Conviction in Phakoe’s murder a good lesson

2012-07-21 10:09

The conviction this week of former Rustenburg mayor Matthew Wolmarans and his bodyguard Enoch Matshaba represented a turning point in the growing pathology of the politics of patronage.

While murder is always foul, the conviction gives South Africa a moment to reflect on how we got here and what could happen if we allow what is anecdotally a trend to continue.

Wolmarans will serve 20 years and Matshaba life for the murder of former Rustenburg councillor Moss Phakoe, who had blown the
whistle on corruption in the municipality.

For a while now, many murders of politicians, especially those in the ANC, have been blamed on factionalism or bitter feuds over patronage.

Very few, however, have been positively linked to politics. There is a theory among politicians and in law enforcement circles that some of the crimes have nothing to do with politics but find better media display if they do.

This, of course, does not mean that they were not. Neither should the absence of irrefutable evidence make us conclude that the political link was spurious.

The Phakoe murder is different to many others because the court found that indeed there was a link between the crime and politics.

That is why now is the time for the ANC to reflect deeply on the organisation it has become.

The party’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s analogy of mosquitoes flying into the room when one’s intention was to allow for fresh air is apt but inadequate.

The ANC needs to put together measures that will ensure that mosquitoes are prevented from causing, not only the party but society, the kind of diseases such pests are known to carry.

If the culture of eliminating political opponents takes root, then divisions within the party have the potential of taking this nation into a civil-war mode. Already, tensions within the party have become such that some openly use violence.

We saw examples of these at June 16 commemorations in Eastern Cape, at the party’s policy conference, and more recently at the
Nelson Mandela Lecture in Limpopo.

At the June 16 event and the Mandela lecture, groups with features like those we might call militia took it upon themselves to enforce what they deemed law and order.

We then have to ask ourselves: what will stop these militias from taking the next step, as we saw with Wolmarans’ security?

For the sake of itself and the nation, the ANC must not merely talk about the mosquitoes in its midst.

Its failure to quell the effect of political mosquitoes in our nation will be fatal to what we need to achieve in a socially cohesive society.


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