Tag Archives: anc

When the watchdog lost its bark

The DA must never forget that regardless of its ambitions to govern South Africa, it is an opposition party, with a mandate from its voters to hold the government and the ruling party vigilantly to account. Its clearly defined vision of an Open Opportunity Society for All, and the values which flow from this, should guide its response to every piece of legislation that appears in parliament.

Even after Helen Zille’s very public about-turn on the party’s astonishing support in the National Assembly for the Employment Equity Amendment Bill, it is still pertinent to question what on earth were its MPs thinking. How could such an important and dangerous law, one which runs so contrary to the party’s values, be given the thumbs up? Where was the scrutiny – the vigorous interrogation of the Bill’s ramifications, and of its (in)compatibility with the party’s values?  Despite the significance of the Bill, and the significance of the party’s support for it, a press statement explaining its support was not provided (until much later). Why the subterfuge? Was the party hoping the public wouldn’t notice its “yes” vote?

And, if they’ve screwed up on this bill, what else are DA MPs supporting that runs counter to the their party’s vision and ideals? Is it too much to expect the DA’s parliamentarians to have a thorough understanding of what the party stands for? That while it strongly values redress, it believes this should not be achieved on the basis of race – that the key criteria for redress should be disadvantage, and not a racial proxy?

The confusion around this legislation is deeply concerning. Several DA MPs have — somewhat incomprehensibly — spoken on record in favour of it. And yet, it should be manifestly clear to the party’s MPs that it is contrary to its values. If they can’t grasp that, how can voters be expected to figure out what on earth the party stands for? If DA public representatives support racialism, they can always join the party defined by it – I’m sure the ANC would be happy to have them.

The DA’s parliamentary caucus should stop taking those who voted them into power for granted. They entered the National Assembly to serve. To scrutinise. To uphold the values which the DA espouses. They are not there to sleepwalk their way to entrenched racialism.

I hope the DA soon realises that while broadening its support is important, basing this growth on a foundation of principle is essential. It’s unfortunate if some of its members believe that the only way to increase black support is to support racial engineering. Indeed, it’s an insult to the very people they are trying to attract.

The DA has long talked about offering voters an alternative. In parliament three weeks ago, it came perilously close to abandoning this ambition entirely. In a bid for power, pragmatism should never erode principle. If it wants to achieve its vision of a South Africa in which reconciliation and redress are achieved, delivery is successful, and diversity is valued, then it is time for the party to not just talk about these values, but for its parliamentary caucus to start living them.

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Creativity can make South Africa great

What kind country would you like to call home? I think I know what kind I want to live in: one in which the rule of law is respected, people have access to quality education and health; a country in which citizens have the opportunity to make the most of their inherent potential – and do so. A nation which is at peace with its diversity and tolerant of difference.

South Africa’s histories – its many jangling narratives, each contradicting and conflicting – have led to a bewildering present. The longer I live here, the more complex and inscrutable it appears. But perhaps that is a good thing. Searching for solutions to our problems cannot be predicated on the assumption that we fully understand this country. Those solutions, if you can call them that, are likely to fail because they are too tightly bound to our own perceptions, which do not necessarily match reality.

We need to take a more humble position, one based on curiosity and empathy. One based on the understanding that our own mindsets have been shaped (although not rigidly so) by our own education, history, class and culture and these can lead to fundamental differences in perspective. While we should never let our identities constrain our opinions and beliefs, we need to be aware of their influence over both ourselves and over others.

But acknowledging South Africa’s complexity, and that we do not have a monopoly either on understanding it or on knowing how to solve its challenges, does not absolve us from the responsibility we have to contribute to solving these challenges.

Given what South Africa faces – widening inequality, rampant malfeasance and maladministration, high crime, a stagnant economy – each citizen has an obligation, I believe, to do their bit.

But let us set responsibilities aside for a moment and look briefly at the past, a past in which the vast majority of South Africans were marginalised and oppressed. Bantu Education was designed to perpetuate a system of white supremacy, and to inhibit the realisation of the cultural, intellectual and economic value locked inside each citizen. Democracy arrived in 1994 but almost two decades later, the education delivered to South Africa’s children remains horrendously poor because the government has failed to effectively address apartheid’s educational legacy.

