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How UAE can help South Africa to fight corruption

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Kester Klomegah

South Africa and United Arab Emirates have to set a good precedent now. United Arab Emirates has to cooperate and help South Africa to fight deep-seated corruption. Collaborative and mighty efforts, such as tracking down and bring them to justice, the corrupt business people who link up with politicians have to be intensified not only in South Africa but also accross the continent.

Western and European countries should assist to disclose illicit flow of money out of Africa. Arguably, Africa need funds to push its development, support millions of impoverished population and yet illicit flow of money is rapidly increasing over the past several years.

Under President Cyril Ramaphosa, the story seems interesting different especially with what is popular referred to as the “State Capture” in South Africa. After Jacob Zuma was pushed out of office and expelled from the African National Congress (ANC), Ramaphosa has the practical motivation to fight corruption and desire to set up the Truth Commission.

The Truth Commission has completed and presented its report, it remains to implement the draconian recommendations, one of which is to issue an arrest warrant for the Guptas. Thus, the world watches the arrest of the two brothers from the wealthy Gupta family in the United Arab Emirates. The world waits to know further developments.

Atul and Rajesh Gupta are accused in South Africa of profiting from their close links with former president Jacob Zuma and exerting unfair influence. The brothers fled South Africa after a judicial commission began probing their involvement in corruption in 2018. They are accused of paying financial bribes in order to win lucrative state contracts and influence powerful government appointments.

The family moved from India to South Africa in 1993. They also face accusations of money laundering in India, where tax officials raided properties belonging to them in 2018 in multiple cities, including their company office in capital Delhi. Many of the most serious corruption allegations levelled against the Indian-born brothers focus on their relationship with Jacob Zuma, who was president of South Africa from 2009 until he was forced to step down amid a storm of corruption allegations nine years later.

The Gupta family is accused of using their close links with Zuma to wield enormous political power across all levels of South African government – winning business contracts, influencing high-profile government appointments and misappropriating state funds.

The governing African National Congress (ANC) concurred with the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) that this was a blatant abuse of political power. Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing. After the brothers fled the country, South Africa negotiated an extradition treaty with the UAE in 2021.

Many of the companies in the Gupta portfolio profited from lucrative contracts with government departments and state-owned corporations – where public officials say they were directly instructed by the family to take decisions that would advance the brothers’ business interests.

The list of public bodies accused of having been “captured” is extensive – the ministries of finance, natural resources and public enterprises, as well as agencies responsible for tax collection and communications, the state broadcaster SABC, the national carrier, South African Airways, the state-owned rail-freight operator and the energy giant Eskom – one of the largest utility companies on the planet.

A four-year investigation published by the country’s top judge concluded that the wealthy brothers had become deeply embedded in the highest levels of government and Zuma’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. The investigators accuse the brothers of being linked to racketeering activity through the procurement of rail, ports and pipeline infrastructure.

South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper reported several years that one of the highest profile among the suspected Gupta-linked firings was former Finance Minster Pravin Gordhan, who later accused the family of being involved in “suspicious” transactions worth about $490m (£400m), which they deny.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported several years ago about the business backgrounds of the Zumas and the Guptas.

Bongi Ngema-Zuma, one of the president’s wives, used to work for the Gupta-controlled JIC Mining Services as a communications officer. The family reportedly paid for her 3.8m rand Pretoria mansion. They have denied all these allegations.

Duduzile Zuma, his daughter, was a director at Sahara Computers. She began working for them six months after her father was elected as ANC president. She has since resigned.

Duduzane Zuma, Jacob Zuma’s son, was a director of some Gupta-owned companies but stepped down in 2016 following public pressure.

By coming together, South Africa and United Arab Emirates will vividly show that the time has arrived to take drastic action against state corruption. Ramaphosa’s government hopes the arrest would lead to the return of the Guptas to face charges. South Africans, committed to corruption fight, say the latest development offers an uneraseable points for future referrence. South Africa looses a lot through corruption. Africa looses over $50 billion a year through illicit flows plus opaque deals, equivalent to all annual official development assistance (ODA), or loans from international development organizations.

There are several reports indicating that global corruption is now costing around $1 trillion annually, there are common causes of Africa’s corruption, and this is adversely impacting the lives of African people. Corruption creates economic distortions and hampers potential investments.

There are continental efforts about fighting corruption. For instance, the 12th Regional Conference of Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa held in Kigali, Rwanda, from May 3-7 under the theme: ‘Combating Corruption for Good Governance and Sustainable Development in Africa’ focused on sharing knowledge and good practices and discussing approaches in the fight against corruption and the impacts of corruption on sustainable development in Africa.

The significance of this conference meeting was underlined by the fact that over the years, corruption has been an unerasable characteristic feature of African politics and business, from the Maghreb down to the Southern African Development Community, from the East African Community and the Horn of Africa across the Sahel region to the Atlantic coastal West African States.