South African-born investigative researcher for Corruption Watch in the UK Paul Holden said the African National Congress (ANC) under the newly elected President Cyril Ramaphosa has a chance, an opportunity and a moral obligation to tackle corruption.
Holden was speaking at the People’s Tribunal on economic crime, at Constitution Hill, in Johannesburg, on Monday.
The tribunal seeks to uncover in-depth evidence of how the Arms Deal, State capture and apartheid activities have affected people on the ground.
Arms Deal allegations continue to swirl around President Jacob Zuma and prominent former ministers of his Cabinet, with Zuma’s friend Shabir Shaik having been found guilty of charges of corruption and fraud.
Lawyer Ajay Sooklal, a former agent or representative for French arms conglomerate Thales, divulged for the first time at the tribunal claims involving the highly contentious series of weapons contracts the South African government entered into with European arms suppliers in the 1990s.
Holden tells Polity that he has been researching the Arms Deal from as early as 1995, which has allowed him to write two books The Arms Deal in Your Pocket published in 2008 and recently The Devil in the Detail: How the Arms Deal Changed Everything.
He said the tribunal was a terrific opportunity to expose how the State or powers within the State colluded over the years to ensure that corruption investigations are never pursued.
“This tribunal, in a way, says no matter what the State says, no matter what shenanigans the State has been up to, we as South African citizens know what the truth is and we are willing to speak publicly,” said Holden.
Despite the fact that the recommendations that will result from the tribunal are not legally binding, Holden tells Polity that he hopes the National Prosecuting Authority and other authorities in the country will look at the findings.
He added that he was hoping that the State would recognise that the people who are overseeing the evidence presented were people of great moral authority.
“Corruption diverts funds from things like free higher education, which could be afforded if there was no corruption,” Holden added.