According to a recent article in The Economist:

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, South Africa ranks 132nd out of 144 countries for its primary education and 143rd for the quality of its science and maths. In the Department of Basic Education’s national literacy and numeracy tests last year, only 15% of 12-year-olds scored at or above the minimum proficiency on the language test. In maths just 12% did.

The Economist also points out that only 20% of schools have libraries. But, even worse, only 8% of schools have ones that are actually functioning. These failures do not be appear to be the result of insufficient spending – a sixth of the government budget goes to education and since 1995 between 5 and 7% of our GDP has been spent on education each year.

I’m sometimes asked whether the government is deliberately perpetuating a failing education system – much in the same way the apartheid state engineered one. Some wonder if the system is designed to keep citizens ignorant of alternatives and unable to grasp the basics of democracy and democratic change. These cynics wonder if there is a strategy in place to increase dependency on a state that is being artfully conveyed by party spin-doctors as representing a benevolent ANC dishing out grants.

It’s might be tempting to believe this, but I don’t buy it. For one thing, I do not believe poor education has led South Africans into a state of subservience to ANC hegemony – while the party’s electoral support remains high for a number of reasons, the opposition to its governance is evident every time you open a paper – in the spate of so-called delivery protests that have been occurring across the country.

Instead of being something wilful, I believe education failures are rather a consequence of distraction. Most people in government are not there to serve the people. They are there to amass power and money. That is the priority. The ANC’s cadre deployment strategy is designed to put loyal members of the party in positions where they are expected to deliver – and that includes education. In this patronage system, kickbacks and tenders are the reward – the sweeteners to ensure fealty to the reigning faction in Luthuli House. But of course the pitfall of deploying someone on the basis of loyalty and affiliation as opposed to merit is that often people who do not have adequate skills or experience are placed in positions where those two elements are essential for delivery to succeed.

According to Business Day, the results of the 2011 census show that:

There are 10.9-million under-fives, 9.3-million children aged 5-9, 8.8-million aged 10-14, and 9.6-million aged 15-19. The second-largest sector of the population is between the ages of 20 and 24, accounting for 10.4-million people.

Clearly we are a nation of youngsters – people who need skills to gain employment and compete in the global economy against their international brothers and sisters who are invariably receiving a far better education than they are.

But education is more than simply about skills and jobs.  I recently interviewed Tamar Garb, a South African art historian based at University College London and she told me:

Education is not just about vocational training… visual literacy, verbal skills, powers of argument and reason, critical thinking, independent judgment – all the things that an education in the humanities and in art give are also absolutely vital for the running of a society.

Tamar Garb warned against creating a society of “philistines and technocrats”, arguing that:

The imagination is crucial to imagine what a future might be: you can only build and imagine what a future might be if you can think of what a future might have been and that negotiation of the future and the past in creative dialogue is a survival; it’s not just like wellbeing and the froth on the top: it’s absolutely central to a culture’s survival – especially a culture recovering from trauma which has to reinvent itself. This is a society which has to imagine new ways of being, new ways of identifying itself, new ways of delivering to all its people the dignity, the prosperity, the identities that make for a productive way of life.

So how do we create a society that converses with itself? The answer lies in the humanities. It lies in the excavation and interrogation of our past and present, using words, imagery, action and even music.

For this to flourish, it is essential that the humanities be nurtured at a school level in subject areas such as English, history, drama and art. Our appalling maths and science rankings deservedly garner headlines. But we also need to recognise how reading, writing and art help children to escape the realities of their own situation, and dream up new ones for themselves. Books connect children with other worlds, other lives, new ideas. Drama encourages empathy. Collectively, creativity fosters aspiration and inspiration, promoting curiosity, understanding and tolerance.

Creativity and critical thinking help the healing of a divided country. We need a nation of scientists, engineers and accountants. But we also need a nation of dreamers, thinkers and storytellers – people who can help us first make peace with ourselves, and then with others, so that instead of being threatened by diversity and difference, we are rather nourished by it.

