Defend Truth


Many faces on our ballot papers simply have no right to be there


Zukiswa Pikoli is Daily Maverick's Managing Editor for Gauteng news and Maverick Citizen where she was previously a journalist and founding member of the civil society focused platform. Prior to this she worked in civil society as a communications and advocacy officer and has also worked in the publishing industry as an online editor.

The candidate lists of the political parties contesting the 29 May elections are out now, and if you weren’t convinced about South Africa’s vacuum of moral leadership, the contents of these lists might help you along.

Corruption and State Capture are not new and didn’t start in 1994 or with Jacob Zuma, and neither did they end after he left public office. It has been found to be endemic in our state and business institutions. Zuma merely gave government corruption a face and a dance, and Markus Jooste became the poster boy for corporate corruption in recent times.

The non-profit organisation Open Secrets has shared the archives of where the apartheid government got its funding, what it did in exchange for it and how that shaped the country and its institutions.

A while back I gave a talk about the impact of State Capture on the ordinary person as a way of showing that it is not a victimless crime, as Zuma once claimed. The claim was obviously designed to detract from several charges levelled against him by the National Prosecuting Authority, including 12 counts of fraud, four counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and one of racketeering.

Some may have conveniently forgotten this inconvenient truth, but many of us haven’t – which makes it all the more staggering to see where the former president’s latest reinvention has landed him.

The candidate lists of the political parties contesting the 29 May elections are out now, and if you weren’t convinced about our moral leadership vacuum, the contents of these lists might help you along.

The very president who was mired in generally corrupt dealings and forced to step down because of the collective pressure of citizens, civil society and his own party, the ANC, and thereafter did a short stint in prison is back – and he’s looking for your vote.

This time he appears as the controversial uMkhonto Wesizwe party’s number one candidate, which implies he is looking to get your X next to his face on the ballot paper.

So the question then is: What kind of system would allow someone of that low calibre the chance of getting back into public office? Surely someone seeking to ascend to high office must be of unimpeachable standing? However, perhaps the issue is not only to look to political parties to ensure this, but also at the rigours of our elections mechanisms and regulations.

Zuma is a prime example of people who are implicated in and found guilty of wrongdoing being shuffled from position to position without facing any real consequences for their actions. Someone like him should not be allowed the opportunity to get close to the helm of state institutions again.

Activist organisations produce report after report and recommendation  after recommendation. I know, because I’ve read and written about them – Corruption Watch on the public sectors most vulnerable to corruption, Open Secrets on the private sector and economic crimes, Lawyers for Human Rights on the state of migrants and refugees, the Treatment Action Campaign on the health sector crisis.

Just two weeks ago the civil society working group on State Capture released a report calling for the urgent implementation of the Zondo Commission’s recommendations, especially as we head towards the elections. 

Yet now it seems we’ll be experiencing an unpleasant case of déjà vu on our ballot papers. But who’s listening? DM

Footnote: Since writing the column, the IEC has announced that Zuma wass not allowed to stand for election. He can still appeal that decision.

This article first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick newspaper, DM168, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Paul T says:

    The system is flawed, but its not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that citizens, who gave been given the right to vote, do not use that vote wisely. They tend to believe whatever charms come out of the mouths of people who look and speak like them, rather rhan focusing critically on the content of their speeches and weigh that up against their behaviour. Its not unique to South Africa, its all over. Underwhelming and downright terrifying people end up in power because the citizens put them there.

  • Jabu Mhlanga says:

    Boggles one’s mind…question of not seeing woods for trees. Political impulsive voters, like certain politicians are very malignant.

  • Jean Matier Moore says:

    It would be immensely helpful to voters if Corruption Watch, or knowledgeable journalists, could put together a party-neutral analysis of all candidates who have been linked to State Capture or other forms of corruption. This could guide wiser voting decisions.

  • Johan Buys says:

    If our system allowed one to buy a voter’s choice : how many votes could I get on Election Day for say R5,000 in crisp notes? None, 2, 20, 50? I suspect for R200 cash I could vote 25 times 🙁

    • District Six says:

      No, you can’t.
      Do you even know how voting works in SA? What an ignorant comment. Please go volunteer in a voting station before you make offensive statements.

  • ST ST says:

    I think the failure to prosecute by those who should affords room for master manipulators to explain away and manoeuvre out of the truth. So it’s more complex than voter ignorance. The fear and feeling disenfranchised, or ignored etc. We saw that with Brexit and Trump. People voted NP here for years and would have continued to do so if SA and international citizens didn’t rise up. Not many of whose who benefited questioned the status quo.

    I also think it’s an important point you’re raising Zukiswa that corruption was there before. I think if we can accept these basic truths, we can start focusing on dealing with corruption rather always making it a race issue.

    Corruption exists everywhere but it has long been normalised is SA by both authorities and ordinary citizens. It used to be one way some disenfranchised people could avoid further persecution or get a job or food. So it’s deep in our fabric. A lot of work is needed to cleanse SA of that.

  • Micheal Steyn says:

    I believe that the lack of comprehension and action from our civil society is a direct reflection of the level of education and severe shortfall in critical reasoning that is being instituted by our current educational system and the legacy of Apartheid education. Undereducate them so they are easy to manipulate, gullible to propaganda and slow to react.

  • Willie Van der Schyf says:

    Vote with your head, not your heart.

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