Multiple Investigations on COVID-19 corruption an orchestrated obfuscation

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By: Clyde Ramalaine

The adage goes history repeats itself the first in tragedy then as a farce. The abused South African society is in for more abuse. Staggering under the weight of the novel COVID-19 virus and the subsequent scandalous R500bn corruption of ANC politicians their staff, families and friends, it now is threatens misled by a president in a web of investigations.

On July 23, 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to immediately investigate any irregularities and corruption at state institutions as it relates to the misuse of COVID-19 funds. The initiative brings together nine law enforcement agencies, these being the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the NPA, the Hawks, Crime Intelligence & the SAPS Detective Service, the South African Revenue Service, the Special Investigating Unit & the State Security Agency.

This announcement at a public relations level is primarily aimed at portraying President Ramaphosa as serious about combatting corruption. By itself, this marks a contradiction since a convenient separation of Ramaphosa from the current COVID-19 corruption when his spokesperson and son respectively are directly linked is not possible.

South Africans are duped to believe that a slew of simultaneous investigations into the same issue will produce the results of convictions as is anticipated.

On Thursday August 6, South Africans learned that a ministerial committee under the leadership of Minister of Justice and Correctional services Ronald Lamola including Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, COGTA Minister Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Police and Public Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu to look at all government-issued tenders and contracts issued during the COVID-19 era.

We know that corruption is investigated under the law by among others the NPA, Hawks, Special Investigative Unit, Commercial Crime Unit of SAPS and the Asset Forfeiture Unit. Meaning these agencies handle the crime of corruption.

However, today’s announcement of a ministerial panel does not complement the role and functions of the law- based units since there is no law that enables cabinet members to investigate each other. In this sense, the announced panel of ministers has no legal standing and becomes another investigation. May I add the Public Protector is also currently investigating the same COVID-19 corruption since she informed us, she had received a multiplicity of complaints on the same subject. Beyond this, the ANC is entertaining thoughts to have a committee of its own to look at the same crime of COVID-19 corruption.

Now while these multiple investigations purport to be a hive of activity to confirm the erstwhile seriousness of combatting the crime of corruption as led by a seemingly very active president, South Africans warrant asking to have we not been here before?

The answer is a resounding yes, if you would recall we had Parliamentary Inquiries on the SABC, PRASA and PIC while agencies duly entrusted to do investigations simultaneously instructed to investigate. As things concluded nothing materially has come of any of these multiple investigations. Can you remember how people like Dr Khosa and Vincent Smith captured media attention as they chaired these parliamentary hearings that ultimately produced nothing meaningful? The much known Nkandla saga was investigated by among others Department of Public Works, Ad-hoc committee on of parliament, Special Investigative Unit and the Public Protector.

Anyone that knows anything about investigations knows that information, documents and witnesses are essential to produce a water-tight case that can stand legal scrutiny. One of the biggest drawbacks of these multiple investigations is the fact that all are reliant on the same documents to be sourced, handled and engaged. Meaning there is ample space and time for critical documents to go missing if you understand the environment of government paperwork. We also know, this conscious conflation of announced investigations, affords those called to present evidence to also ensure they do not implicate themselves hence a variety of versions from the same person[s] is possible once you bring the constitutional rights of anyone that is asked to submit information in this setting.

South Africans warrant asking questions on this conflation of investigations, that while purporting to unearth the rot of COVID-19 corruption, may purely be an apparent hive activity with no honest intention of dealing with the cancer of corruption. Call me cynical, but I have lived long enough to know and see how these types of investigations go up in proverbial smoke since there is too much at stake for those who claim they are dealing with corruption.

South Africans, in this season, are classically conditioned if not set up by those who through these investigations appear serious about corruption when their true objective is to obfuscate and ultimately produce no real outcome. Obfuscation is an old ANC tactic.

Mr. President, telling us you will receive ongoing reports inspires no confidence in the South African society’s conscious, a society that has been abused by politicians of which you are one. You may use this for your personal factional ANC survival fights as you choose, we however only see obfuscation in which the biggest losers will again be South Africa.