Corruption going as culture

2013-01-20 10:00

Zuma and Mthembu’s recent comments on the connection between African culture and investing in the ANC are disturbing

Jackson Mthembu, the ANC’s national spokesperson, unwittingly lifted the veil on his leader’s and his party’s disregard for good governance this week.

In his response to my statement condemning President Jacob Zuma’s recent declaration that business leaders should align themselves with the governing party to advance their business ­interests, he claimed, with breathtaking disingenuity, that my complaint was inspired by a lack of knowledge about, and dis-

respect for, “African culture and tradition”.

Despite the ANC’s protestations, the DA will continue to fulfil its oversight role, and I will submit a parliamentary question to Mr ­Zuma in this regard.

I will ask him to clarify and ­retract, both his and Mr Mthembu’s unconstitutional remarks.

In terms of the rules of ­Parliament, the president is bound to reply within 10 days.

Only time will tell if the president will uphold the constitutional principle that is imperilled: the clear separation of state procurement processes from ANC party benefactors and supporters.

The precedents, however, are certainly not encouraging.

Last year, I spoke of how the ANC has created a new class of tenderpreneurs who obtain state contracts by leveraging on their connections with government, using a model that, ironically, replicates the patronage politics of the National Party government during apartheid.

The ANC’s pernicious attitude is that electoral success legitimises cronyism.

South Africa’s governance continues to be dictated by the ANC’s internal machinations and Zuma’s populist leadership.

The resultant economic stagnation leaves our poorest citizens stranded on the margins of society.

This pervasive cancer in our ­society is facilitated by what has been described as “struggle ­accounting”, which is the notion that a certain group of people are exempt from the rules that apply to the rest of us.

Some who made sacrifices to contribute to the struggle for South Africa’s liberation – and many more who did not – believe that they are now entitled to a ­position at the front of the state ­patronage queue.

At the very same time, the ­tenderpreneurs – to whom Mr ­Zuma gave a “nod and wink” last week – carve up ever larger slices of the shrinking cake of state ­resources.

Because the DA wants South ­Africa to be the success story of the second decade of this century, we expect our country to be held to the same bar like any other when it comes to transparency, accountability and uprooting widespread corruption.

We are concerned with reaching an understanding of where the continent is and where it must go.

The tired line of defence the ANC musters, however, is that, somehow, good governance principles and excellence clash with what it means to be “African” – that they undermine “African culture”.

Governing, the ANC forgets, is about delivery and reducing ­poverty.

What the ANC masquerades as African culture is usually a thin guise for racism, ageism and ­entrenched patriarchy.

It also fits into a trend.

Apartheid president PW Botha regularly tried to silence his and the National Party’s detractors by labelling them “communists”.

Former president Thabo Mbeki ­likewise called all critics of the ANC under his leadership “racists”.

And now, Zuma, whenever he comes under fire on legitimate grounds, cries that such criticism is ­“un-African”.

The overarching strategy is to stigmatise the ­opposition and draw attention away from matters of substance.

While we all, of course, cherish cultural identity, it stands outside of the context of good governance.

Africa is not one country; it is a continent covering more than 50 states and countless languages, from Cape Town to Cairo.

To speak of African culture in monotone and monolithic terms is in fact patronising and colonial.

Moreover, identities, including those of Africa’s multitude, are not static.

Africans – black and white – cross cultural barriers every day of their lives.

Our diversity of identities are as fluid as they are beautiful.

As the ANC slides into electoral decline, we will witness an uptick in anti-constitutionalism and the exploitation of distorted notions of African identity.

The DA’s task will soon be to stand on the first page of the end of despair when the ANC’s misrule comes to an end.

» Mazibuko is the DA’s parliamentary leader

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