This post first appeared on Daily Maverick on 8 December, 2017
The Guptas’ skin colour pulled our collective attention to the place behind the curtain, forcing many of us to realise there was a curtain.
Nomvula Mokonyane, ANC NEC member and Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation, said “white monopoly capital” may lack “the brashness of the Gupta family”, but it definitely exists and its dealings with State-owned Enterprises escape “wider scrutiny”.
This adds weight to the idea that far from liberating black people and fighting corruption, the ruling party keeps black people poor as its members liberate tax money through unsavoury relationships between State-owned Enterprises and capital.
When western (political and economic) powers no longer had a red enemy to retain South Africa as an ally against, apartheid was dead. Former president FW de Klerk unbanned the ANC because the liberation movement would have realised it “could not achieve a revolutionary victory within the foreseeable future”.
We need to right-size efforts against apartheid with historical facts instead of measuring them by their emotive impact on us or by their cost to those who made those efforts, if we are to understand the ANC’s relationships with disgraced software companies, auditing firms and media conglomerates. Only by centring the explanation that the ANC was meant to help with looting all along can we contextualise the Zuma faction’s attempt at pre-arranging a December electoral outcome that will leave the party with some semblance of “unity”.
President Nelson Mandela’s term was the one time we suppressed our country’s “capturedness” — to let some pressure out of the valve, as it were — after which the ANC embraced its role as the visible fall guy with gusto. As long as there was a (black) government to blame, there was no need to scrutinise the private sector.
It’s as though the National Party’s negotiations with the ANC was its saying, “You may judge us for apartheid now, but once you’re in our shoes you’ll know it was the lesser of two evils.” The ANC “liberated” South Africa by cloaking the exchange of keys to the same car in a peace that cannot last and is therefore not peace at all. South Africa’s usefulness to the global economy lies in its openness for labour/resource extraction at low cost. If you hope to remain a politician in a world where they’re a dime a dozen, you have to set up a system that will allow you to keep some people desperately poor (with permission from your richer constituencies) otherwise the economy in your stewardship is useless to the Powers-That-Be. Think Arms Deal. The Guptas’ skin colour pulled our collective attention to the place behind the curtain, forcing many of us to realise there was a curtain.
When millions of grown adults wage culture wars and overspend for the birth of a Saviour whom nothing in the New Testament connects to 25 December, is it so difficult to believe members of the ANC make money off the myth that the party exists for the liberation of black people when news headlines — and Mokonyane’s confession — show it more beholden to the cluster of businesses the old government was in bed with? The shamefulness of corruption exposés serves to embolden shameless politicians and their comrades. This fatigues the public’s sensitivity to scandal, which frees morepoliticians to do it.
One also wonders whether the Constitution was designed to make it difficult for the courts to force the Executive and Parliament to do their jobs. Though communism has blind spots, its adherents are correct when they describe corruption as the sport politicians play with private business. A corrupt businessperson wouldn’t need to know whether his ambitions would be most likely frustrated by scrutiny from courts or regulation from Parliament to know that divide and conquer alwaysworks. The separation of powers put in to save us can also drag processes out forever. Is it really an accident that our Executive is crooked, our Parliament is complicit in said crookery and our Judiciary can only serve to highlight the country’s impotence against those disembowelling it — further emboldening thievery? Have Russia in the US and Bell Pottinger in SA not taught us that nothing happens by accident?
With UBaba kaDuduzane’s ascent to the ANC’s pinnacle in Polokwane 10 years ago, the refined dining of white-collar criminals that this system was designed for was dragged down into the savage feeding frenzy of common, bare-faced thugs who’d decided it was their turn. This has decidedly focused our attention on every move government makes. One begins to wonder whether the reason ratings agencies (which have also been caught in scandals) don’t think South Africa is “safe” for investment is that under the penetrating gaze of our investigative journalists, our government will, willingly or not, “kiss and tell” as to which businesses have bedded it — ruining those businesses’ reputations abroad.
Never an organisation to miss a historical opportunity for self-enrichment, the ANC will use the elective conference to capitalise on its own shame and position itself as the only thing that can save us from its own role in the country’s demise. Whether it presents multiple faces for its branches to ostensibly choose from, or overtly prearranges deputy presidency compromises to blunt the blow to whichever faction loses, it’s playing for 2019 numbers because at its core, the ANC is more about securing permission to dine with “white monopoly capital” or the brash Gupta family than it is about anything else.
Dr Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I believe Minister Mokonyane.
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