Driven by greed

2019-04-10 06:02

THE arrest of several high-ranking ANC figures in connection with political killings in KZN not only reveals the extent to which criminal elements have infiltrated the party, it also shows how greed is tearing the once glorious movement apart.

Unlike in the past when ANC members were drawn to the party by the need to free the country from the shackles of apartheid, the majority of the party’s current members seem to look at the ANC as a ticket to government resources.

The arrest of Harry Gwala Municipality’s Mayor Mluleki Ndobe in connection with the murder of former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) secretary general, Sindiso Magaqa, would not have become a source of conflict within the ANC, particularly in the Harry Gwala region, if it were not for the scramble for state resources within the party.

Ndobe, who was released a week after his arrest, is number three on the party’s provincial legislature election list and is considered to be a rising star in the province. The former ANC provincial deputy secretary’s shock arrest last month led his backers — who turned up in huge numbers at the uMzimkhulu Magistrate’s Court to give him their support — to launch a propaganda campaign projecting his detention as part of a broader stratagem by certain ANC leaders to foil his political rise.

While it is true that some of those supporting Ndobe are doing so out of principle, many see backing the mayor as a ticket to tenders and jobs at the municipality.

On the other hand, some of those who had gone to court to back Magaqa’s family were pinning their hopes on seeing Ndobe removed from office so he could be replaced by a person likely to open the doors of economic opportunity for them at the municipality.

The murder charges against Ndobe might have been withdrawn but the ANC divisions that played out at the uMzimkhulu Magistrate’s Court will remain, adding another dimension to the party’s factional battles in the province.

This scenario is playing itself out in other cases where ANC leaders are in court for political killings, including in the case of Newcastle Mayor Ntuthuko Mahlaba, who is on trial for the murder of ANCYL eMalahleni regional leader Wandile Ngobeni.

Mahlaba’s supporters want the world to believe that his arrest is part of a political ploy to get him removed as mayor, while those against him want him removed at all costs. Even an acquittal would not be enough to make them change their stance.

What is now happening in the courts where ANC leaders are being tried is a trend that can be traced back to the days when former president Jacob Zuma was initially charged for corruption by the now defunct elite law-enforcement unit the Scorpions.

The majority of the ANC people who rallied behind Zuma, including EFF leader Julius Malema who at the time was ANCYL president, and ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, who was then the Free State provincial chairperson, did so out of self-interest.

In Zuma, his backers saw a potential president who could help them climb the ladder of power. When Zuma was eventually named president following the 2009 withdrawal of the corruption charges against him, he made sure his backers were rewarded with cushy government positions.

While they reaped the benefits of trampling on principle in their support of a suspect, their conduct caused immeasurable damage to the ANC.

Ordinary ANC members who for decades were taught the importance of party discipline, internal democracy and protecting the integrity of the party, suddenly realised that dispensing with these values was a far quicker way to riches.

Backing an individual as opposed to defending the principles and values on which the ANC was founded, suddenly become the norm.

It is for this reason that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s vision to crush factions and restore the ANC to its former glory is starting to ring hollow. In fact, internal divisions have widened since Ramaphosa’s election as party president in 2017.

Prior to Ramaphosa’s election, there were two factions in KZN — the Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma faction and the Cyril Ramaphosa faction. When Ramaphosa came to power and pledged to fight corruption and dismantle patronage networks within the ANC, his statements had a ripple effect on factions, with ANC leaders threatened by his stance launching their own support networks to counter his threats.

What we see playing out in the courts where ANC leaders are on trial are not pure acts of solidarity with the accused but confirmation of the extent to which the culture of patronage has afflicted the party. In the nineties, when the ANC was still a unified entity, journalists like me had to wait for the party’s national conference that takes place every five years, to get the party’s diagnostic report (the organisational report presented by the secretary general) to learn about the ANC’s state of health.

However, with ANC members perpetually at each other’s throats over access to jobs and government tenders, the wait is finally over for many of us. Instead of waiting five years for the ANC to present the party’s organisational report, all that is required for a journalist or any member of the public who wants to know the latest about the ANC’s ill health, is a visit to the nearest court.

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