On some metrics, particularly in housing, water and sanitation, government has achieved some positive changes. But is run, however, by an increasingly undemocratic and self-enriching elite who are steadily tearing at the fabric of our hard-won constitutional order.

Education is not going to improve overnight. If anything, it may continue to deteriorate. But there is no use in despairing. I received some comfort from the Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer who told me in an interview in last year, that “we mustn’t fall easily into despair” about the things that have not been achieved since 1994.

In her most recent novel, No Time Like the Present, she writes: “Brought down the crowned centuries of colonialism, smashed apartheid. If our people could do that? Isn’t it possible, real, that the same will must be found, is here somewhere — to take up and get on with the job, freedom. Some must have the — crazy —faith to Struggle on.”

So South Africans must ask themselves – how do they plan to struggle on? What is the contribution they can make to building South Africa up into the kind of country they want to live in?

It is easy to be a passive grumbler. But we should rather recognise the power in each one of us to contribute to positive, lasting change. This is a recognition which powered revolutions, which revved up social movements, pulling down the walls of apartheid, and building up our constitutional democracy.

We need to be inspired again – inspired by those who refuse to accept that the vicious cocktail of corruption, incompetence and mediocrity is to be our country’s destiny. There are plenty of examples. The NGO Equal Education is campaigning for a library in every school. Dance for All teaches dance to kids from Khayelitsha and other Cape townships. The Light from Africa Foundation uses ceramics to provide art therapy for orphaned children.  Rock Girl SA teamed up with Plascon and the Cecile and Boyd Foundation to create a beautiful art room at a Manenberg school. The Boundless Heart Foundation brought together corporates, non-profits and local government to install a container library in Blikkiesdorp – providing a safe learning space for the community’s kids. Both help2read and the Shine Centre have armies of volunteers sharing a love of reading with children across the country.

Forging a nation of critical thinkers and creative dreamers will not happen overnight. But if we are serious about becoming a nation that is truly united in its diversity, then it is something we must aspire to.  While there is much being done, there is still much to do.

Each South African should consider what their contribution can be; they must realise their power, value their experience, skills and time. What can we do? Is it campaigning for better education? Is it reading to children? Is it fundraising for new libraries? Is it helping to set up grants for writers and poets? Or collecting art supplies for kids who don’t have?

It is up to each one of us to decide.

A modified container library for the Blikkiesdorp community donated by the Boundless Heart Foundation.

A modified container library for the Blikkiesdorp community donated by the Boundless Heart Foundation.

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ANC silencing debate about power, patriarchy and the president

Brett Murray’s defaced The Spear stands as a monument to intolerance. After thousands of ANC supporters marched to the Goodman where the painting the had once been on display, the gallery has agreed it will not be displayed publicly again.

While representations of the painting now enjoy the ubiquity of the web, what price have we paid for the original painting’s removal from the gallery’s wall? In the aftermath of the fury unleashed by the ANC, will artists still dare to challenge and provoke? Or has South Africa accepted that culture and “acceptability” is something determined only by its ruling party?

It has become impossible for the ANC to mask its totalitarian instincts: if it hadn’t already, the mask slipped this week. When the party feels threatened, the Constitution no longer matters; neither do the courts: it is only the power of the raised fist to invoke fear and unleash retribution that is of consequence.

While opposition was relatively muted — whether in the arts, on the streets or the benches of parliament — the ANC could maintain the pretence of supporting the concept of a constitutional democracy, one in which robust criticism can flourish. Now the party is under siege, both internally (through its vicious faction fights) and externally, thanks to ebbing support, increasing disillusionment at persistent poverty and a growing political opposition.

Will a gallery in South Africa ever again be brave enough (or even be permitted) to display art condemned by the powerful as outrageous? Or will controversial culture be exported – onto the web, and to exhibition spaces abroad? Are our artists to become exiles once more, hounded for daring to question or expose?

Freedom is difficult, sometimes painful. Freedom guarantees being able to question, comment, criticise – even if by doing so insult and outrage is the result. Art must provoke, must make us argue and discuss – even if our feelings get a bit bruised in the process. If we are so fearful of causing offence, we will become blinkered; how can we search for truth, or inspire debate, if we are so afraid of the consequences?

