Below is an interview Political Analysis South Africa’s Stephanie Naidoo had with the CEO of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), Mr Bonang Mohale, on the role of business in ensuring that the outcomes of the 2019 Elections are not subject to capture or interference, and therefore produce a legitimate and credible result.
Interviewer: I understand that business has a critical and necessary role to play in helping the IEC ensure cyber security. What is this role, and please could you elaborate on it?
Bonang Mohale: So, first of all, we have just launched our new strategy to deliver accelerated, inclusive, growth and transformation, in partnership with government, labour, and civil society. Our three pillars on which this strategy rests – one, is about accelerated, inclusive, economic growth and transformation. The second, is to protect and strengthen key institutions. The last, is to position businesses and national assets. So, you will see that all three of those, especially the second pillar to protect and strengthen key state institutions. Here, we are talking about our Constitution, number one. Number two, were are talking about all of the Chapter 9 institutions, in general. And then, lastly, we are talking about the Office of the Public Protector because, this one, was under the most siege, when former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, was doing an excellent piece of work. So, based on that, business is a legitimate member of society, happily invested in the South African economy. (Was reneged) to retract from the public space, at the time that Hlolihlahla Nelson Mandela became the President, and now that we are at the precipice – the (ticking point) point, business has found its voice, and wants to ensure, that our most important instruments are protected – this includes the elections, and therefore the independence of the IEC, is absolutely seminal.
As it relates to the appointment of new IEC CEO, and the software, for which a Request for Proposal is going out, I understand that BLSA wants to ensure that neither are captured, or capturable. How will this concern be addressed?
Our biggest challenge, facing us as a country, as a 23 year old democracy, is the fact that our state has clearly, demonstrably been captured. And, in that environment, we just want to ensure that the same way business played a critical role in the appointment of the current Public Protector, that it is not only the prerogative of the President, but that there is a public participation process. Business wants to assume that role to ensure that we can trust the process, and therefore be guaranteed of a wholesome outcome. As far as the CEO, and the view of the IEC is concerned, we are not interested in another ANC deployee, because has let down the country, badly. And, definitely, we are not going to leave it up to a President that is captured, that has demonstrated that he does not act in the best interest of South Africa, incorporated, and therefore his actions have not been in the best national interest.
As far as the RFP for the new system, is concerned, our view informed by how the biggest economy in the world, the United States of America, is currently holding Congressional Hearings about how Russia interfered with their elections by hacking into their systems. Therefore, we will be looking for a credible supplier to ensure that there is no bribery, stealing and cheating. Thirdly, that the cyber assurance is guaranteed, and that cyber-security is the utmost, that the country can afford.
What motive would Russia, or the Russians, have to interfere in South Africa’s elections?
We are concerned about the fact that, immediately after the President of the country had gone to visit President Vladimir Putin, he then started talking about nuclear for South Africa, when the Integrated Resource Plan 2016, put nuclear as the last option, and the most expensive, at the time that our own National Development Plan 2030 had looked at our energy mix, and it put nuclear last, also saying that we cannot afford it. Therefore, it seems that the current President wants to in-debt this country for generations to come, so that he can find an opportunity to continue the state capture; that is our concern – informed by his utterances, and the fact that two Finance Ministers have already been fired precisely for refusing to sign the nuclear deal, in the form of (9/12) former Minister Nhlanhla Nene, and now Pravin Gordhan, and we understand that even Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the former Minister of Energy, left on the basis that she was not really accommodating of the nuclear deal.
In closing, is there anything you would like to add on behalf on BLSA, or yourself?
Business Leadership South Africa, today, wants to create a South Africa of increasing prosperity for all, by harnessing the resources and capabilities of business in partnership with all of our social partners, to deliver accelerated and inclusive economic growth and transformation.