Moral bankruptcy

2009-02-14 00:00

Not two weeks ago, African National Congress spokesman Carl Niehaus was criticising the judicial system for its handling of the proceedings against party president Jacob Zuma on his charges of fraud and corruption. Now it has emerged — but only because the Mail and Guardian newspaper unearthed the facts — that Niehaus himself is deeply mired in all manner of fraud and corruption. Tendering his resignation, Niehaus has admitted forging signatures on documents, abusing his contacts with influential politicians to run up massive bad debts, exploiting his position in the Rhema church to take expensive holidays and buy luxury cars, and other financial improprieties.

Once again, the value of a free press has been demonstrated. The question has been asked whether Niehaus would ever have confessed to his misdeeds had the media not confronted him with facts that he could not deny. The question must also be asked how long his party has been aware of his misdemeanours. Did the ANC leadership know that he was not trustworthy when he was sent as ambassador to the Netherlands, or appointed to join Jesse Duarte (also compromised in the past) as party spokesperson? Perhaps political spin-doctoring requires an ability to contrive distortions of reality, but the ANC seems now characterised by a readiness to wink at malpractice and protect dubious individuals. It is increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that the ruling party has sunk to complete moral bankruptcy. It seems that the electorate must look elsewhere for clean and honest government.

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