Two celebrated books — one Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s Gangster State, another Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers — are respectively an unflinching examination of the ANC’s top leadership in the post-Zuma era and an exposé of the darkest secrets at the heart of Jacob Zuma’s compromised government. They lead readers to a disconcerting conclusion: when it comes to the forces of capture, South Africa is still far from safe.
In the wake of, and despite these revelations, large swathes of the media and commentariat have however largely bought into the narrative that the “good” ANC personified by President Cyril Ramamphosa is feverishly attempting to deal with the rot of corruption. This lamentable mixture of confirmation bias and self-fulfilling prophecy continues to dominate reportage and perpetuates a fallacy without any real examination of the structurally embedded toxicity in ANC structures and modus operandi.
Let’s start with Ramaphosa. This former trade unionist, struggle stalwart and Codesa negotiator was “made” a billionaire — selected by the ANC to become a major beneficiary in empowerment deals. These deals were aimed at creating wealth outside of the ANC formal structures to entrust selected individuals to gain access to not only substantial wealth, but also to ensure that such beneficiaries would donate substantial monies to the ANC. This is an unassailable fact and is as true now as it was then.
It set the scene for an extension, as the ANC consolidated its control of state-owned enterprises and municipalities to access tenders, opportunities to skim vast sums of money, initiate scams and foster unvarnished theft.
The recently announced “privatisation” of SAA by Minister Pravin Gordhan — Ramaphosa’s “Mr Clean” — is a case in point. Whatever the spin, 51% of the new SAA entity has been given to a consortium comprising ANC bigwigs, dubious acolytes and recipients of funding from the Public Investment Corporation. No one in the consortium has any skin in the game and the much-touted private equity play has embraced cost-adding BEE and “transformative” structures while building on a history of chronic mismanagement and eye-watering losses — this in a global aviation environment that has been ravaged by Covid-19 and that will take many years to weather, even if run tightly and not burdened by “transformative” costs and the continued dead hand of state involvement.
Still, the media and commentariat have welcomed this as a step in the right direction. That Ramaphosa has been forced by the ANC-fostered electricity crisis we currently face in Eskom to accelerate and expand the generative capacity of independent power producers is largely lost on the same commentators who have hailed the move as a bold bid by the audacious rather than a last gasp of the desperate.
Meanwhile, whistle-blowers keen to expose ongoing systemic corruption in SOEs abound. The gangster state thrives at all levels, from in-house cable theft and subsequent contracts that involve the thieves to supply to state housing initiatives, to the wholesale illegal supply of electricity coupons on a scale that emboldens the perpetrators to shamelessly flaunt processions of expensive motor cars — Bentleys, Maseratis and Mercedes Benzes — to the township populations in some sort of perverse incentive- and aspiration-setting example.
At a municipal level, hundreds of contracts across townships that have led to the installation of exercise equipment costing tens of thousands of rands but installed at the cost of millions are a long-established practice. In the Ekurhuleni Metro, the ANC regime of mayor Mzwandile Masina launched, with much fanfare, the Lungile Mtshali Project, ostensibly to improve the lives of local communities — at the cost of R1-million per ward — which is mired in controversy and allegations of graft involving the tenders for the exercise equipment and the preferential employment of ANC members. From Emfuleni to Ekurhuleni to Ethekwini, city officials are gunned down in internecine battles for the spoils.
At a local level, the pressure of urban sprawl on land in Johannesburg and the impact on essential services is an ongoing saga and provides a setting for a telling tale of ongoing theft, intimidation and control by ANC councillors. The story starts in Midrand, in 2002 when a group of residents of Ward 111 (Ivory Park) established a community on Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) land. They did this out of desperation. They were promised houses on the 1996 Gauteng Provincial Housing List; however, the list was never promulgated and the ANC allegedly only gave land to the politically connected.
The community was established and residents received stand numbers in line with squatter rights for residential property. Themba Khoza and Lindokuhle have been in existence since then and have been in a perpetually dismal state. The shacks that pass for housing are back-to-back, with no sewage, limited access to water and electricity and no street lights for essential security. The access roads are all potholed sand roads that pass homes without toilets. In the event of fire or a health emergency, there is zero access for vehicles. Ten shacks/families share a portable toilet between them and there are only 20 taps shared between a 3,000 strong population. Yet in all the previous elections they still voted ANC — and one has to wonder why.
The DA’s Proportional Representative Councillor (PR) in the area, Nicola du Plessis, was called into the community by residents to investigate an illegal church that has made its home in Themba Khoza. Her investigation revealed that the church is illegally accessing electricity and water from the shacks around it and has blocked a municipal access road to the community. It occupies land large enough for 40 shacks or a prospective site for a sorely needed early childhood development centre to be put up.
In addition, she has learnt of an eviction order from 2015 that has not been actioned by either the JMPD or SAPS and it is alleged that the ANC ward councillor is protecting the church. Councillor Du Plessis spoke to the church pastor who insists that the ANC ward councillor has signed off on the contract for the church to occupy the land in spite of the requirement that no councillor has the authority to sign a contract on behalf of a municipality.
After a meeting with the housing department, she was referred to the JPC and set up a meeting to discuss the illegal occupation by the church. The JPC arranged for her to meet all the relevant departments as the community, in line with her role as a PR councillor of the City of Johannesburg. However, the day before, the ANC councillor of Ward 111 cancelled the meeting on the grounds that she controls all meetings in “her” ward.
This flagrant abuse of power and misuse of legislation that manages local government was followed by intimidation of many residents in Ward 111. The ANC councillor defamed their characters in front of witnesses for working with the Democratic Alliance and she has ensured that they are followed and tracked by her network of acolytes in the community.
As a result, one of the residents was entrapped and imprisoned for two days on spurious charges. I have yet to get the case number as the Ivory Park Police Station refuses to give the resident his case number, even though he was forced to pay R1,700 “bail money” to get out of jail on the third day. No receipt was issued.
There is so much more to this story, that points to the ANC’s shenanigans in the area. Moreover, it is a tale that is not exclusive to Themba Khoza and Lindokuhle. The practice of supplying food parcels in this community to ANC card-carrying members only, the ongoing intimidation of others as evinced by the entrapment and imprisoning of a resident who stood up against the corruption he sees daily, is lamentably a regular and widespread occurrence.
Surely this vice grip of unscrupulous councillors propped up by the ANC needs to be countered? By comparison, countless DA PR and ward councillors relentlessly champion the rights of the affected people in these areas and the municipalities where the DA governs continue to be examples of decent and dispassionate service delivery.
Notwithstanding this, many appear closed to exposing these egregious transgressions that plague the ANC at all levels — national, provincial and municipal. Instead, they continue to disingenuously paint the DA as a racist party, hell-bent on resurrecting apartheid and using black members to achieve this.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth that needs to be highlighted is the manner in which the ongoing forces of capture, control and embedded graft are pervasively present in the machinations of the ANC despite the smoke and mirrors employed at all levels to present a narrative of change that in reality gives credence to the old adage — the more things change, the more they stay the same. DM