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Although no Zuptas have been jailed, there have been at least three big steps forward in the fight against corruption over the past week.
And some steps backward in law enforcement.
The significance of the Asset Forfeiture Unit raids against Zandile Gumede lies not in the headline-grabbing Lamborghini, Porsches, Jaguars and other fancy vehicles seized. Nor in the R50 million price tag of goods recovered.
Rather, it was the position the ousted mayor has held since 2015 as chair of the ANC’s most populous region, eThekwini. In that capacity she was able to bring a big chunk of votes to the Jacob Zuma camp at national conferences.
She benefitted in customary Zupta style but now she is utterly busted, by a unit that was quiet during the Zuma presidency.
The second promising development was on Friday when Zuma lost his bid to avoid prosecution for corruption charges that he has been ducking for more than a decade. In the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg, judges Bhekisisa Mnguni, Thoba Poyo-Dlwati and Ester Steyn dismissed with costs his application for a permanent stay of prosecution.
Thirdly, on the international stage, Zuma’s accomplices – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, and Salim Essa – felt the wrath of US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac) sanctions.
Many of their assets will be frozen and the Guptas will be unable to transact in dollars. From the announcement soon afterwards by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, it is clear that South Africa is working closely with the US to bring these crooks to book.
Indeed, South Africa has approached seven countries – India, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Switzerland, Mauritius, Hong Kong and China – to have the Guptas extradited.
Despite these positive developments, there is still a clamour for at least one high-profile arrest, prosecution and imprisonment. Ideally, we want to see Zuptas in orange uniforms, tomorrow if not today. Realistically, it’s not going to happen in a hurry. Newish national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi is not superwoman after all.
And yet some journalists are uncovering evidence which, on the surface, would seem to be enough for successful prosecution.
For example, Daily Maverick has published details of how Economic Freedom Fighters deputy leader Floyd Shivambu benefitted from slush funds channeling money from VBS Mutual Bank.
Why has such information not been uncovered by any official investigating authority, and why have the serialised disclosures not been acted upon by prosecutors? Are they even paying attention?
If this carries on, suspicions may arise that although Zuptas no longer enjoy protection from prosecution, the same privilege is now accorded to other politicians deemed to hold sway.
And why is the justice department going soft of #FeesMustFall vandals, including those who deliberately set fire to a police vehicle? That is no way to instil respect for the law, or confidence in justice.
Actions against Gumede, Zuma and the Guptas are welcome. But there’s too much unchecked thievery and lawlessness on display.
Martin Williams, DA councillor and former editor of The Citizen.
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