Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2003-09-12 Reporter: Robert Kirby

How the ANC Has Changed its Meaning



Mail and Guardian

Date 2003-09-12


Robert Kirby

Web Link


How much more proof will be necessary to show that the initials ANC no longer stand for African National Congress? It's been but nine short years since the Union Buildings became head office to our bold new government, but quite enough time for the ANC, like some insect, to slough off its older and politically shapely exoskeleton, to metamorphose. ANC now stands for the Association of Nepotists and Cronyism.

Not a couple of days goes by without the revelation of yet more blatant theft, lying, looting, chicanery, embezzlement and generalised corruption being conducted by the lowest to the highest in the ranks of the new civil service; from the insignificant to the pre-eminent among ANC politicians, from just about anyone who has found liberation to be another term for "help yourself". Each day you pick up a newspaper and wonder: Who now?

The current scandal surrounding the deputy president and the array of his most valued associates among the delightful Shaik family, is a case in point. There's nothing new, special or startlingly degenerate about this one. It's only the aleatoric that has the second-highest ranking politician in the country allegedly involved in the arms deal swindlings. Why not? The accusing finger is not selective. It points in all directions. Look anywhere else across the ranks of today's government and you'll find government appointees ripping off as diligently as they can. Get pulled over by a traffic policeman these days and, as likely as not, you'll be offered an alternative on-the-spot cash settlement of the fine. "Why not?" mutters the traffic cop as he pockets the bribe. "They're doing it upstairs."

If Jacob Zuma has indeed had his arm in the till it will only be because that's the officially sanctioned ANC way of managing things. Ask Tony Yengeni if you don't believe that. Ask the ANC's Mpumalanga premier why he promotes the thieves in his provincial administration. Ask any of the presidentially pardoned murderers who were reintroduced to society and who then killed some more people. Ask a prison boss how he affords such a fine house on such a small salary. Ask a small-town mayor riding around in his R2-million bulletproof Mercedes why he believes there's the slightest danger he'll be shot for felony graft. Ask the deputy president why his children get their pocket money from a company involved in an extremely murky international arms deal. All these beneficiaries are like that most accomplished of Christian hypocrites, the Reverend Allan Boesak: pedigree ANC bloodstock.

Indeed, it was the cleric from hell who set the fashion of absolving any latter day sinning on the grounds that the sinner had once resisted apartheid. Remember "struggle bookkeeping"? Remember how vast sums of donor money, meant for the alleviation of the child victims, went missing while Boesak was so valiantly fighting apartheid on their behalf? Today the SABC cannot introduce the Boesak name without its obligatory "anti-apartheid" label attached. Last Sunday evening on television the Shaik brothers were crooning the same heartbreaking lullaby as they stroked their priceless koi, rode in their top-of-the-line BMWs to the poorer suburbs to fondle the apartheid crosses on which they had suffered and flourished.

Switch stations and, lo, there's a former transport minister sounding off about how selflessly he endured apartheid's privations, hinting that what copious benefits he subsequently has accrued are in some way rightful payment for all the anguish he underwent. There's no sell-by-date on the Maharaj brand of virtue.

Another facet of the associated ANC alibi is even more contorted. This is the one so effortlessly emitted by the twaddle virtuoso, Smuts Ngonyama. He was responsible recently for a most diverting paradox. He complained that Zuma was being prejudged unfairly, was a victim of "trial-my-media". Then came the lulu. "Mr Zuma should be given the chance to prove his innocence," said Smuts smoothly. No prejudging there. As long as you're an ANC stalwart, accused of anything from filching the tea money to underwriting dodgy international Nigerian crude oil deals, you're innocent until proved innocent.

As Kurt Vonnegut would say: so it goes. The trouble is that South Africa, notwithstanding its "miracle transformation", now seems hell bent on becoming just another in the lamentable catalogue of African countries incapable or simply unwilling to rise above the rest. We are showing typical symptoms: swollen personal budgets of high political officers, inflamed underhand dealings, all the usual fevers. The arms deal is among the more obvious of these; the persistent blaming of all current ills on the "colonialist" past; the blank refusal by our leaders either to condemn or help rid the continent of the likes of Robert Mugabe; the crude disinformations of the government "information" bodies; the improper manipulations of parliamentary committees; the squandering of a rare political morality that was dearly bought. From today's ANC not a flicker of shame.

To finish, a repeat of a memorable headline I saw in an Eastern Province newspaper last week: "Fire At Port Elizabeth Crematorium". So it goes.

With acknowledgements to Robert Kirby and the Mail & Guardian.