Cover-up continues

2009-03-24 00:00

Addressing a huge gathering in Luanda on Sunday, Pope Benedict, in speaking about the ills which have afflicted Africa, made special note of “the greed which corrupts men’s hearts, enslaves the poor and robs future generations of the resources they need … ”

After the 1994 election, South Africa seemed to be moving decisively away from the wars, ethnic rivalry and corruption which have held parts of Africa in thrall for so long. Under the leadership of Nelson Mandela and with one of the most enlightened constitutions in the world, South Africa was seen as something of a shining example among nations, with strong commitments to human rights and the checks and balances that would prevent the sort of abuses which had made the apartheid state so objectionable.

There have been worrying signs over the last few years that the country has steadily been losing the moral high ground, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the public sphere.

It is perhaps understandable that those who struggled against the unjust apartheid state should have a sense of entitlement, and the argument could be advanced that if the slate is wiped clean prior to the April 22 elections those who emerge as the winners will approach high office with a renewed resolve to entrench clean and transparent government.

Recent moves by the ANC seem to provide evidence that this idea has indeed taken hold in the party hierarchy. Among these moves is the murky manipulation of the judiciary seemingly to prevent party president Jacob Zuma from having his day in court. The most recent revelation in this regard appeared in a Sunday newspaper, confirming what many people have long suspected, namely that Zuma’s financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, recently released on medical parole, is not suffering from a terminal illness but was released as a result of outside pressure.

Another example seems to be the ANC-dominated Parliament’s efforts to get the “Travelgate” scandal to go away in time for the elections. And perhaps most worrying of all is the allegation that the National Prosecuting Authority may drop the charges against Zuma permanently not because he is innocent of wrongdoing but because proceeding against him might direct an unflattering light on many other top government figures.

Africa, as the Pope has pointed out, provides a stark lesson of what happens when democratic principles of transparency and accountability are abandoned for reasons of expediency. It is not a road South Africa should venture down.

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