Business people the world over work to build political connections in order to gain competitive advantage. There is no law that prohibits the creation and existence of such mutual relationships between business and politics. Both are intrinsically linked and cannot exist without the other, especially in a pretentious free-market system.
The lowering of ethical standards in business in order to cement such relationships through benefits to politicians, which they are not legally entitled to, is common. Mutually beneficial relationships between business and political elites are generally not premised within the legal framework. The aim of business people is to establish for themselves a position where they wield the power to directly or indirectly influence the political elites for their own economic benefit.
Business leaders looking to expand their business interests will hobnob with powerful political elites, donate to ruling political party coffers, sponsor a few social programmes and offer bribes and so on. This is not entirely an acceptable behaviour of business demonstrating its commitment to strengthening democracy and uplifting communities, but an unlawful and unethical investment on the political establishment to secure present and future economic benefits.
Jacob Zuma has been susceptible to unsavoury relationships with all sorts of business people. His “mutually beneficial symbiosis” with our terminally-ill yet regular golfer Schabir Shaik is well-documented. What is also well-documented is our Jacob of Nkandla’s endless troubles with the law and the successful attempt by the ANC and associated comrades at the NPA to make serious corruption charges evaporate into thin air. Shaik was prosecuted, sentenced, jailed and released from incarceration under Zuma’s administration on suspicious medical parole and has been living happily ever after.
This phenomenon of unsavoury relations between politics and business continues unabated and our Jacob of Nkandla appears to be a recurring feature in a few of them known publicly. There is this family, the Guptas, which immigrated from India and settled in the leafy northern suburbs of Sandton, in Saxonwold. This family managed to establish itself as a very successful business family with admirable connections to all sorts of powerful people in government. Their story of success, wealth and influence makes for a very motivational tale in a country facing the debilitating scourge of poverty, violent crime and all manner of iniquities, and equally presents a disturbing case study of how the powerful ruling elite can be manipulated and influenced by wealthy civilians. We all know how they extended patronage to family members of the sitting president and how they continue to derive awe-inspiring benefits and access to service delivery the rest of us mere mortals can only fantasise about. I am digressing.
What I was saying was that combating corrupt activities in South Africa receives extended lip-service. We have the right legislation in place and an assortment of corruption-busting initiatives but it is as if we have gone fishing with a defective net. Prosecution of corruption activities is selective and often appears to be targeted at small fish and high-profile individuals who have fallen out of favour with a clique of ruling crooks. High-profile corrupt relationships continue to prosper and exist on the periphery of the prosecutorial radar. It is not as if law-enforcement agencies are unaware of some of these criminal activities but the need to appease the principals and even protect them from prosecution appears to supersede enforcement of the law.
Crooks, thieves and thugs present themselves as respectable businessmen and political leaders, while reality depicts a depressing picture of the state of affairs. Taxpayers’ fund continue to be siphoned into pockets of politicians and their comrades in private business though suspicious projects and so on and so forth and corrupt activities like that. The public-private partnerships, which were intended to improve the provision of services and reduce the cost of delivery have morphed into noxious and corrupt relationships, which compromise service delivery and increase the financial burden on the state. The winners in all this are not the poor people who have no access to decent roads, water, sanitation, education and jobs, but thieves, crooks and thugs who occupy powerful government positions and their private-sector comrades.
Dare stand in the way of these thieves, crooks and thugs, the full might of the law may be visited upon your suspecting ass!
More important is the explanation of how a R1 million “state of the art” cattle kraal, Astroturf soccer fields and a tuckshop costing taxpayers R500 000 in rural Nkandla got to qualify as “security features”.
Government cannot expect to be taken seriously in its campaign against corruption when such questions on suspicious spending remain unanswered and classified as “Top Secret”.
They must continue classifying corruption and the people may just decide to find inspiration from Tahrir Square.