Someone asked me last week why I’ve been so quiet about the latest revelations before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry.
I responded by saying it’s because I’m completely dumbstruck with disbelief at the explosive information that is being laid bare.
I thought the revelations about the Guptas were jaw-dropping, but what we heard last week about Bosasa is on another level altogether.
If one of the company’s former big bosses is to be believed, then bribing government officials was their sole business plan.
Angelo Agrizzi has been singing like the proverbial canary about how his company paid monthly bribes to 38 influential public servants to make sure they stayed in the tender business and off the radar of prosecutors.
As in the allegations against the Guptas, the rot allegedly reaches all the way to the very top, with Jacob Zuma’s name popping up regularly as one who did as he was told; hiring and firing as instructed.
It seems that for many of our leaders, running the country was a side business; an irritating distraction that they had to tolerate if they wanted to sit around the table with the wolves.
I have said it before and it is worth repeating that corrupt actions at the top during the Zuma era emboldened dozens, if not hundreds, of public servants to prioritise lining their own pockets.
As one accusation after another got scrapped and laughed at, it became a feeding frenzy at the top with government officials and politicians determined to enrich themselves as quickly as possible.
It feels like it was a competition to see who could score the most benefit from their most corrupt “business partner”.
As I hear more and more witnesses testify, I get the sense that there’s a “ministerial mafia” whose job it is to seek out and maintain a cartel of corporate gangsters, and together they are the masterminds of ongoing, large scale theft from us.
They literally rob us with impunity, because the institutions tasked with stopping them, are paralysed and hamstrung by the politicians who stand to benefit.
In other words, what we have here are inside job heists, and the insiders are also the bosses of the detectives investigating the cases.
It is both ingenious and the ultimate betrayal of our trust.
This pains me especially because I know of so many business people trying their hardest every day to make an honest living.
I have worked with many of them for many years.
And while we always accepted that business is hard and that you have to work on relationships and hustle a little, we always refused to believe that it was rigged.
We had such blind faith in the system, that we just believed that another idea was better or more cost-effective than ours.
I remember leaving dozens of meetings with government officials feeling dejected and wanting to give up.
Not once did we think of offering a bribe; or even that our competition was offering bribes.
But after a while, one does start to wonder.
Agrizzi’s testimony must have switched the light on for many business people whose integrity effectively locked them out in the cold.
It is a sad realisation that so many government officials and politicians are in it for personal gain and not for the promises that were made in 1994.
I think it is also shaking many of us to the core; especially those who blindly believe in the supposed unshakable altruism of our leaders.
It turns out that decades of freedom fighting does not eradicate greed from oneself.
In the case of Bosasa, most of its bribery happened in exchange for lucrative tenders in the Department of Correctional Services.
Hopefully, some of their executives will get a first-hand taste of how good or bad those prison tenders turned out to be. But I doubt it.