wolf in sheeps clothing

A wolf in sheep’s clothing?

The release of the first of three publications on the findings of the Zondo commission has certainly put the cat among the pigeons. The last two reports, due for release at the end of January and February, contain even more explosive content about the full extent of state plundering.

A Legalbrief Today article reported on the reaction from business organisations to the plight of the understaffed, under-experienced National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in nailing those exposed by evidence collected by the Zondo commission.

“We believe the recommendations in the report relating to investigations and prosecution of identified parties must be pursued with urgency, and we expect the criminal justice system to allocate the necessary resources to ensure speedy investigations and prosecution,” Cas Coovadia, the chief executive of Business Unity SA (Busa), is quoted as saying in a Business Day report.

Shamila Batohi, the National Director of Public Prosecutions, has said that the NPA is under-resourced and underfunded, and warned this could make it almost impossible to prosecute all matters flagged by the commission.

“We will look at some initiatives already under way to bolster the capacity of the NPA,” said Coovadia.

The lack of protection of whistle-blowers is also a major concern for business leaders, he said.

Busa met yesterday to discuss the state capture inquiry report, and Coovadia said it would co-ordinate initiatives by its members – which include banks, insurance firms, retailers and various professional bodies – to provide the NPA with the necessary resources to urgently prepare cases to prosecute those identified in the report.

“Such resources could include private prosecutors and other relevant assistance. We will engage the NPA about this,” Coovadia said.”

One of the parties explicitly listed in the commission’s report is Bain & Company, whose role in the destruction of the SA Revenue Service is prominently dissected. It appeared to be the blueprint for what was to follow when the main plundering took place. The report also called for a further investigation into Bain & Co about the contracts it was awarded by Sars.

According to the Legalbrief article, Bain & Co was “…welcomed back at Business Leadership SA (BLSA), a member association of Busa, after being shunned for three years over the state capture scandal. BLSA said at the time that Bain had taken steps to deal with the wrongdoing, including the dismissal of its former managing partner in SA, Vittorio Massone, and replacing him with Tiaan Moolman.”

Coovadia said Busa’s board has asked relevant members to urgently engage with any businesses mentioned in the report, to get a full briefing about the allegations and to understand what actions those businesses intend taking.

“The outcome of these urgent engagements will inform Busa’s position on these aspects of the report,” Coovadia said. “We discussed, in particular, the issue of protection of whistle-blowers and a role for business in addressing the dire circumstances some of the whistle-blowers are in,” he added.

Legalbrief then refers to a Daily Maverick article on the further adventures of the former managing partner of Bain in SA:

“Meanwhile, former Bain SA boss Vittorio Massone has landed a top job in Milan as executive director of Alkemy, despite being behind the management consultancy’s capture of Sars. Appointed in 2020, he is now Alkemy’s head of business and corporate development. The company said in a Bloomberg News announcement that he had ‘extensive experience in transforming the business models of some of the most important companies at the domestic and international level’. Massone joined Bain in 1994 and quietly parted ways with the company after Daily Maverick exposed its central role in state capture during the Zuma years. He appears to have undergone no disciplinary action or censure by the consulting giant. Bain is facing renewed global scrutiny after the Zondo Commission’s first report found that the company had been central to the capture of Sars. DM reports that Massone’s ‘schmoozing’ was so successful that he met former President Jacob Zuma 17 times between 2012 and 2014, and boasted to his colleagues that he knew about Tom Moyane’s appointment as Sars commissioner long before it was announced.”

Contamination by association

After Julius Caesar heard rumours that his wife may have been unfaithful, he famously said: “My wife should be as much free from suspicion of a crime as she is from a crime itself.”

The question that arises from the above is whether major international companies that are seriously implicated in the Zondo commission’s reports should form part of a business association’s membership until such time as their role had been formally clarified. Given the information published above, this creates, theoretically, a situation where a suspect may be asked to assist in an investigation into itself.

If it is true that no action was taken against the former employee directly implicated in the destruction of what had been one of the top five revenue collection agencies in the world, then one has to question why re-admission to BLSA was not delayed until such time as the smoke has cleared.

South Africa needs desperately to see justice done, and any assistance to the justice department from the private sector is not only welcome, it is also sorely needed. But the required vetting should be implemented to ensure that the actions that follow are above suspicion.

In Lighter Wyn

Yes, I know I have published this before, but it is so apt, I thought you may enjoy it again:

In ancient Greece (469–399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance, who ran up to him excitedly and said:

“Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”

“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me, I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.”

“Test of Three?”

“That’s correct,” Socrates continued.

“Before you talk to me about my student, let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man replied, “Actually, I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So, you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”

“No, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?”

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued, “You may still pass, though, because there is a third test, the filter of usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really.”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

The man was defeated and ashamed and said no more.

This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

It also explains why Socrates never found out that Plato was sleeping with his wife.

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