Opposition: ANC shouldn't keep Niehaus on after admissions

2009-02-15 00:00

Cape Town — Opposition parties have slammed the ANC for its decision to redeploy disgraced national spokesman Carl Niehaus, saying it is a setback for the fight against corruption.

This follows the decision by the ANC on Friday to accept the resignation of Niehaus after he admitted to fraudulent activity. Niehaus came clean last week about a range of financial indiscretions, details of crippling debts he has incurred and an admission that he has a taste for the good life.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the organisation will stand by Niehaus, who Mantashe described as a valued cadre, and will find another role for him.

Niehaus confessed that, among other things, while working as chief executive of the Gauteng Economic Development Agency in 2005, he forged the signatures of top Gauteng government officials in a bid to obtain a loan from a businessman wanting to secure special treatment from the Gauteng government on property deals. He then admitted this fraud to Gauteng Finance minister (now Gauteng Premier) Paul Mashatile, who demanded that he resign or face a disciplinary inquiry. Niehaus resigned in December 2005.

DA chief executive officer Ryan Coetzee said yesterday Mantashe’s decision “rubbishes” the ANC’s stated commitment in its 2009 election manifesto to stamp out corruption. “Mantashe has confirmed what all South Africans already know: that the ANC would rather look after its corrupt cronies than stamp out corruption in our country,” he said.

The DA also slammed Mantashe for taking the decision to redeploy Niehaus, despite the fact that the ANC knew of his corruption. “Mantashe by his own admission has stated that the ANC ‘knew there were question marks about his background’ and that there were doubts about Niehaus’s probity and ethics, yet it still insisted on employing him on the basis that it believes in ‘assisting cadres of the movement who have gone through difficult periods’.

Coetzee said Mantashe’s actions are the clearest indication of why corruption has become endemic in SA under the ANC.

“The party cannot distinguish right from wrong, and is all too easily prone to excusing criminal acts on the basis that members of the ANC should be held to a different and lower moral standard from the rest of South Africa. It is precisely this attitude that has allowed corruption to flourish in all levels of government in SA …”

The civil rights initiative AfriForum said the ANC’s decision to redeploy Niehaus and to take no other disciplinary steps against him is a setback in the fight against corruption in the country.

“This decision sends a negative message to prospective criminals and all who are already involved in criminal activities that the ANC … will not take severe action against them,” spokeswoman Alana Bailey said.

Bailey said people who commit corruption deserve no leniency.

“In a country like South Africa that is already struggling with a corruption problem, the ANC’s conduct is extremely irresponsible,” Bailey said.

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