'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
ANC legacy of corruption is South Africa's true danger by Terry Bell
Jacob Zuma is a symptom of a much deeper malaise
fall," is the slogan voiced by many who are concerned about the situation
the country finds itself in. But Jacob Zuma is not the primary problem, he is
merely a symptom of a much deeper malaise that afflicts the governing party.
To remove Zuma now
would merely remove one particularly compromised individual, without in any way
changing the system that put him in his position in the first place. The legacy
of decades of compromise and corruption would continue, with many of the same
role players in place. It would, to a large extent, be business as usual.
As such, the Gupta
family may or may not go. Or they may move to the margins of influence as
Shabir Shaik did after his release from prison on medical grounds. Other
players may shuffle forward or back into the shadows, but the rot mentioned in
the complaint by Chris Hani and others in 1969 will remain.
Hani and six of his
comrades penned a memorandum complaining of the nepotism, rot and corruption in
the ANC after the shambles of the Wankie and Sipolilo campaigns of 1967/8. For
his pains a hearing was held, and he was sentenced to death, a sentence later
overturned by then acting ANC president OR Tambo. Hani left the ANC for a time
before being persuaded to return.
But the same
complaints voiced in the Hani memorandum had already resulted in a more
dramatic protest in 1966. Then 29 MK fighters commandeered a truck in the
Kongwa camp in Tanzania in a attempt to drive to Lusaka to protest to Tambo
about the fact that they had been stranded for years in Tanzania.
There were also
violent clashes and complaints about corruption, tribalism and the relative
high life of unelected commanders. Fast forward to the
1980s and the same problems persisted, resulting in perhaps the most brutal
episodes in ANC exile history. By then, the 1976 student uprising had
catapulted the ANC to greater global prominence and triggered a massive
outpouring of aid from quarters other than the then Soviet bloc. But the
Russians still held sway over those who commanded the ANC’s armed wing MK and,
on the latest available evidence, held back the development of an underground
guerrilla war in South Africa.
However, the huge
influx of cash and goods from clothing to shoes and canned food opened up more
opportunities for unscrupulous operators in a movement already riddled with
corruption. That so much was condoned was a symptom of the fact that the
leadership feared any crackdown that affected those in powerful positions might
result in schisms. So what crackdowns there were, were directed at lower ranks
or individual commanders whenever there was any hint of dissidence.
The rationale was
quite simple: the ANC was a broad church that claimed to be the only true
representative of the people of South Africa. So to in any way challenge the
unity of such a movement was seen as tantamount to treason. And that unity
relied on a leadership whose word was law.
The situation in exile
and the fact that the ANC was effectively at war with the apartheid state were
the reasons given for the need for members on the ground never to question the
commands from above; these had to be accepted as being correct and meaningful
because only the leadership was in full possession of all the facts and knew
Those who challenged
this situation were clearly opposing the leadership, and therefore opposing the
people of South Africa. It could then be concluded that they were working in
the interests of the apartheid state and were, in effect, enemy agents.
of the ANC by the security services of the apartheid government was a fact.
Agents, it is now known, were trained at bases such as the farm known as
Rietvlei. And particularly in the 1970s, the main “escape route” into exile for
rebellious youth was operated by the South African security police.
Well versed in
“psyops” — psychological warfare — the apartheid security services benefited
from the sowing of paranoia within the exile movement. A level of this had
existed since the early exile days, but it reached new heights by the 1980s. The autocratic
attitudes of leaders and the undemocratic method of operation in the exile camps
was fertile ground for dissidence. And dissidence was simplistically equated
with enemy action that could only be dealt with harshly. This was the role of
Mbokodo (the grinding stone), the ANC security apparatus.
What the ANC
leadership - which may itself have been infiltrated at various levels -
did not understand was that trained agents would not make targets of themselves
by being openly dissident. They would, instead, play the role of super
loyalists and, if possible, seek positions in the security apparatus. They
would willingly — and often with extreme brutality — carry out the instructions
of security chiefs to “deal” with dissidents, so creating further
Today, in a
parliamentary dispensation, it is no longer possible to condone dealing with
dissidence in such a way. But the exile legacy of autocracy and corruption — in
many ways a mirror image of the apartheid state — persists. What former Cosatu
general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi called the “voting cattle” have no power;
that is vested in a patronage-soaked executive and parliamentarians and cabinet
members who owe their positions, careers and pensions to the chief.
This situation does
not make South Africa that much different from many other countries around the
world. But in this time of ongoing economic crisis and an apparent slide into
barbarism in several regions, it is perhaps time to act to bring about
thoroughgoing political, social and economic change.