ANC Gauteng deputy chairperson Panyaza Lesufi has spoken about the pain of his party being ridiculed and told to “voetsek” on social media this week.
Earlier in the week, Lesufi had given an oratory at the funeral of ANC stalwart Andrew Mlangeni, where he expressed disquiet about how the movement was deviating from the values of its veterans.
Within hours of his speech, public anger with the ANC government exploded after numerous revelations about how its connected people were the ones getting state tenders to provide personal protective equipment (PPE). The exposé that presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko’s husband, Chief Madzikane Diko, had received a tender was followed by revelations that Nomvula Mokonyane’s daughter, as well as ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule’s two sons, had also been awarded PPE tenders.
Compounding the terrible week for the party was the widespread perception that ANC leaders and members were treated preferentially, after many of them pitched up at Mlangeni’s home to welcome his body, which was in violation of social distancing and lockdown protocols outlined by government. And security guards were photographed smoking outside the residence.
Following numerous protests from the public, SA Police Service spokesperson Vish Naidoo announced on Wednesday that a case of contravention of the Disaster Management Act had been opened and the matter would be investigated.
Lesufi said it was hard to believe the party had become so widely scorned: “When I joined the ANC many years ago, nobody ever mocked us. We used to laugh about Bantustan leaders like Lucas Mangope, Patrick Mphephu and the Matanzimas. It never occurred to me that, one day, jokes would be made about our own leaders. Who would have laughed at men like Nelson Mandela or Walter Sisulu?”
He added that the next ANC conference would have to find a way to address the party’s image and respond to public concerns about the way it handled corruption.
He said the disillusionment about it was particularly disconcerting because the ANC government had done more than most to change the lives of poor South Africans.
“I don’t take anyone seriously who says the apartheid government was better than an ANC government. But maybe we need to stop talking about how many houses we’ve built and talk instead about how many people still need houses, water and electricity.”
Lesufi said greed and corruption were what angered society most about the party.
“No matter how good we may sound, if the elephant in the room [corruption] isn’t dealt with, people won’t see the good we’re doing. When they read the Auditor-General’s reports about wastage, irregular expenditure and other wrongdoing, it erodes public confidence in us.”
He said that public frustration with the party had reached the point where, even if an ANC leader posted something about nice weather on social media, the immediate response would be: “What about corruption? What about the stealing?”
South Africans’ tolerance levels, he said, were severely strained and people were demanding that their voices be heard.
He said the most disappointing aspect of the ANC’s failure to stem corruption was that it had come up with the most progressive anti-corruption laws in the world. It had also created institutions such as the Hawks, the Public Protector and the Auditor-General to fight malfeasance.
“We have to ask ourselves why corruption is so persistent when we have all these laws and institutions,” he said.
He conceded that everyone was unhappy with the ANC, including those within its own ranks: “People mustn’t think they’re the only ones angry with the party.”
In his tribute to Mlangeni, who served as an ANC MP from 1994 to 1999, Lesufi hailed his humility and integrity, which contrasted sharply with the conduct of those who had succeeded him: “He never fought for a position. He was never accused of corruption or of betraying our struggle, and he never faced any disciplinary hearing for misconduct.”
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