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We live in the land of the ANC, where the stage is set for their Kabuki performances and the rest of us are props

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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.

It is as if there is no other story in South Africa, other than the ANC’s daily Kabuki performances — never mind that there are other people, processes and states of affairs in the country.

There are times when it seems that everything that is reported in the media or discussed around dinner tables or over a cup of coffee, is about the ANC.

Sure, there’s a global pandemic, which has had a political economic impact on almost every country in the world. Those “delinked” countries such as North Korea do not share information readily with the world, so we remain in the dark about them. Here in South Africa, however, there is mass unemployment, high school or university graduates who can’t find jobs, and people who go to bed hungry every night… But it’s hard to keep the ANC out of the news. It’s even more difficult to separate the ANC from corruption.

There’s an old canard in football journalism — usually aimed at misbehaving footballers — that “you should stay on the back page and never on the front page”. In other words, sports reports are on the back page and scandals are on the front page. It is almost impossible to keep the ANC off the front page; not the government, nor governance, the ANC and its office bearers, members and loyalists. It is, really, all about the ANC.

The daily news is pockmarked by names of ANC members, their associates and deployees, or the body and institutions of the movement: Jacob Zuma, Ace Magashule, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Fikile Mbalula, Bathabile Dlamini, Jessie Duarte, Karl Niehaus, MKVA, Jimmy Manyi, Matshela Koko, Brian Molefe, the ANC’s Integrity Commission, its next elective conference, the next NEC meeting, Angie Motshekga, the National Democratic Revolution, the Radical Economic Transformation faction, deployees demonstrating serious absences of ethics, Cyril Ramaphosa, Zweli Mkhize, Tito Mboweni, Pravin Gordhan, Lindiwe Sisulu, Dudu Myeni, Nomvula Mokonyane, Zola Tsotsi, Malusi Gigaba and Siyabonga Mahlangu, Lindiwe Zulu, Ebrahim Patel, Naledi Pandor, management and institutional failures at Eskom, Prasa, Denel and SARS… We should include Angelo Agrizzi, but he is probably neither a member nor a deployee of the ANC.

Most of these good people — and some of the maladministrators at state-owned enterprises — are associated with almost everything that comes out of the Zondo Commission (The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture).

There is little to gain from contesting the claim that the ANC and its deployees are involved in or close to the hollowing out of the state, of diplomats behaving badly, and charges of attempts at destabilising South Africa or leading the country into failure. While the country’s finances were approaching depletion even before the pandemic started, the ANC’s allies in trade unions threatened strikes or walkouts more often than they dedicated themselves to job creation, investment or the retraining of workers who may be displaced from production and manufacturing processes by robotics and artificial intelligence

On the periphery, some members of the ANC and its allies (old-fashioned communists and revolutionaries), are talking about “delinking” the country, and promoting autarky… All of which is terribly reminiscent of North Korea’s (delinking), or Pol Pot’s Year Zero erasure of everything that preceded him, and starting all over with autarky. It makes you wonder when, as I tried to explain in this space several years ago, we will stop manufacturing locally and import everything — because the ANC and its allies are too busy looking after their own.

Corruption runs deeper than the Guptas and the Zuma years

Now, all of the above has been reported on in some way or another. But things do not seem to be getting any better. The moment that the Zondo Commission was established, or when the #GuptaLeaks story broke, was not the end of corruption and maladministration. Corruption also did not start with the Gupta family. 

City Press reported as far back as 2011 that the former leader of the ANC’s Youth League, Julius Malema, had an insatiable appetite for consumerism and consumption and that his expenditure far outstripped his income.

Also in 2011, it was reported that Malema (as leader of the ANC Youth League, was “doling out state tenders to his pals through a company that is part-owned by his family trust. The Ratanang Family Trust, founded by Malema [who] holds shares in On-Point Engineering, which administers a large part of the multibillion-rand budget of Limpopo’s roads and transport department. This means that Malema has at least indirect influence over who is awarded tenders from a three-year budget allocation of reportedly R4.6-billion.”

It should be stressed that like most witnesses who have appeared before Justice Zondo, On-Point, Malema and the Limpopo transport department have denied everything.

Nonetheless, On-Point Engineering and the Limpopo transport department were implicated in unlawful activities by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in 2012.

