South Africans have always accused political leaders of blurring the lines between the state and their parties. In many instances, those serving in government even abused state resources to the benefit of their political parties.
And society frowns on such conduct when it is exposed – but, in many instances, it continues unabated, without being reported or called out for what it is.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s response to President Cyril Ramaphosa about her trip to Zimbabwe last month is most telling.
Asked to explain why she gave a lift to her ANC comrades on a state aircraft to the neighbouring country, Mapisa-Nqakula said: “As for ferrying additional persons on the same aircraft, I am not aware of any prohibition on doing such or specific permission that ought to be sought as it is a regular occurrence in the use of SA Air Force aircraft to provide for the ferrying of businesspersons or the like if all are travelling in the same direction as the flight being used for official government purposes.”
Let that sink in. This, the practice of ferrying non-state officials on government aircraft for free, is a regular occurrence where a select group of people need not make private travel arrangements as long as they know a state aircraft is going in the same direction as they are.
Those lines our society thought were blurred are not. Such lines are nonexistent.
Government is, according to Mapisa-Nqakula and others in its leadership, an extension of Luthuli House, where party functions can be undertaken with state resources without the bother of understanding whether it is wrong or not. It’s just the nature of the power that has gone to the heads of the ANC’s leaders.