In the last week, South Africa was rocked by five scandals. Any one of the five on its own would have been shocking. Collectively, they are an utter disgrace.
Durban loses the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games
On Monday, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) announced that they were looking for an alternative city to host the 2022 Commonwealth games after original host city Durban failed to meet certain commitments. Financial issues, including the refusal of the South African Government to provide guarantees, and the missing of several deadlines, like the failure to appoint a Local Organising Committee, led to the decision. The original budget requested was far too small to pay for everything needed to host the Games. In the end, Durban presented the option of a scaled down 2022 Games. This was unacceptable to the CGF, and Durban was stripped of the right to host the Games.
Another alleged problem is government interference. It has been claimed that Government wanted to run the Games. If true, this would be most inappropriate as this area is the responsibility of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
It is estimated that R118-million was spent on the bid. That is money that could have been spent on things like schools, bursaries and social grants now gone down the drain. Why did Durban bid when there weren’t the resources to carry it out?
This is also a huge embarrasment to South Africa. On the same day the CGF made its announcement, a team arrived to inspect the country’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Make no mistake, this has damaged our prospects. It also means that any talk of South Africa hosting an Olympic Games will remain just that for the foreseeable future: talk.
DPCI Head dismissed
On Friday, a full bench of the High Court in Pretoria ruled that Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko’s 2015 decision to appoint Lieutenant General Berning Ntlemeza to head the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) aka the Hawks was unlawful and invalid, and set it aside. Two Courts had ruled that Ntlemeza was dishonest, had lied under oath and lacked integrity.
In 2015 Judge Elias Matojane had set aside Ntlemeza’s suspension of then Gauteng Hawks head Anwa Dramat for his alleged involvement in the illegal repatriation of a group of Zimbabwean nationals in 2010. In his verdict, Matojane said that Ntlemeza “lacks integrity and honour” and had perjured himself under oath.
Also in 2015, the High Court in Durban set aside the suspension of Kwazulu-Natal Hawks Head Johan Booysen. Judge Anton van Zyl found that Ntlemeza embarked upon action which was simply unsustainable if he had considered the information at his disposal, and had supported the case on pure speculation. When Booysen made detailed submissions to Ntlemeza, he ignored them and suspended Booysens anyway. Because of Ntlezema’s conduct van Zyl made a costs order against the Police.
Nhleko ignored two High Court Judgements and appointed Ntlezema over other perfectly qualified and far less controversial candidates. His conduct in the matter could politely be called suspicious.
This week, Popo Molefe, the former chairperson of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) filed an urgent application to have the dissolution of PRASA’s Board declared unlawful and set aside. Last week, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters dissolved the Board. On Monday, she appointed a new Board. Molefe alleges that the Board was about to take the Hawks to Court over their inaction in investigating and bringing charges against PRASA members fingered in varous investigations.
South African Airways has reported that its projected losses for the 2016/17 financial year amount to R3.5-Billion, more than double the original estimate of R1.7-Billion. This loss will have to be made good by taxpayer money. Global ratings firm S&P Global this week warned that South African SOEs like SAA were putting a massive strain on the economy, and that continued bailouts will ultimately push the country’s sovereign debt below investment grade.
The biggest and most shocking of the stories involves SASSA, the South African Social Security Agency. On Thursday, the Constitutional Court heard a case brought by the Black Sash and Freedom Under Law about the contract between SASSA and CPS, a subsidiary of Net1 that had been contracted to distribute grants.
The story begins in 2012 when Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), a subsidiary of Net1, was given a contract by SASSA to distribute grants. But a losing bidder took the matter to Court. In 2014, the Constitutional Court invalidated the contract due to severe tender irregularities. However, because the distribution of Social Grants is so vital, the Court allowed CPS to continue administering the grants‚ while SASSA was instructed to devise an in-house payment system or choose a new distributor.
Despite having more than two years to either build a system or pick another distributor for grants, SASSA did neither. A new round of bidding for distributing grants failed when none of the applicants met the requirements, and SASSA did next to nothing to build internal capacity so that it could distribute grants.
There are suspicions that SASSA’s failures to pick a new distributor and to build capacity were deliberate. Two years is ample time to do both, never mind either. Even if there was no company with the capacity to carry out the distributions, any competently run company would have found a way to build that capacity in well under a year.
Net1 and CPS also seem to have dirty hands in this affair. As part of its role, CPS was given broad access to beneficiary data to enable it to distribute grants. The undertaking was that the data would be used for distributing grants only. But Amabhungane, the investigative arm of the Mail and Guardian Newspaper, claims to have evidence that beneficiary data was used by other companies in the Net1 group to market financial services to grant recipients, and to directly debit their grants to repay those services. CPS and Net1 deny the claims. If true (and I am confident that Amabhungane has the evidence), this is at best a gross abuse of CPS’s position, and at worst illegal.
On Friday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the invalid CPS contract be extended for another 12 months. The judges were so unhappy with the conduct of Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini that they have ordered her to provide reasons why she should not be held accountable for court costs in her personal capacity. SASSA must now report back to the Constitutional Court every three months with evaluations on the process to find a new service provider, or with taking the grants payments in-house.
The entire situation stinks.
Here’s hoping that next week, next month, next year will see less idiocy.