose.
If they expect sympathy then they are more out of touch with reality than they looked last year. They sought to destroy the office of the public protector and to delegitimise Thuli Madonsela, specifically. We were watching and don’t forget so easily.
Last week delivered a moment to savour. While they squirmed and contorted in disbelief at such crass betrayal by the one they sought to protect from the law, the public protector was in court observing her vindication live on national television. Nothing could be sweeter.
This article first appeared in Business Day