By Douglas Gibson
The ANC doesn’t get it about corruption. Corruption is not only about stealing the people’s money. It is also about abusing power.
All of us have heard Lord Acton’s famous dictum many times: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The recent ANC visit to Zimbabwe is a prime example of a party so used to power that it no longer understands that using state facilities for party political ends is wrong.
Mr Ace Magashule led an ANC delegation to hold talks with Zanu-PF on a party-to-party-basis. Zimbabwe is experiencing a political, social, humanitarian and economic crisis. The ANC met Zanu-PF, agreed that there was no crisis – just “challenges”, and did not meet anyone else. This is what you and I paid for.
The ANC should have paid every cent of the cost, including flights, accommodation, catering and every other expense but we learn that Defence Minister Mapisa-Nqakula “gave her comrades a lift in her plane”.
She used an 18-seater instead of the usual nine-seater. She went to Zimbabwe to discuss, for less than an hour, arrangements for the forthcoming Southern African Development Community meeting.
The whole world is having Zoom meetings; why could she not Zoom her counterpart? She could have saved hundreds of thousands of rand from the stretched defence budget.
Why could worthies on the ANC delegation, renowned for their probity, like Magashule, Tony Yengeni, Nomvula Mokonyane and Lindiwe Zulu, not also have held a Zoom meeting, like we all have had to do?
Foreign travel was banned as part of the Covid lockdown. How is it that these mostly ex-politicians could travel, not on government business, but to advance the ANC agenda, when none of the rest of South Africa was allowed to do so?
Do the rules apply only to the people, not to politicians? A further question relates to the use of the Waterkloof Airforce base by party representatives. One recalls the furore when the previous president’s friends, the Guptas, were permitted to use Waterkloof.
We have been told that the ANC delegation will be going on another visit to Zimbabwe to meet civil society and the opposition. Will that again be at the expense of the taxpayer, or will the ANC, as it should do, pay the cost of the trip?
Nearly 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela said the following: “There is an absence of democratic accountability and control in every sphere of government and the state.
“To address this debilitating legacy requires the determined action and deep commitment to transforming our society from a crisis ridden present into something all South Africans can be truly proud of.”
The ANC, after a generation in power, has forgotten this inspiring message. We hear that President Cyril Ramaphosa is “playing a long game”, and “keeping his powder dry”.
Surely the time has arrived when he and the ANC should confront the corruption at the heart of his political party and our government, and make it known that Lord Acton’s other famous dictum is not true or has ceased to be true of South Africa: “The common vice of democracy is disregard for morality.”
Start doing the right thing and show that the ANC does get it.
* Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Star