“The norm” needs to be constantly unpicked and explored, and the powerful scrutinised. Not long ago, slavery, denying women the vote and jailing gays was “the norm”. It was through exercising freedom of expression, culturally and politically, that these practices were banished (although tragically in some parts of the world today these practices are still considered acceptable).

In a country in which rape and the abuse of women and children are rampant, it is vital that we have a conversation about gender, power and patriarchy. It is vital that art catalyses a discussion on the way women are treated, and a discussion about the need for us all — male and female, black and white — to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The backlash against The Spear threatens to silence that much-needed discussion. The ANC’s and its supporters’ rhetoric implicitly suggests that commenting or critiquing the president’s version of masculinity and the actions that stem from it is simply taboo – especially if the critic is white.

If genuine freedom and equality for all South Africans is to be attained, no culture should be sacrosanct or off limits. Rather they should be interrogated and explored.

This week South Africa’s largest news site, News24, voluntarily removed an image of The Spear not long after City Press, the Sunday newspaper embroiled in a legal battle with the ANC over the image, took it off its website too.

News24 claimed it was doing this “in a spirit of healing and nation-building”. This is at best misguided. Nation-building is defying those who seek to dictate what is culturally acceptable and what is not. It is standing up to attempts to quash creative expression. Nation-building is fighting for the rights enshrined in our Constitution. In the long term, little can be gained (least of all “healing”) by surrendering to intolerance.

South Africa will not overcome fear by giving into it. The nation can only grow if the right to provoke, question and criticise is vigorously defended.

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The ANC’s bullying will fail to quash freedom

There has been much gnashing of teeth at the decision made by the editor of City Press, Ferial Haffajee, to remove a photo of Bretty Murray’s The Spear from the newspaper’s website.

When it comes to the media, the ANC has brought all its indignant fury down on one publication – it has been useful to do so, as its single-minded bullying is reminder of who’s boss, a flexing of muscle that menacingly reminds both the media and South Africans generally of the even greater fury the party can unleash should it take umbrage to a paper’s contents.

The ANC certainly has the power to intimidate the media, fostering a climate of fear, hysteria and hatred. Its behaviour can certainly inculcate a mindset of self-censorship amongst the nation’s journalists – which is so much easier and more effective than employing the cumbersome mechanics of official censorship, although through its artful manipulation of the Film & Publication Board you could argue it is using this approach too.

But what the ANC, the City Press and the brow-furrowed chattering classes have lost sight of is that this is a changed world, one in which the old mediums (print, TV) still have an important role, but are far from being the only means through which ideas and information can be conveyed.

Indeed, these entities have become absorbed into a chaotic web in which information (and that includes presidential penises or at least the depiction thereof) is being shared and streamed with lightning speed and astonishing reach.

The ANC might be able to scare the City Press into removing The Spear, but it won’t be able to do the same to the thousands of other sites that have posted the image, or to the people that have shared it on social networks or emailed it to their friends.

It is for this reason that the ANC has failed in its attempt to quash creative freedom, even as the party has exposed its contempt for the constitution which guarantees it. It will again fail when, in the months and years ahead, there emerges artworks, writings, films and more that critique, satirise, mock or hold the ANC or its leaders to account.

As the events of this week has shown, the ANC’s strategies to shrink the space available for dissent and freedom of expression might sometimes seem effective. But we need to remind ourselves that this space has expanded into the online realm and beyond, to where it is out of the party’s reach.

The Arab Spring proved that social media has become a remarkable, unstoppable force to keep information and free thought flowing; a means to challenge and criticise power. In the future, we will see this being wielded by more and more people as social media tools becomes more affordable and accessible. The massive success of Mxit in South Africa is an exciting harbinger of this social media explosion.

And, thankfully for our democracy, this means that the ANC’s control of the public broadcaster and its coercion of “old” media will become increasingly irrelevant.

The genie is out of the bottle – and we’re all the better of for that.

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Cowardly big business is failing our democracy

Democracy is an ecosystem. Its survival is dependent on many things: a sound legislative framework, an independent judiciary, a vibrant parliament and a responsive government. Beyond this, it also needs a vigilant, proactive civil society, engaged voters and a free media: three elements that ensure government is held accountable for its actions, transparent about what it does and goaded into serving the best of interests of the people – not of those in power.

