An efficient criminal justice system - key ingredient missing, ruining SA economy

As any chef will attest, forgetting a key ingredient will ruin any dish.

A flawed recipe is a useful metaphor for the current state of the South African economy which, like the imperfect bredie lacking vital seasoning, is underprepared and undercooked.

Of all the missing ingredients turning our once appetising economy into a dog’s breakfast, the most sorely missed is an efficient criminal justice system. Law and order are more than just the spice or sauce added to the national mix; they are the staple building blocks of any meal.

The Steinhoff saga and the death of Markus Jooste is a timely reminder of the relationship between justice and economic prosperity. As several commentators have pointed out, the fact that Jooste was still living in an obscenely huge Hermanus mansion seven years after auditors blew the whistle on Steinhoff’s financials, is an indictment on South Africa’s ability to act against corporate crime. Yes, the hawks were literally circling, and yes the markets gave his once might business empire the beating it deserved; but the public deserved more by way of official response.

The same is true of the mafia-style disruption of the vital construction sector, highlighted by news of contractors pulling out of the R500-million ACSA Symphony Way housing project in Delft. Opportunistic extortion is being driven by delays in procurement and tender processes linked to public projects, according to the Western Cape Property Development Forum.

Criminality is an unfortunate fact of life that no doubt is factored into investment decisions. But failure to combat criminality will not only deter investment, it will attract those seeking to fill the vacuum left behind by a retreating criminal justice system. 

There is no recipe for long-term success that does not rely on the rule of law; whoever wins this year’s election should prioritise this most essential ingredient or risk being left with a poison chalice. 

Jacques Moolman
President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce & Industry