An interesting thought occurred to me while working through yet another of the Zupta expose’s this week: the sheer enormity of pressure being applied on Jacob Zuma’s corrupt network of patronage. It was matched only by similarly obsessive activism during the last years of Apartheid.
Now, as then, the country hosts a flotilla of organisations whose sole purpose is to exposing abuse perpetrated by those controlling levers of power. There’s the Helen Suzman and FW de Klerk Foundations; OUTA; IRR; Afriforum; SaveSA; Corruption Watch; Freedom Under Law; Right2Know; Earthlife Africa; the Quaker Peace Centre and many more.
To this one should overlay SA’s vibrant, emboldened free media; outspoken opposition political parties; and, more recently, the involvement of academic and faith-based communities. The intention of all these forces are to excise corruption and cronyism. Against that increasingly restive tsunami of do-gooders, who would fancy the chances of Zuma and the Guptas?
The more of these reports that surface, the greater is my conviction that neither Zuma nor the Guptas are the strategic manipulators some would have us believe. Their approach lacks even basic finesse. It is a blunt instrument – buy off someone in a powerful post, either before or after their appointment, and extracting every possible benefit from them.
But those accumulators of obscene wealth by diverting national resources are teetering. They’ve failed to break a resilient legal system which has been stress tested and not found wanting. And now these dullards are in the crosshairs of the bright and obsessive minds which anti-corruption NGOs tend to attract.
An under-appreciated factor has been the benefit of competition between the corruption fighters. Non-profits depend on the support of philanthropists. These donors require results which, in their case, translates into finding and exposing abuses against the public interest.
I spent some time yesterday with my old school pal Wayne Duvenage. The former MD of Avis is the driving force behind OUTA, a hugely successful initiative which has morphed from fighting Gauteng’s e-tolls into exposing abuses against taxpayers. In the last five years Duvenage’s team has expanded from a single office to an entire floor; from a couple of volunteers to a professional staff of 36, including an advocate and five lawyers.
OUTA, like the more narrowly focused Afriforum, relies on funding from the public. Its successes has drawn support from tens of thousands of concerned citizens who contribute an average of R110 a month. Duvenage says as the support has grown, so has OUTA’s projects. Right now the team has 25 at various stages of progress. Including, naturally, a plan to legally expose and eject the Zuptas.
When you’re surrounded by trees, it’s difficult to absorb the size of the forest or the direction which the wind is blowing. With the benefit of distance, it’s clear to me that irresistible pressure is building on Zuma’s house of cards. His lawyers might help the deeply corrupted politician to postpone the inevitable. The purchase of a fancy bolt hole in Dubai tells us Zuma also knows his resistance will be futile. Hope springs.