TONY YENGENI, FORMER ANC chief whip, was convicted of fraud in 2003. His punishment for not disclosing to parliament that he had received a 47% discount on a Mercedes 4×4 was a four-year jail term.
After a mere four months, the convicted fraudster – defiant and unrepentant – swaggered out of the Malmesbury Prison gates a free man.
Civil society and the major opposition parties were in uproar. “A national disgrace,” they said – and with good reason. After all, this is a man who, while serving his minimum sentenced, violated his parole conditions – the consequences which, for any other criminal could be a sentence of up to ten years in jail.
The way a ruling party’s members treat a comrades in trouble says an extraordinary amount about the organisation’s morality, principles and commitment to justice.
The implications are thus very worrying.
By giving Yengeni the soft treatment and regarding him as a victimised innocent, the ANC shows that its alleged commitment to fighting corruption is farcial. The culture of self-enrichment – in this case illegal – is clearly viewed as acceptable. Justice and punishment for wrongdoing counts for nothing.
The ANC cronies who marched with him to Pollsmoor in August last year were publicly identifying themselves with one who abused parliament and condoning the criminal actions that jailed him. They are in essence showing contempt for parliament, a hallowed democratic institution – and consequently for democracy itself. A fundamental tenet of democracy is that everyone is equal. It is clearly evident that Yengeni has not been treated as an equal but as a privileged exception.
“Everyone is equal,” oinks the pig in animal farm, “but some are more equal than others.”
The ruling party obviously agrees.