[I've been pointing out the downhill path of South Africa for over 20 years. The end of White Rule is the worst thing that has ever happened to this country. Jan]
Monday, 12 September 2022
OPINION: South Africa’s falling apart
09 September 2022
William Saunderson-Meyer says the country is experiencing a spectacular unravelling after decades of rotten ANC rule
After the erratic tenure of his predecessor Mogoeng Mogoeng, it is unfortunate that Raymond Zondo will have to retire in 2024, after only two years as Chief Justice. However, he is making admirable use of the brief window of political impunity and public stature afforded him by his high office.
Last week, speaking at News24’s On the Record Summit, Zondo addressed the government’s attempts to smother in treacle the findings of his Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. So far, the African National Congress has been all fine words but no action.
Zondo told the summit that ANC MPs were an incorrigible bunch of crooks and, should state capture again rear its avaricious head, Parliament lacked the balls to do anything but roll over and wag a welcoming tail. Not quite those words, admittedly. Being a judicious man, Zondo phrased it more politely. But that’s pretty much the nub of it.
Zondo said a key question arising from his mammoth inquiry was why Parliament had never properly exercised its constitutional task of oversight and put an end to state capture when it was first exposed. He then answered his rhetorical question: “[It] did not stop it because the majority party didn’t want to stop it.”.
“Many times, opposition parties tabled motions for the establishment of inquiries to look into the allegations of the influence of the Guptas on [former president Jacob Zuma]. A number of parties also tabled motions of no confidence … as a way of trying to stop this. But, of course, the majority party would have nothing to do with it.”
If an attempt at state capture occurred again, said Zondo, he doubted that ANC MPs would act any differently. For the future of South Africa, these were “very difficult” matters that had to be addressed, he warned.
Parliament, predictably, is acting all hurt. The leaders of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces say they are “concerned” by Zondo’s remarks and are to meet him to explain that they’re, in fact, all good to go. Well, almost.
Ignoring the legal opinion they solicited, Parliament’s Ethics Committee has not been convened to investigate implicated MPs. Nor have they made any other attempts to address Zondo’s finding. On the contrary, they have signalled that they will fight to the death to preserve the cadre deployment policies that he found to be unconstitutional.
Nevertheless, they say they will move as soon as President Cyril Ramaphosa draws up his “action plan” to address Zondo’s findings. In the meanwhile, “further analysis is being undertaken internally” to work out what Parliament should do.
The short answer, of course, would be to grow a spine. But that’s not going to happen overnight in an amoeba, which is what Parliament has shown itself to be over the past 26 years of unrestrained thieving.
It should not be forgotten that the Zondo Commission’s findings are only a snapshot of what took place. The Commission’s terms of reference restricted its investigations to the Zuma years of 2009 to 2018, but while Zuma was the most unabashedly blatant of the ANC presidents in his enabling state capture, he was neither the first nor the last.
Before 2009, it was Thabo Mbeki who set the train rolling, when he helped thwart the exposure of his ANC’s colleagues’ corrupt involvement in the 1999 arms deal, which eventually cost the country R142bn by the time it was paid for in 2020. And from 2018 onwards, it’s Cyril Ramaphosa —for all his clutching of pearls in mock outrage and his strenuous panting in mock effort — who has been complicit.
To be fair to both men, when heading a band of brigands it makes good sense to look the other way. In a party where there is virtually no minister who has not been implicated in some kind of malfeasance, political corruption can at best be managed, not eradicated. That’s certainly the situation if a president hopes to survive long enough to claim a second term.
In Ramaphosa’s case, that strategy has two legs.
The first is to continue to protect the policies of cadre deployment and transformation that exist chiefly to give ANC members accelerated admission to the wealthy elite. The second is to use selective law enforcement to keep at bay Ramaphosa’s enemies within the party, while shielding as much as is feasible while claiming to be a “corruption buster”, his powerful criminal allies in the Cabinet and on the party’s national executive committee.
As a result, the scale of South Africa’s unravelling has been breathtaking. Through a combination of bad policies and ANC-sanctioned thievery, every thread of the country’s infrastructural tapestry, laboriously laid down over centuries, has been shredded and frayed to snapping point.
Roads, railways and ports, schools, clinics and hospitals, power stations, city halls — even the National Assembly building itself — have been either destroyed or reduced by criminals, saboteurs and incompetents to barely functioning parodies of what they were half a century ago.
The scale of state-capture criminality has been so enormous as to become meaningless to the average citizen. Credible estimates put the cost of looting during Zuma’s second presidential term at around R1.5trn (US$85bn). To give it some context, that’s well over 80% of the government’s 2019 budget.
At every step, Parliament covered its ears. So, too, did Ramaphosa. When giving evidence to the Commission, Ramaphosa insisted that the ANC had been unaware of what was going on. Government ministers and officials “were working in silos” so despite the media exposés and whistleblower revelations, never comprehended the extent of the problem.
As I commented at the time, Ramaphosa didn’t attribute any blame to any specific ANC politician or functionary, not once. It was always “some people” who had done bad things “sometimes”. There were “lapses”, “errors” and “system failures”, but not a single name attached to a single person.
The ANC is irredeemably rotten. And since it dominates Parliament, the oversight branch of our democracy cannot function properly. Unless that is remedied, soon, the race to the bottom will accelerate.
In 1980, JM Coetzee’s dystopian novel, Waiting for the Barbarians, depicted the colonial oppressors as being far more savage than the oppressed barbarians they feared. Post-1994, the reality is turning out to be far more complex and bleak than Coetzee was able to conceive.
Fortunately for him, Coetzee had sufficient foresight to parlay his 2002 Nobel Prize for Literature into Australian citizenship.