It takes two to tango when it comes to corruption, and corporates must also clean up their act, Lord Peter Hain has said.
Hain, a former UK Labour party Cabinet minister, was speaking at the annual conference of the SA Property Owners’ Association in Cape Town on Wednesday.
“It was all right for global corporates to take part in corruption during the Zuma and Gupta-era when it was only confined to domestic politics in SA,” said the South African-born British peer and anti-apartheid activist.
The Guptas and former president Jacob Zuma have denied any wrongdoing.
In Hain’s view, it was only when the actions of these global corporates were exposed on the global stage – as he did in the UK – that these companies started to take some anti-corruption action.
“Why were global corporates suddenly feeling the heat? It was because their conniving was exposed on the global stage. Some financial services institutions were also acting as conduits of billions of rands, mainly via Dubai and Hong Kong,” said Hain.
“In today’s world of transparency and scrutiny you simply cannot afford to be involved with corruption as then you run the risk of losing your reputation.”
Closer to home, Hain suggested South Africa’s struggling state-owned enterprises – some of which are still suffering the after-effects of state capture – could benefit from privatisation.
“I think more SOEs in SA should be privatised. Why are so many of these [enterprises] in the public sector in SA?
“I am not for bloated inefficiency, but for an entrepreneurial government to create jobs and prosperity. The business sector cannot do it on its own.”
According to Hain, a strong public sector is needed to support an efficient private sector – even if that means having to pay more taxes.
At the same time, SA must think more from a global perspective, he argued. In Hain’s view, too many South Africans aligned to various political parties seem oblivious to the reality of global competition, against which the country is not insulated.
“Costs are too high in SA, while quality and skills are too low.
“SA cannot afford to fall behind in this global competitive race. The only way SA can prosper is by creating high skills and investing in new technology,” said Hain.