Thursday, May 21, 2009

Migrant Crisis, Suspect Passports, Corruption ... Welcome home to nasty affairs, Minister!

A forest’s worth of comment has been devoted to the new cabinet unveiled by President Jacob Zuma.
My eye caught one of the less politically sexy transfers announced last Sunday: the decision to move Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma from dealing with the affairs of the world to the smaller but, arguably, even more anarchic, universe of home affairs, where the long-serving former foreign minister will now preside. She will need less quiet diplomacy and more shouting and shoving, if she is to succeed.
The announcement coincided with my own transition from parliamentarian to private citizen. In between writing and speaking engagements, I find myself reflecting on gains and losses.
I will certainly not miss the often dreary non-debates about non-issues which, over the past decade, often passed as the staple of parliamentary engagement. Nor will I mourn, too deeply, the dark arts of political in-fighting and intrigue with which political leadership is associated.
But it will be a challenge and a welcome reality check to experience the daily tribulations of ordinary citizens.
Part of the compensation for listening to all those dreary speeches and enduring the rituals of endless protocols is that MPs are spared from the hassles of, for example, dealing with home affairs. An MP has to threaten neither homicide nor suicide to obtain an ID book or renew a passport. I had the advantage, along with the rest of parliament, of an ultra-efficient and courteous home affairs official who would visit either my office with the necessary forms, or arrange an appointment to process the required document speedily.
This is not the experience and expectation of the rest of South Africa, to put matters at their mildest.
I am not outing my former colleagues about some unearned advantage. But it goes to the point so brilliantly underlined by Professor Paul Collier, director of the Centre for African Economics at Oxford University and author of a recent and riveting work, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What can be Done About It.
South Africa’s position in the middle ranks of world economies does not qualify us for automatic inclusion in the author’s diagnosis. But Collier’s point on the difference between successful and failing departments of state could have been drawn directly from our experience.
He notes that many governments in the developing world, such as South Africa, have removed the revenue-raising function from the traditional civil service. His explanation is both accurate and uncomfortable: “Why did governments go for the radical option on revenue but not on service delivery? The answer is depressingly obvious. Governments benefit from the revenue, whereas ordinary people benefit from basic services. Governments were not prepared to let the traditional civil service continue to sabotage tax revenues because governments themselves were the victims. They were prepared to leave basic service delivery unreformed because the governing elite got its services elsewhere.”
The new minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan, is much admired for his achievements as our chief tax collector. In 2007, on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the SA Revenue Service, it was recorded that the outfit had topped the half-a-trillion rand mark in revenue collection for the decade. That year alone, it had exceeded, by some 16%, the original printed estimate for taxes.
No doubt, Gordhan is a sharp manager. But the decision back in 1977 to create SARS as “an administratively autonomous revenue agency functioning independently from the public service administration”, to use the full glory of government-speak, was a decisive factor in improving, nay, radically transforming, the coffers of the state.
When Dlamini-Zuma studies her new in-tray, she will see that our local problems with home affairs have now been universalised. Hot on the heels of the British government’s decision to require South Africans to obtain visas for the UK is a new US Department of State Country Report on Terrorism. With just more than a year to go before our showpiece World Cup, it makes gloomy reading. It cites “poor administration”, “lack of institutional capacity” and “corruption” in home affairs as hampering our government’s ability to “pursue and intervene in counterterrorism initiatives”.
Today’s depiction of home affairs could have been, a decade or so ago, an accurate working description of the old Receiver of Revenue, as SARS was known pre-transformation.
The decision to yank revenue collection outside the stifling embrace of the public service was decisive. No quotas, no inappropriate wage and occupational bands, coupled with the importation of skills and technology and Gordhan’s management, turned a dysfunctional department into the brightest star in a fairly bleak universe of service delivery.
The former minister of finance, now enthroned as our planning czar, became famous for requesting tips for his budget. Perhaps the man who has now taken his place, and filled the coffers, could pass along some of his own. Home affairs would be a good place to start.

*Published Sunday Times 17 May 2009

1 comment:

Andrea Murrhteyn said...

Mr. Leon,

Honourable Transparency Notice:

I simply wanted to let you know of the following document, wherein I made reference to yourself, in terms of a current legal and political matter, within the South African Criminal Justice System; which your former DA Leadership office has formerly professionaly -- in full spirit of participatory democratic ideals -- forwarded legal and political documentation, for myself, upon request; namely in among others January 2004.

The excerpt referring to yourself states:

My trial date has been set for 8 July; when the Plaintiff will be testifying.

The Plaintiff is the Leader of the Independent Democrats Political Party: Hon. Mrs. Patricia de Lille. She was very brave and is not afraid of being very outspoken. She is coloured, and she was the person who exposed South Africa's massive arms deal corruption scam which currently has our possible future President, awaiting trial on over 780 indictments of fraud and corruption.

Other Political Leaders of Political Parties and renowned South African individuals shall also be called for their witness testimony; such as: Hon. Tony Leon, MP; Former Leader of the Democratic Alliance; Min. of Intelligence: Mr. R. Kasrils; Former President. Mr. Thabo Mbeki; Former President: Mr. Nelson Mandela.

The charge against me is for crimen injuria (a unique South African law, that Does not allow you to insult someone's dignity with bad language).

Very briefly: Since 2002 I have been alleging that South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation was FAKE... PRETEND... NOT REAL.. a dog and pony political show. In 1994 when the TRC was formed, I had believed it was real. I voluntarily Submitted my Submission to the TRC and took Responsibility for the Crimes that had been conducted in my name.

Over time, all my efforts of sincere real honest dialogue, to address racial issues, and anger and hate issues were discouraged, vilified, & obstructed.


For example: Open Letter to the RSA Media in 2002; hand delivered to Mrs. De Lille [Office]....

Excerpt from: The TRC was a massive fraud on South Africans, black and white.. (PRH); which is a included as a Media Enquiry Enclosure document.

The Media Enquiry document was submitted to: The Board and Directors of South African Press Association (SAPA); c/o & via: Capetown Bureau News Editor: Mr. Ben MacLennon, as RE: (I) Request to SAPA: News Article: 19 July 2007:(II) and Honourable Transparency RSA Media Enquiry.

The Honourable Transparency RSA Media Enquiry (PDF) questions are:

(I) Are the South African Media Predisposed to: (a) Extreme Prejudice and Bias, or (b) Fair and Balanced Reorting, towards The Cape Party?

(II) Was the TRC a massive fraud upon South Africans, black and white? Is 'TRC-RSA' serious and committed to Truth Telling, Transparency and Forgiveness? If not, is the TRC-RSA 'social contract' null and void, as a result of fraud and betrayal?

The references to yourself, are found in the section of the Honourable Transparency RSA Media Enquiry (PDF COPY).


Lara Johnstone
State v. Johnstone: Crimen Inuria