The Protection of Information bill is one of the gravest threats to this ecosystem. It will critically undermine the ability for parliament, the media and civil society to ensure accountability and transparency in government. The ANC claims this law is to protect state security but, as many before me have pointed out, its wide-ranging mandate means it can easily be used to cover up wrongdoing, severely punishing those who dare to expose it.

Earlier this week, Pick n Pay’s chairman, Gareth Ackerman, spoke out against the bill. He provided a calm and clear explanation of its potential to damage the economy and deter foreign investment. Financial information could be concealed, as could corruption – thereby severely stymieing the economic freedom needed to foster entrepreneurship and attract investors – both essential ingredients required to combat poverty and narrow the vast gulf between rich and poor.

While the dangers of the Info Bill seem self evident, it is startling that so far Ackerman is the only significant businessman who has criticised it. The silence from the rest of business is as deafening as it is inexcusable.

When the prosperity of our economy, our democracy and our country’s future is being put at risk, you would have thought there would have been a cacophony of outrage from businesses – it is in their interest that the bill does not become law, after all. But no. Two of our biggest and most important business groupings, Business Leadership South Africa and Business Unity South Africa have not said a word. Neither have our largest companies.

What can explain this gutless behaviour: is business hoping this is a battle that will be fought by others? Or that the ANC will suddenly override its totalitarian instincts and dump the legislation at the last minute?

Perhaps a more plausible explanation is that many businesses are simply too afraid to stand up to government because they are reliant upon political goodwill to operate freely. Many businesses unquestioningly and sycophantically signed up to Black Economic Empowerment. This was despite them knowing that BEE had little to with empowering blacks and everything to do with consolidating the ANC’s economic clout: a system designed to massively enrich a tiny yet powerful elite.

Big business thought it would get an easy ride if it cosied up to the ANC. And indeed, with loyal ANC cadres dotting the boards of some of South Africa’s largest companies, business has largely been left alone to get on with making money.

Now they’re really caught in a fix. Even if they are conscious of the long-term dangers of a law like the Info Bill, they are too entrenched in the ANC’s patronage network to speak out about it lest they incur the wrath of the party’s titans and lose business deals and political support as a result.

Our nation’s corporations should have been more careful when they made this Faustian pact with the ANC in the Nineties. In the afterglow of the first democratic elections it must have seemed pragmatic and sensible to cuddle up to the new snouts at the trough. But with the ANC’s non-racial values long squandered by the craven despots that call the shots in the movement now, the folly of such an approach has been exposed.

If the Info Bill is thwarted, it will certainly not be thanks to big business. It will be in spite of it: in spite of a group of companies that have cosily conspired with the ANC to maintain a status quo of wealth in the hands of a few, at the expense of the countless millions who remain economically oppressed.

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ANC betrayal of Madiba’s media tolerance

The ANC is ratcheting up its opposition to the media’s ability to hold government and society to account. This much is evident in its desire to set up a media tribunal (a censorship committee by any other name), and its proposed Protection of Information Bill which would severely hamper the work of investigative journalists. The bill allows government to classify information on the loosely defined basis of them being “in the national interest” — a convenient label that could be slapped onto anything incriminating that officials want to keep from prying eyes. Journalists exposing information from those documents would face harsh prison sentences.

In the light of these two imminent assaults on the South African media’s freedom, the ANC’s leaders would do well to read the views of Nelson Mandela. Shortly before the 1994 election, he addressed the International Press Institute Congress and spoke about the importance of freedom of the press.

Here is an excerpt:

Truth does indeed have immense power; yet it remains extremely elusive. No single person, no body of opinion, no political or religious doctrine, no political party or government can claim to have a monopoly on truth. For that reason truth can be arrived at only through the untrammelled contest between and among competing opinions, in which as many viewpoints as possible are given a fair and equal hearing. It has therefore always been our contention that laws, mores, practices and prejudices that place constraints on freedom of expression are a disservice to society. Indeed these are the devices employed by falsehood to lend it strength in its unequal contest with truth.