“The awarding of [the] tender by the department to On-Point was unlawful, improper and constituted maladministration,” Madonsela said.

The first point raised here is that long before the Zondo Commission and the #GuptaLeaks, there were allegations of corruption against ANC leaders in government. We can go back to 1996 and the Sarafina scandal, which the New York Times said (at the time), placed the spotlight on ANC corruption. In 1997, The Star ran a feature story by Professor Tom Lodge which highlighted the ways in which the police were drenched in corruption. 

The second point is that there has been “blatant corruption” in the ANC for decades, according to Modern Ghana, an online news platform

“… in exile many of the ANC top brass were engaging in corruption of donated money to fund activities of the ANC including uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) and they were beyond reproach. Joe Modise, who was head of MK, was known for driving fancy cars and using 5-star hotels to a point where even Kenneth Kaunda complained as to how was it possible that he could drive fancier cars than even Ministers in Zambia.” 

Finally, even if all of this is not true; that Malema is clean as a whistle, Sarafina was all above board, and Modise was simply misunderstood, there really is a gatvol factor creeping in.

You want to have the ANC know that it is not South Africa, and that its leaders, members, loyalists and deployees (like Hlaudi Motsoeneng or Lucky Montana) are all we ever read about, is actually quite shameful, and damn depressing. It is as if South Africa is merely a stage for the ANC’s daily Kabuki performances, and the rest of us are props that can be moved around at will — or simply ignored.

The longest and most tedious of these theatrics is, currently, around Magashule. Will he or won’t he “move aside” or “step down”. It’s all rather depressing. DM

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  • Good article, Ismael. But the very last sentence is the most telling. It’s all rather depressing! Gosh, in the 7 days, every single article published by DM is rather depressing! Also highlighted by Ferial Haffajee’s article: “Ace going nowhere….”. We certainly are just props of the ANC. I fear this country will again enter into a repeat of the Zuma years, maybe worse, if we are not already in it. The few “better” years after Ramaphosa’s election as President, has gradually disappeared, made worse by the pandemic.

  • Great article! If the vile magashule ever becomes president, then it is curtains for SA! What the odious zuma and his poodles couldn’t finish whilst he was in command, will be fast-tracked in double-quick time and completed. All the progress made by Cyril, albeit gingerly and at a snail’s pace, will be immediately undone. This country’s crime/corruption fighting agencies, SARS etc. will be crippled once more in the interests of protecting him and his scumbags. All those guilty of corruption and their enablers will be pardoned and recycled into positions of power i.e. ministers, parliament, the NEC etc. The media and NGO’s will be muzzled through draconian laws, the courts etc. filled with his compliant poodles, impunity, racism, intolerance of any dissention and corruption on a mammoth scale will be the order of the day. SA will become a dictatorship and a wasteland like his bosom countries Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Cuba etc. This is what is in store for this country.

  • This is about the best article published by DM for a long time. Not that it is a long article packed with facts and proof and witnesses, etc, No, it is a reminder that democracy is under threat in South Africa by THE MEDIA for forgetting the democratic opposition in South Africa.

    • Glyn, virtually every comment you write is about how wonderful the DA is. To blame the media, including DM, for posting articles of fact and opinion about the DA is extremely unfair. Ismail did not once wrote that democracy is under threat by THE MEDIA for……(.read your own sentence)

      • I wrote about the DEMOCRTIC OPPOSITION. That could be any party. Check the first para of the article. – “There are times when it seems that everything that is reported in the media or discussed around dinner tables or over a cup of coffee, is about the ANC.” NOTHING on OTHER parties. Got that? mmm?

  • Ismail Lagardien is spot on. Depressing. The legacy goes way back. I’m reminded of the Hydra: cut one head off and another two grow. It seems our only line of defence is the judiciary (those who haven’t asked to see the money), the NPA and our brave civil activists and investigative journalists. We owe them much.

  • Sounds a lot like how Trump ‘controlled’ the narrative…until twitter (eventually -but long overdue) cut off his access to the platform ?! Who took lessons from whom … is the question ? Given the overly long (not road to freedom) history of the ANC…they must the leaders in this strategy ?

  • It is a shame that you, Ismail, have to write this article. This country with such a treasure chest of talent must be a leader in Africa . Instead we just manage to survive. Young people leave school and university with little hope of landing a job! ANC membership is your ticket to the good life!

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