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Opinionista

The ANC is a runaway train, South Africans are the passengers – and the baggage

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Ismail Lagardien is a writer, columnist and political economist with extensive exposure and experience in global political economic affairs. He was educated at the London School of Economics, and holds a PhD in International Political Economy.

The only thing that is certain is that the new generation of ANC members seems at least as corruptible and perfidious as the previous one – who are still among us. The new blood have made it clear that any inquiry of corruption in the movement will have to go through them. They have ignored Cyril Ramaphosa’s warning that corruption has tarnished the party’s brand.

The ANC has become a runaway train. Sadly, it seems, the train driver, Cyril Ramaphosa, has lost control. The tragedy before us is that we are all passengers and baggage on this runaway train, our fate is undetermined, and in the hands of the ANC. They are, however, in a duel among themselves; between “the Ramaphosa faction” and the “Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma faction”. We don’t know what will happen to us…

The ANC is (now) standing on top of the locomotive, like the villainous character, Manny, played by Jon Voight, in Runaway Train, approaching the point of complete destruction. That’s when the screen goes blank, the film ends, and there appears, in type, on a darkened screen, words from Shakespeare’s Richard III that reminds the viewer of the cruelty, and the beastly nature of human beings:

“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore am no beast.”

Like all good films, this passage leaves the viewer to reach their own conclusions. If, then, the ANC may be likened to the villainous Manny, who, we must remind ourselves, was an escaped prisoner, and who by happenstance ended up on a runaway train after escaping prison, and was so depraved a human that his cell doors had been welded shut for three years. “He is not a human being,” the viewer is told earlier in the story, “he is an animal”. Manny is prepared to take everyone on the locomotive down with him, for in Shakespearean terms, even the fiercest of wild animals has a touch of pity, but the ANC knows nought about pity. The country, the passengers and baggage don’t know what the future will bring. All we can do is watch as the locomotive now disconnected from society charges to its destructive destiny.

Inter-generational depravity and perfidy

To extend the film analogy a little further, over the past 10 days or so we have seen a scale and scope of nepotism, corruption, manipulation and exploitation of regulation, and of the law, that resembles the vastness of a scene from Akira Kurosawa’s wide-screen masterpiece, Ran. As a footnote, Runaway Train was an adaptation of a Kurosawa screenplay.

Among the “first” generation of leaders were those who stepped off Robben Island and stood tall. Those who arrived from abroad, people like Joe Modise and Jacob Zuma, took it as their time to eat. Among them was the leader of the ANC’s Youth League, one Julius Malema, who reportedly doled out tenders to his friends in Limpopo while he was still in the ruling alliance.

It is this first generation’s misdeeds that poisoned the wells of society for the first 25 years of democracy. We came to speak of State Capture. What became very clear, very soon, was that identifying the problems (corruption, cronyism, prebendalism, predation, the hollowing out of parts of the state, and the entwinement of the state and organised criminals), did not mean the problem went away. It’s like when apartheid formally ended in 1994, it did not mean that racism, or centuries of white privilege stopped, abruptly. The clever folk in Stellenbosch simply changed their stripes – though not their spots.

It is, today, almost as if at the moment when State Capture was first brought to light, the new generation of leaders, public servants, office-bearers and family members picked up the golden baton and ran with it. This new generation has provided evidence of a depth of depravity, and of perfidy that is as brazen and astonishing as it is alarming. This “new wave” of corruption was the basis of my suggestion, a month ago, that we should stop referring to State Capture in the past tense and broaden the concept to reflect the totality of “capture”.

We come then to new names, new misdemeanours and new ugliness that started at the top, in a manner of speaking. The president’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, who sits on the ANC’s provincial executive committee, mind you, has had to step down after revelations of alleged corruption. It has been reported that the Gauteng health department has been sucked into corruption claims (at best abuse, manipulation or exploitation of tender regulations) when a personal protective equipment contract of R125-million went to Royal Bhaca Project whose sole director is Thandisizwe Diko – husband of the presidential spokesperson. This case implicated Loyiso Masuku, spouse of Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku. Loyiso Masuku is the City of Johannesburg’s MMC for group corporate and shared services.

