Opinionista Phumzile Van Damme 10 January 2019

Why the ANC will break its promises this Saturday — again

On Saturday 12 January the ANC will launch its 2019 election manifesto in KwaZulu-Natal. Undoubtedly President Cyril Ramaphosa will present a message of a strong ANC government that’s clean, efficient and transparent. But it’s difficult not to be pessimistic about the party’s promises.

Five years ago, the ANC unveiled its plan in the 2014 election manifesto to “move South Africa forward” and deliver “a better life for all”.

Corruption continues to erode our social fabric,” it acknowledged and said it “undermine[d] our development efforts”.

In a plot line that could have been taken from the Hollywood blockbuster Inception, the 2014 manifesto refers to the 2009 manifesto that promises to fight crime and corruption.

In the last 20 years, South Africa has lost R700-billion to corruption. That is equivalent to more than half of the annual budget. Clearly, the rot of corruption is rife in ANC ranks and undoubtedly the upcoming manifesto will make more empty promises on cutting corruption.

But let’s take a step back and look at what the ANC promised the people of South Africa in 2014 and what they delivered on.

Promise 1: Public servants and public representatives will be prohibited from doing business with the state. […] the conduct of public servants in business must be regulated.

In 2017 an investigation by Treasury revealed that as many as 14,000 government officials were listed as directors of companies who have contracts with the state. These are not just one or two culprits, but grand-scale violations — three years after the ANC promised to fight corruption.

In the same year, it was reported that acting Eskom CEO Matshela Koko’s stepdaughter had been awarded contracts worth R1-billion. A year earlier then ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and minister of small business Lindiwe Zulu were involved in a multi-million-rand tender that was awarded to a company which has links to Mantashe and Zulu’s children.

Clearly, these are instances of public servants and representatives (and their family members) doing business with the state. Yet, the ruling party has not acted decisively against the implicated officials and has placed the party above the people of South Africa.

Promise 2: Any ANC member or ANC public representative found guilty by a court of law [must] step down from any leadership positions in the ANC, government and society.

This promise was trampled many times. The president of the ANC was found by the Constitutional Court to have used public money for private security upgrades at his Nkandla homestead. The court ordered him to personally pay this money back. Despite being found guilty by a court of law, he did not step down from “any leadership positions in the ANC, government and society”. The party had to force him out after standing behind him for a very long time.

In October 2015, a high court found Northern Cape ANC chairperson and finance MEC John Block guilty of corruption, fraud and money laundering. Despite this scathing verdict then ANC secretary general Mantashe said the party was in no hurry to take action against Block and that “it will be correct to wait for sentencing before we can decide what to do”. This is in direct contravention of the party’s promise. Block was found guilty by a court, yet the party wanted to keep him in his powerful positions.

Promise 3: Public officials [should be] individually liable for losses incurred as a result of corrupt actions.

Zuma eventually paid back R7.8-million used for personal upgrades to Nkandla, but what about all the other cases? Did Koko or Mantashe pay back the money their family members got through their connections? Did the ANC ever go after Block to refund the taxpayers of South Africa? This is money that could have been spent on service delivery. Corruption is not a victimless crime. The money could have been spent on building houses, establishing water projects or providing sanitation services to millions of citizens.

Promise 4: Our political representatives must strive to maintain ethical conduct and must realise the effect of their behaviour on the integrity of the political office they hold.

One scandal after the other plagued the ANC, with representatives being blatantly unethical. In the Free State, Ace Magashule used millions in government money meant for poverty alleviation to fund a lavish Gupta wedding. Zuma allowed the state to be captured, with the influential Gupta family hiring and firing ministers at their own discretion. And a R1-trillion nuclear deal with Russia was on the cards with former minister of energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson and many others wanting to pursue the dodgy nuclear new-build programme.

On the eve of the 107-year-old ANC launching its election manifesto, it’s clear the party is a shallow version of its former self. This is not the party of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo. We trusted the ANC for the past two decades, but it continues to loot state coffers. It has broken the promises it made in 2014 (and during every other election year before that) — and it will surely break the promises it will make on Saturday.

It’s time to vote it out of power. The DA has a plan to fight corruption. Under a DA government, all officials found guilty of corruption will go to jail for a minimum of 15 years. An independent unit dedicated to identifying, fighting and prosecuting corruption will be established; and regular lifestyle audits will be implemented for all politicians and government officials.

Don’t believe another word the ANC has to say on fighting corruption. It is rotten to the core and the people of South Africa deserve a transparent, open and efficient government. Not one which breaks promise after promise and looks for excuses at the bottom of its pit of corruption. DM

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