Last year, while doing research for a book about President Jacob Zuma's disastrous tenure as head of state, Lungisa Fuzile explained to this journalist that all is not lost and that the damage to state and country could be easily fixed.
The former director-general at National Treasury knew more than most. He resigned after Zuma dismissed both Pravin Gordhan (minister of finance) and Mcebisi Jonas (deputy minister of finance) and replaced them with Malusi Gigaba and Sifiso Buthelezi. This seemingly gave Zuma and his associates the access to Treasury they craved.
Fuzile, who knew every nook and cranny of state expenditure and had worked in the engine room of Treasury for years – and therefore knew exactly what the scale of grand corruption was – agreed things were bad.
The damage to the state has been severe. State-owned enterprises are a disaster, a drain on the fiscus and a threat to the country's financial stability. Eskom, once one of our shining lights, has been gutted in service of the Guptas while state institutions such as the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the National Prosecuting Authority and a number of government departments have been commissioned in service of the shadow state and state capture.
Fuzile, who knew every nook and cranny of state expenditure and had worked in the engine room of Treasury for years -- and therefore knew exactly what the scale of grand corruption was -- agreed things were bad. Coupled with the seeming inability of the ANC to rein in Zuma and the enormous reach and influence of the Guptas, our future did not look good.
WANTED— Justice Malala (@justicemalala) January 20, 2018
Name: Mosebenzi Zwane
Profession: Gupta lapdog
Crime: Stealing from poor Free Staters and SAns
INFO: May try to flee to Dubai pic.twitter.com/aMBPzwXPJO
"But no, it is not that difficult to turn around. It can be done. Remember, there are still many good people in the civil service, who work hard every day and really do believe in what they're doing," he explained.
Yes, the rot is deep, he said. But it can be done.
"Once a new leader or leadership takes over there needs to be swift action. Get the right people in the right positions: new national director of public prosecutions, new commissioner at SARS, police commissioner, head of the Hawks, look at Treasury, public enterprises, state security... once you have the right people, then you start to move," he explained.
There needs to be public prosecutions, there will have to be high-profile investigations. It will have to be visible and transparent. And people, big names, will have to go to jail.Lungisa Fuzile, former director general of National Treasury.
Fuzile, who was recently appointed CEO of Standard Bank South Africa, argued appointing the right people will instil confidence in government and institutions and will signal that the new leadership is committed to good governance. But that's not all, and it's not enough.
"There need to be public prosecutions, there will have to be high-profile investigations. It will have to be visible and transparent. And people, big names, will have to go to jail. That's how you turn things around," Fuzile said.
Sunday's revelations about the brazen way in which taxpayers' money was stolen and channelled to the Guptas -- R220-million meant for a poverty-alleviating dairy project -- defy belief. The money was paid by Mosebenzi Zwane's Free State department of agriculture to the project, from where it was almost immediately transferred to the Guptas and their related entities.
The money, much of it used for the infamously garish Sun City wedding, is a drop in the ocean of the estimated R100-billion lost to state capture. But the personalities involved -- Zwane and Ace Magashule, Free State premier -- are two big fish.
South Africans are fed up with the looting of the state and seeing networks of patronage and corruption flourish.
Zwane is perhaps the Guptas' most trusted government official, bar Zuma himself, while Magashule also has direct links to the Saxonwold shebeen through his son. Both are deeply implicated in corruption and wrongdoing.
South Africans are fed up with the looting of the state and seeing networks of patronage and corruption flourish. They are angry that thieves are getting away with murder. They are livid at the sabotaging and the dismissal of the rule of law that have become accepted practice under Zuma.
Zwane must be charged today under the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act. He must be suspended and dismissed from Cabinet. And he must stand trial.
Nothing less will suffice.