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Our democracy sold out of the boot of a car – Lorenzo Davids

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Opinion by  Lorenzo Davids – In 1994 when South Africa took its seat at the table of democracy it quickly discovered that business deals could be made out of the boot of the South African sedan.

Over the years, arms deals, government communications deals and other possible tenders could be done, not on the table, not even under the table, but out of the boot of our increasingly battered South African sedan.

Soon an entire car boot economy developed, designed by Mafia types, managed by cartels and policed by corrupt public servants and deadly assassins.

The president has shown that he regards his own business interests as more important than fixing our broken country. Because he manages its cash assets like an illegal spaza operation, we can understand why our country is more car boot than cruising Cadillac.

Last week I listened to former politician and now global investor Saki Macozoma speaking at the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation on the absence of critical leadership and truth in South Africa.

He asked his audience to embrace ethical leadership and truth as pivotal to any turnaround strategy to save South Africa. It is tragic to see our once much-vaunted global leadership and multiple admired liberation narratives being traded from political car boots to the highest bidder. From being holders of the global democratic liberation flag in 1994, we have become political pariahs, perhaps even a global laughing stock.

By the time the ANC’s December 2022 Elective Conference takes place, its top two contenders, Zweli Mkhize and Ace Magashule may be joined by a third member, Cyril Ramaphosa, who might be facing criminal charges and unable to stand for nomination.

Their car boot deals have driven our economy and national prosperity into the ground. They have done power station deals, rail deals, Covid-19 deals, housing and agricultural deals and multiple others that equate to billions of rand, with a devastating impact on our fiscus and no impact on our national prosperity.

In the shadows of every deal lurks a Mafia cartel that extorts a fee at every stage of a transaction. 

People like Cynthia Stimpel, Martha Ngoye and Athol Williams and many others have lived to tell the story of these cartels to whom our leaders pay financial homage. 

We are naive if we think we have managed to end state capture. We have not. It has now entered the next phase of the car boot deal cycle, which is extortion.

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The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture had heard evidence from former SAA treasurer and head of financial risk management Cynthia Stimpel. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

This is the dangerous part of the illicit revenue cycle. In this cycle, people who don’t co-operate or stay silent, get killed. A year ago on August 23, Babita Deokaran was assassinated. We have now entered that deadly phase.

In spite of knowing this, our criminal justice system is giving South Africans no sense that they can rein in this evil and speedily prosecute offenders. One of the consequences of this car boot economic enrichment scheme is the spike in hijackings and abductions of business leaders across the country.

Secondary Mafia operatives are mobilising to expand the revenue extortion network by moving beyond politicians and public servants to extorting business owners.

The killing of Khalid Patel and several kidnappings are linked to the narrative that the state is weak and its economy can be extorted at will, with minimal consequences. The state’s intelligence institutions are enmeshed in investigating factional political survival battles instead of protecting the interests and assets of South Africa.

Political and economic extortion have become a part of our daily lives. This should never have gotten this far.

Killings and extortion live with us today because we did not fix the leadership failures and insist on truth as an asset of our democracy.

We are now facing the very real possibility that this country will move from hosting car boot sales with our assets to conducting one massive fire sale.

* By Lorenzo A Davids. CEO, Development Impact Fund

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Central News.

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