Harsh truths a failing ANC must pick up from Sparta

2015-04-12 15:00

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We are often so preoccupied with current events that we run the risk of forgetting some of history’s most important lessons. I have been fascinated with the history of ancient Greece and noticed striking parallels between the ANC and the Spartans.

Sparta and the ANC fought to be free from oppression in their own countries – brought about by Athenians and the apartheid system, respectively.

The Spartans’ single-mindedness allowed them to forge one of the most powerful infantries in the world, which eventually defeated the Athenian armies and took over ancient Greece.

Due to international pressure and sanctions against the apartheid state, the ANC was unbanned and emerged victorious in the 1994 democratic elections.

In Greece, the Athenians were forced to hand over their wealth, land and power. The ANC gained political power and access to the wealth of the country.

Spartan commanders were deployed as governors to conquered city states in Greece. As a result, they succumbed to the worst forms of corruption. They were surrounded by wealth and luxuries inherited from the Athenians. The temptation was too much for commanders such as Lysander and Gylippus. They enriched themselves to such an extent that people refused to serve under them.

When the ANC government came to power in 1994, cadres did not have the experience and skills to run the economy and were forced to learn on the job. That proved disastrous. The only thing the ANC cadres and Spartans knew was fighting apartheid and the Athenians, respectively. They were trained in warfare, not politics and the economy.

Twenty-one years into democracy, South Africa has been hammered by the effects of maladministration and squandering of public sector resources. SAA, the SA Post Office and Eskom are perfect examples of state-owned companies being run into the ground.

This is due to the chopping and changing of incompetent management, which has failed to make these companies profitable – despite being bailed out by the state many times. It is clear the governing party has sacrificed agility for mediocrity in the governance of the country. They would rather employ an incompetent submissive cadre than a qualified candidate from the private sector.

As a result, over the past five years, R30?billion has been spent on consultants – to outsource duties that are supposed to be performed by public servants.

According to the Institute of Internal Auditors, South Africa has lost R700?billion to corruption since 1994 and there is no accountability from our leaders. President Jacob Zuma is untouchable and feels invincible, as we have recently witnessed in the National Assembly when he maintained that he would not pay back the money.

Who exactly is our president accountable to? The no-confidence vote format is not effective, as the president will continue to do as he pleases without consequences.

Sparta had two co-kings to keep each other on their toes and, if one was not performing, ephors or senior magistrates had the power to indict a king. If impeached, the king would be decrowned.

At least Spartans knew warfare was in their national interest. The ANC government is confused about its national interest – is it black imperialism, land ownership or dictating offer terms to foreign investors on a take-it-or-leave-it basis?

One might wonder why I haven’t compared the current state of government to other failed African states. The governing party has political power and minimal influence on the private sector, which is keeping the South African economy afloat. The strong foundation of the local economy was laid down more than a century ago.

The governing party and its cadres need to outgrow their participation in the struggle against apartheid and adapt to solving the current challenges facing the country.

Sparta fell 30 years after coming to power.

The ANC has been plagued by corruption scandals and the failure to address them. It seems there is honour among thieves and I’m afraid they are heading towards the same fate as Sparta.

Nqabeni is a former foreign trade specialist at Tradepoint SA and the author of a self-published ebook, Love in Outer Space

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