A middle finger to the public

2014-03-16 10:00

The ANC emerged from its 2012 national conference in Mangaung boisterously chanting an anticorruption slogan.

It had adopted a resolution that pledged “more urgent steps should be taken to protect the image of the organisation and enhance its standing in society by ensuring that urgent action is taken to deal with public officials, leaders and members of the ANC who face damaging allegations of improper conduct”.

The resolution further stated the party would “no longer allow prolonged processes that damage its integrity”. Explaining this resolution, leaders said it meant those who were facing serious allegations would be asked to vacate their positions pending court cases.

The ANC somewhat toned this down in its election manifesto this year, saying it would require “any ANC member or ANC public representative found guilty by a court of law to step down from any leadership position in the ANC, government and society”.

This obvious climb-down was trumpeted by the party as a major step to clamp down on corruption. But it is a no-brainer and it does nothing to enhance ethics among public representatives.

This climb-down opened the way for the ANC to include on its election lists dodgy individuals on the basis that they have not been convicted by a court of law.

They include axed communications minister Dina Pule, former Gauteng MEC Humphrey Mmemezi, Northern Cape chair John Block and former ANC Youth League bigwigs Pule Mabe and Andile Lungisa.

Pule was found guilty by the Public Protector of influencing government processes to benefit her lover. Parliament’s ethics committee, headed by ANC stalwart Ben Turok, found her guilty of violating ethics and misleading the legislature.

Mmemezi was sacked as MEC after he was nailed by the provincial legislature’s integrity committee and the ANC’s own similar structure for unethical behaviour. Block, Mabe and Lungisa are facing criminal charges for defrauding the state.

Defending their inclusion on the lists, the ANC said these cadres had not been convicted by a court of law. This may well be the case, but the question the ANC should be asking itself is: What message are we sending out to society?

The term “public representative” should mean that those who attach it to their names should be exemplary members of the public. Citizens should regard them as being among their finest. They may not be angels, but there should be no question marks hanging over them.

Offering these questionable individuals to the electorate is tantamount showing the South African public a big middle finger. It sets a very low standard that the party that leads the country should be ashamed of.

But then, why should we be surprised when the name at the top of the list is that of a man who is running from 783 charges of fraud and corruption?

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