The removal from South Africa’s Statute books of the scores of laws, ordinances, regulations and administrative measures that have empowered government to abridge the rights of South African citizens to know the truth, or which repress the freedom of the media to publish, or which limit citizens’ rights to express themselves are, in our view, essential for a democratic political climate. Freedom of expression, of which press freedom is a crucial aspect, is among the core values of democracy that we have striven for. To realise and institutionalise these freedoms requires that, in the first instance, we have a government representative of and based on the will of all the people.

A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favour. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.

It is only such a free press that can temper the appetite of any government to amass power at the expense of the citizen. It is only such a free press that can be the vigilant watchdog of the public interest against the temptation on the part of those who wield it to abuse that power. It is only such a free press that can have the capacity to relentlessly expose excesses and corruption on the part of government, state officials and other institutions that hold power in society.

I have often said that the media are a mirror through which we can see ourselves as others perceive us, warts, blemishes and all. The African National Congress has nothing to fear from criticism. I can promise you, we will not wilt under close scrutiny. It is our considered view that such criticism can only help us to grow, by calling attention to those of our actions and omissions which do not measure up to our people’s expectations and the democratic values to which we subscribe.

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How corruption sustains the ANC – and is killing our democracy

Official opposition leader Helen Zille’s latest weekly newsletter offers up an essential analysis of why corruption within the ANC is endemic and how its deep, poisonous tentacles are steadily strangling South Africa’s constitutional democracy.

Read it below:

Why Zuma couldn’t stop corruption, even if he wanted to

The utterances of the ANC today have all the hallmarks of the double-think of George Orwell’s 1984. If you haven’t read the book, double-think involves holding two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. This means that when your actions contradict your words, you actually believe your own propaganda.

Examples of ANC double-think abound, but nowhere is it more apparent than its stance on corruption.

How often have we seen commentators praising ANC leaders, including the President, for their tough talk on corruption? It always ends with rhetoric. Action never follows.

When the President launched the ANC’s manifesto before the last election, he said:

“Most importantly, the ANC will step up measures in the fight against corruption within its ranks and the State…this will include measures to review the tendering system, to ensure that ANC members in business, public servants and elected representatives do not abuse the State for corrupt practices.”

In his State of the Nation address this year, he said: “We will pay particular attention to combating corruption and fraud in procurement and tender processes…” He said the same thing the year before. Yet, we have seen no measures introduced to actually do anything about corruption.

These repeated anti-corruption promises are deeply ironic given the cloud of corruption that hangs over the President himself. Extreme double-think must be necessary for Zuma to speak of his “zero tolerance” approach to corruption when he knows how many quashed charges hang over his own head. More than that. As he attacks corruption, President Zuma knows that the ANC undermined the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority to avoid ANC leaders, including himself, having to answer corruption charges in court. The Constitution itself is being sacrificed to the ANC’s corruption.

What’s more, the ANC has even set up front companies to institutionalise corruption. Most notorious is Chancellor House. Its purpose is to channel tenders and contracts from the ANC in government to the ANC in business in order to enrich the ANC and its leaders. Straight, institutionalised corruption.

Chancellor House facilitated the deal between Eskom and Hitachi Africa, to manufacture boilers for the proposed Medupi Power Station, from which the ANC stands to make an estimated R1-billion tax free profit. Eskom will have to pay with taxpayers’ money. And, as a result, the ANC will become one of the wealthiest political parties in the world. Let South Africans remember this when they pay their inflated electricity bills.

So, while some in the ANC leadership rail against the proliferation of tenderpreneurs, the ANC has become the tenderpreneur-in-chief. A pattern is emerging here: the more corrupt the ANC becomes, the tougher its anti-corruption stance. Indeed, this is how double-think works. The graver the deed, the greater the falsehood required to neutralise it in one’s mind.

It is time for everyone to realise that corruption is not just an aberration in the ANC that must be ‘rooted out’ from time to time. The ANC needs corruption to survive, it is its lifeblood. It needs it to fund its election campaigns. It needs it to pay the loyalty networks necessary for ANC leaders to entrench their power. And it needs corruption to pay for its leadership’s lifestyles. ANC leaders in the party, the state, and in business have become an interlocked network of patronage and corruption. Everyone knows that everyone else is corrupt, so they cover up for each other, and abuse power to tighten their grip, undermining independent institutions and eliminating opposition both inside and outside the Party.

