In a deeply divided country like South Africa, there is one thing that everyone, regardless of gender, race, ideological convictions and class, can agree on: Corruption is killing our country.
We can argue until we’re blue in the face about tax structures, government spending and policy, but if our taxes are going straight into the pockets of politicians and rent-seekers, we will never accomplish anything meaningful in this country. And, finally, after a quarter century of rampant corruption, all of South Africa is acutely aware of how deeply corrupt the ANC is. And, no matter what President Ramaphosa may promise, the reputation of the ANC speaks for itself. And its track record with corruption has never been more out in the open.
Now, the ANC is far from the only political party in the world to be overwhelmed by corruption, but even though President Ramaphosa says that corruption “has roots in apartheid”, I doubt it will be a successful political strategy to draw a moral equivalence between the ANC and the NP led apartheid government.
Countless instances of corrupt practices within the ANC. From appointing former eThekwini mayor, Zandile Gumede – who is out on bail and was dismissed due to her alleged involvement in improperly awarding a multi-million rand tender – to the KZN provincial legislature, to the Treasury’s commitment to practicing strict oversight of municipal finances, have made headlines left, right, and centre in South African media outlets over the past few weeks.
South Africans’ eyes have been pried open in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, not only because of the ANC-run government’s inability to handle the pandemic, but also due to the corrupt procurement of PPE tenders, which has profited those closest to party leaders at the expense of frontline workers. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for COVID-19 lockdown-era corruption.
It’s not like this is a new phenomenon either. Two-and-a-half years after Jacob Zuma was forced out of office for his involvement in the State Capture scandal, we are only now beginning to learn the full truth about how our country was bought and paid for by the Gupta family for the duration of Zuma’s term in office.
Not that ANC corruption began with Zuma either. The Arms Deal involving then-Vice President Zuma and Schabir Shaik while Thabo Mbeki was in office was no minor scandal, even though it seems like a distant memory to most of us. The point I’m making is that corruption has been perhaps the most defining characteristic of post-Apartheid South Africa.
Even the late, great Nelson Mandela ran on the promise of expanding welfare, providing free electricity, healthcare, schooling and houses for South Africans, justifying massive state spending in the interest of improving the lives of disenfranchised people whose heads were pushed underwater by the brutal apartheid regime.
This strategy has proven successful in every election since 1994, and here we stand as a “born free” generation living in the same South Africa that the ANC was handed by their predecessors. The only genuine form of economic empowerment has been attained through corruption and tenderprenuership. While there are obviously exceptions to the rule, the ANC has sent out a message to South Africans, which is that the state doesn’t serve you, unless you are connected or willing to compromise your integrity.
Cyril Ramaphosa will spend the rest of his first term in office trying to convince the people that he deserves their vote in 2024, but that election is the first one where the ANC’s monopoly over our democracy is genuinely under threat. And the man who cut his teeth in the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema, will certainly be considered the leading contender to challenge for the presidency.
However, if our dear president was truly committed to the people, he would stop making excuses and promising to end corruption, and rather make a commitment to expose it, so that we don’t end up making the same mistakes with whoever will follow the ANC’s dismal opening act in the story of our democracy.
In short, the people of South Africa are over the ANC, its empty promises and the president’s obfuscatory narrative. It’s time to do the right thing, Mr President, strip your party to its core and put those who have stolen our country from right under our noses in the firing line for the crime of perpetuating the consequences of apartheid. You have the opportunity to be a true servant to the country and use the remainder of your term to cut out the rot… and if you do so, South Africa may be forgiving. If you fail, it’ll be your head on the chopping block.