Finalising the OUTA annual report for the year 2020/21 has enabled us to reflect on what a remarkable year it has been for the organisation - despite experiencing the full brunt of the pandemic’s devastating impact on the economy - as we unpack the tremendous amount of work that the team dealt with, the successes achieved, and the way forward for civil society’s meaningful role in the fight against corruption.
The pandemic-induced upheaval and resultant economic fall-out which began in March 2020 – three weeks into OUTA’s financial year – prompted our executive team to revisit OUTA’s strategy. Having initially anticipated a drop-off between 15 and 25% in supporter donations, we were thankful that our contributing supporter base remained relatively steadfast, with only a 6% drop off. This confirmed that our supporters place significant value in OUTA’s contribution to society.
The 2020/21 financial year was another hugely productive year for the OUTA team, with some interesting developments. Our work was recognised by the likes of Parliament, the Zondo Commission, the Special Investigations Unit and other areas of oversight within the State’s machinery. Despite operational changes forced by Covid-19, we honed our processes of tackling maladministration and corruption and managed to open 49 new projects during the year, with 42 projects still in progress at the close of the past financial year.
A highlight of the year was the successful order of the courts (High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal) declaring Dudu Myeni, former Chairperson of South African Airways, a delinquent director for life.
While the irrational and unworkable Gauteng e-toll system continues, we expect an alternative to the current scheme to be announced soon. Whatever the alternative is, our supporters and motorists will continue to exercise their right to ignore this grossly irrational and unworkable scheme that has been a costly inconvenience to society.
The ongoing corruption in South Africa, coupled with the incredibly frustrating delays in getting guilty persons into “orange overalls”, prompts a question often asked by our supporters: Are we progressing as a nation when it comes to the fight against corruption?
The short answer is, yes, although it is not a resounding and confident “yes”. Sometimes it certainly does not feel that way. But one must consider what the state of the nation might have been had the Zuma faction been at the helm of the country over the past two years. How much more damage may have transpired, had Advocate Shamila Batohi and her new Independent Directorate under Hermione Cronje not been at the wheel over the past two years? Look at how much awareness and fact finding around State Capture and the patronage mechanisms of the ruling party the Zondo Commission has achieved. How much self-correction is beginning to take place within the ruling party, even if this may be too late for their survival? Also, let’s not forget how much more exposure and recovery work have been done by the Auditor General’s office and that of the SIU in recent time.
There is no doubt that South Africa would have fallen deeper into the rut of a failed state, had the current administration not been trying to undo the damage of a decade of Zuma. The question we should now be asking, is this: Is the South African ship on a new course toward improved governance and repair? Well, it is a rusty ship with several holes. Serious, life threatening holes, but it is a ship that is still afloat, although in need of major repair.
The clean-up and rebuilding of the criminal justice entities after Zuma’s departure will be a longer journey than initially anticipated. Still, who would have expected a year ago that Ace Magashule will be formally charged for his role in corruption during his tenure as the Free State Premier, or to be fired from his position within the ruling party? Politically connected cadres who have abused their positions in the past, are feeling the heat and the mountains of evidence that streams from the State Capture Commission, suggests that more people within the corrupt cabal will not be sleeping easy.
Yes, the fight against corruption is far from over and there is a mammoth amount of work still to be done. The traction will be better felt with more collaborative work between various civil society organisations, business and even state institutions to build mechanisms, structures and processes that generate greater transparency and accountability at national and local government levels.
The past year has shown us that there is enough passion, energy and drive within the vast array of civil society organisations and sectors of society to fix our country. Our potential as a nation is immense and far greater than where we find ourselves today. Which is why we need to work collectively and much harder if we are to remove our country’s many errant leaders along with those who continue to abuse their positions of power.
To our thousands of supporters who make our work possible, thank you! Your contributions, no matter how big or small, are all appreciated.