In the process, the ANC is turning South Africa into a criminal state. What will it take to get us out of this sordid mess?

The obvious thing would be for President Zuma to stop talking about corruption and take decisive action to actually expose and prevent it. He could announce anti-corruption measures such as preventing political parties from doing business with the state. He could announce laws which prevent government employees from doing business with government. And, he could stop the deployment of cadres to parastatals and institutions integral to the fight against corruption, such as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). He could re-instate the independence of the criminal justice system to expose and prosecute corruption without fear or favour.

But he cannot do any of these things without exposing himself and his closest political allies to criminal prosecution. The criminal justice system has been perverted as an instrument for persecuting political opponents and protecting political allies. But even this selective use of the criminal justice system is becoming difficult because the entire ANC edifice — allies and opponents alike — are caught in what Allister Sparks calls a ‘corruption gridlock’. Senior ANC members have so much dirt on each other, that they dare not take action against corruption. If one goes down, he will take the rest down with them. This is precisely what Jacob Zuma himself threatened to do when faced with prosecution relating to the arms deal before he became President.

This explains why the corruption in the arms deal was so successfully covered up. It explains why Julius Malema was able to get away with what he did and said before any rebuke whatsoever from Zuma. It explains why Schabir Shaik is still on medical parole, despite no evidence that he is terminally ill.

In all of these cases, the ANC leadership is paralysed because of its dubious past and future interest in maintaining the status quo. Zuma cannot go beyond rhetoric and take real action against corruption for fear of alienating those who have enough information to bring him down. His time and energy is spent placating those who hold this power over him instead of governing. This is the consequence of endemic corruption.

Most people think Zuma needed to avoid jail so he could become President. Actually, the opposite is true. Zuma needed to become President so that he could avoid jail.

Now that he has succeeded, Zuma is paralysed as a President. You can be sure that nothing will come of his rebuke of Malema. There will be no tough anti-corruption measures taken while he is in office. And, in time, Schabir Shaik will receive a presidential pardon.

If we dig deep enough, I believe we would discover that Jacob Zuma continues to benefit from corrupt relationships to this day. The lifestyle of his family is too lavish to be affordable on his presidential income. We wonder how he can spend R65 million – which he has insisted is his own money – renovating his residence at Nkandla. And we marvel at how he can support his wives, his fiancée and 20 children on a single salary.

But we also know that his family members, including his wives, are involved in over 100 companies – some of which benefit from state contracts. It was therefore not surprising that Zuma missed the deadline to declare his financial interests by 10 months, and only disclosed his assets when public pressure forced him to. The irresistible inference is that his advisors were sanitising his business interests for public consumption.

All of this tells us why Zuma cannot get tough on corruption, even if he wanted to. The cronies he relies on for political support benefit from corruption too much. Not only this, the ANC benefits. Most of all, Zuma and his family benefit.

This week, the DA tabled private members legislation in the National Assembly that, if passed, would put an end to political parties doing business with the state. This would have prevented the ANC from using its influence at Eskom to grant a multi-billion rand state contract to a company it has a stake in.

Also this week, we announced new legislation in the Western Cape, where the DA governs, that will prevent state employees and their families from doing business with the state, because of the clear conflict of interest this presents.

I have challenged President Zuma to implement this legislation at national level and I look forward to seeing his response. But I am not holding my breath. After all, he is caught in a corruption gridlock. He has too much to lose from taking decisive action against graft.

But what Zuma and his cronies need to understand is that, if they do not act against corruption in their ranks soon, they will lose in the end. They must remember that we live in a democracy and that they are subject to the will of the people. The time will come when even the ANC’s staunchest supporters will realise what their party has become. The only remedy available in a democracy is to vote for an alternative.

As ANC NEC member Jeremy Cronin said this week: “The ANC should realise overwhelmingly that the honeymoon is over.”

–end of newsletter–

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