Sunday 8 December was the start of the last meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC for this year. There would have been time for some smiles at the self-inflicted implosion of the Democratic Alliance; the lack of traction of the EFF and tentative indications of the return of traditional ANC supporters in recent by-elections.
The ANC government has freed the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) from political interference and it has been given new powers, not least the NPA’s Investigating Directorate (the New Scorpions). The NPA’s previous reluctance to do its job in high-profile cases appears to have passed and those implicated in undermining the NPA’s mandate have been dismissed.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, The Hawks, has been given talons and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been tasked by the president with finalising numerous cases concerning state institutions and assets. In addition, the National Legislature’s critical role of non-partisan oversight and scrutiny of the executive is starting to be effective, after the scathing judgment of the Constitutional Court.
But for the membership of the ANC, there is the long outstanding unresolved question of how the ANC itself deals with those members who have been involved in corruption and abused their positions. This is not a complex ideological debate, try as some may to make it one. It is a simple, reasonable expectation based on the historical principles and values of the ANC.
The case of Bongani Bongo should be before the NEC. Bongo has been arrested and charged with bribery and corruption and is out on bail. Bongo remains chairperson of Parliament’s Home Affairs Portfolio Committee and was for four short months the minister of state security. This is not a simple case of corruption; it involves a serious allegation that Bongo attempted to undermine a parliamentary inquiry into Eskom by offering a bribe to an evidence leader. The ANC’s Integrity Committee has already pronounced on the matter and recommended that “the NEC take swift and decisive action to restore the confidence of the public in the ANC’s stated position of zero tolerance against corruption”.
For the overwhelming majority of ANC members, there is a serious concern about the NEC’s continued failure to take decisive action against corruption within the ranks of our party. The official mantra of “innocent until proven guilty” each time a member appeared in court has worn a little thin and while it was pleasing to note that this phase was not used in Bongo’s case, regrettably the statement gave no indication that appropriate action was going to be considered by the NEC.
Obviously, we are all aware of those with narrow political agendas who lay frivolous, unsubstantiated charges against individuals and then demand action is taken. That is very different from where the NPA believes there is a case to be answered, sufficient evidence exists for a successful prosecution, the accused has been arrested, appeared in court and a trial date set. In the latter case, it is not unreasonable to expect that the NEC takes firm and immediate action.
It is worth remembering that the ANC’s Nasrec conference in late 2017 passed a series of resolutions on organisational renewal and what action the newly elected NEC should immediately take when members are implicated in corruption. In addition, the conference again acknowledged that there has been a loss of confidence in the ANC, “because of social distance, corruption, nepotism, arrogance, elitism, factionalism, manipulating organisational processes, abusing state power, putting self-interest above the people”.
It’s very late, but not too late for the ANC NEC to finally send a clear message to the country and its membership that the acceptance of the corrupt within our ranks will no longer be tolerated and the concerns of the membership and the country about corruption are finally being addressed. That message should begin, not with words, but with action by the NEC, with Bongani Bongo. DM