The problem for us, the passengers on this Runaway Train is, that the ANC, not in words, in deeds – as shown above, and as well reported across the media – have unhooked the carriages of the runaway train and has left us to hopelessness and uncertainty while they stand on the locomotive headed for certain death. 

Add to the list of new-generation villains, ANC MP Boy Mamabolo who has, reportedly, threatened to shoot journalist Ngwako Malatji and kick his testicles after accusing him of “writing ‘shit’ about him”. Another new generation cadre, Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo, has been asked by the ANC’s Integrity Committee to step down from his position. The committee’s chairperson, George Mashamba, reportedly wrote to Masondo asking him to voluntarily step down, given accusations made against him that he had used his influence as deputy minister to set the Hawks on a former lover. Reportedly, WhatsApp messages between Masondo and a 30-year-old woman (who asked not to be named) suggested it was Masondo who had first offered money because he “wanted peace” and the fighting between them to stop. Masondo was accused of bullying the woman into having an abortion, and her wanting the two families to discuss damages.

Wait, we’re not done. While the jury is still out on the “Gangster State” allegedly established by Ace Magashule while he was premier of the Free State, his two sons reportedly got into the feeding trough like rats down a sewer.

It was revealed last week that the Free State provincial treasury awarded contracts worth R2.7-million to Magashule’s sons, Tshepiso and Thato. According to the Free State’s tender bulletin, Motheko Projects received a contract worth R2.29-million from the provincial treasury. The latest tender bulletin, published on 17 July, contains the names of around 70 businesses that received contracts for Covid-19-related goods and services, with a combined value of R173-million. The list includes the names of Motheko Projects and Marvel Deeds. Tshepiso is the ANC secretary-general’s eldest son and the sole director of Motheko Projects. Thato Magashule is listed as the sole director of Marvel Deeds. 

Let’s remind ourselves that over the past week or so there have also been reports that Tuwo Rhodesia, a company owned by former minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s daughter Katleho, was handed a R2.7-million contract to supply soap to Gauteng’s health department. And to kick more dirt into the ANC president’s eyes, his son Andile is reported to be involved in a project to provide a safety feature for taxis to limit the spread of Covid-19, through his non-profit company SDI Force.

The war looks over, and it seems like the good guys lost

It is usually good practice to treat a spat between spouses with due privacy. But when it is a former finance minister, Malusi Gigaba, who once, allegedly, filmed himself performing a lewd act and sent it to his wife, and is an ANC MP who made an ass of himself in Parliament when he showed a fellow member of Parliament his little finger, the hairs on your neck stand up. And so, it was reported late last week that Malusi Gigaba’s wife, Norma, was arrested by the Hawks to see if her alleged involvement in damaging a friend’s car was in any way part of a previous “threat” on her husband’s life in June.

We could go on, and on, but the only thing that is certain is that the new generation seems at least as corruptible and perfidious as the previous one – they too, for the record, are still among us. Late last week and over the weekend, the “pre-Nasrec faction” of the ANC made it clear that any inquiry of corruption in the movement will have to go through them. This faction, which seems to have grown substantially since Nasrec, has all but ignored the ANC president’s opening address in which he reportedly warned the ANC executive that corruption has tarnished the party’s brand.

I disagree slightly with my colleague Richard Poplak who wrote last week that “Cyril Ramaphosa does not lead South Africa. No one does.” Evidence of corruption and cronyism, prebendalism and tender-manipulation, jobs for pals, favours for family, and general perfidy, are what brings the old generation and the new generation of ANC members together. They lead the country.

The problem for us, the passengers on this Runaway Train is, that the ANC, not in words, in deeds – as shown above, and as well reported across the media – have unhooked the carriages of the runaway train and has left us to hopelessness and uncertainty while they stand on the locomotive headed for certain death. 

It is in Shakespeare’s Richard III where we find the most chilling response to the ending of the film Runaway Train. When the villain says he knows no pity, Shakespeare’s Anne replies, “O, wonderful, when devils tell the truth!” DM

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