My fellow South Africans,
Please allow me to address you, as an ordinary fellow citizen thinking and dreaming out loud about what I wish could happen to corrupt politicians and their political home, the ANC.
Consider this a dream inspired by one Thomas Sankara, who was able to turn the fortunes of his country, Burkina Faso, within four years, before he was assassinated by his adversaries.
I dream that, as a nation, we can arrive at a point where we are not just upset by the amount of corruption we see in our land, but rise in anger to combat the looting of our country’s riches.
Perhaps the starting point will be to declare that corruption and greed by politicians and officials in government, those who abuse and misuse their control of the levers of power and resources of the country to pursue their own selfish interests, are the new enemy of the people, since 1994.
Until we get to this point, I feel that politicians will continue to think that we tolerate their corruption and simply complain on social media, in our homes, on radio stations and on little street corners.
It is also time to separate the citizens on the one side versus the governing party and its people on the other.
During the struggle against apartheid, the people knew who the enemy was. The battle lines were clearly drawn between apartheid and the people.
All those who desired freedom, justice and liberty for South Africa committed themselves to fight against the evil system.
The mistake that has happened since 1994, is that, when the people vote for the ANC, we entrust our hopes and aspirations to it, hoping that it will govern with our best interests at heart.
Instead, what has happened is the worst betrayal of our collective trust and hopes.
As is said in a Turkish proverb: “The forest was shrinking, but the trees kept voting for the axe because its handle was made of wood and they thought it was one of them.”
Over and over again, the people, like the trees, were oblivious to the enemy among them; the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
When the Covid-19 coronavirus hit our shores in March, the citizens looked up to government and the president for leadership to contain the spread of it.
On April 21, a R500 billion stimulus package was announced in response to the pandemic.
Already accustomed to unabated crass and crude looting of state funds by politicians and government officials, some South Africans expressed fear and cynicism that this money would never serve its intended purpose – instead, it would end up in the pockets of the corrupt politicians and their cronies.
Alas, four months into the pandemic, their worst fears have been realised.
Numerous reports have emerged that looting was happening through tenders for personal protective equipment (PPE) in various provinces.
There was unashamed theft of food parcels, blankets and money meant to assist small businesses and poor households.
And the axes keep chopping and chopping.
Once again, the spotlight has been shone on the department of health in Gauteng, whose former MEC, Qedani Mahlangu, and two senior officials were found responsible for causing the death of 144 mental health patients when they were transferred from Life Esidimeni homes to ill-equipped NGOs in what the health ombud called the Marathon Project.
To date, nothing has happened to that MEC.
What we are witnessing now is another marathon project of looting in the same department.
There are media reports of a tender amounting to R124 million awarded by the department of health in Gauteng to Royal Bhaca Projects, a company owned by King Madzikane Diko, the husband of Khusela Diko, who is the spokesperson in the president’s office.
The Dikos are said to be close family friends of the current MEC, Bandile Masuku, and his wife, Loyiso. All of them are members of the Gauteng ANC provincial executive committee.
The Dikos and many other politically connected individuals were allegedly beneficiaries of the R2.2 billion questionable PPE tenders.
Many of those who were awarded these tenders are accused of inflating the prices of the products.
The president informed the nation that he had signed a proclamation to allow investigation into alleged embezzlement of Covid-19 relief funds.
Meanwhile, his spokesperson denied all the allegations of impropriety on the part of her husband, and took a leave of absence.
The citizens have grown cynical regarding promised investigations and commissions of inquiry into corruption.
These have become a means of lulling the public into believing that something is being done, when we know very well that no prosecutions will ever come out of these investigations.
Who was Thomas Sankara, and how did he tackle corruption in Burkina Faso?
Sankara was the military leader of the revolution and popular uprising that led to the overthrow of the regime of Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo in Upper Volta on August 4 1983.
As president, Sankara changed the name of the country to Burkina Faso (land of the incorruptible), and named its people Burkinabé (upright people).
In his four years at the helm, he actively raised awareness and mobilised ordinary workers, peasants, young people, women, elders and craftsmen against those whom he said were their enemies – imperialists in France and the local bourgeoisie made up of landlords, businesspeople, tribal chiefs and politicians.
He told the people: “After having used the people as a springboard to attain power, the bourgeoisie turned its back on them in a frenetic race to accumulate ill-gotten wealth.”
While addressing a mass rally in Ouagadougou on March 26 1983, he said: “Who are the enemies of the people?
“The enemies of the people are that section of the bourgeoisie that enriches itself through fraud and bribery, through the corruption of state officials, so they can bring into Upper Volta all kinds of products, whose prices have been multiplied tenfold. These are the enemies of the people. This section of the bourgeoisie must be combated, and we will combat it.”
He continued: “The people love liberty and they love democracy. Consequently, the people will take on all enemies of liberty and democracy. The enemies of the people inside the country are all those who have taken advantage of their social position, of their bureaucratic position, to enrich themselves illicitly.
“In this way, through manoeuvres, graft and forged documents, they find themselves corporate shareholders, they find themselves financing some company, they find themselves seeking approval for this or that company. They claim they are serving Upper Volta. These are the enemies of the people.”
Sankara set up the People’s Revolutionary Courts, trusting in the justice of the ordinary working class and peasantry to try those politicians accused of corruption.
He called them “political scum who have fed off famine; criminals who have always scorned and humiliated the people by inflicting a thousand and one indignities”.
He then rallied the whole nation to work hard at rebuilding the country’s economic and social programmes.
The government funded public works programmes and engaged young people in the building of roads, schools and housing.
Land was nationalised and rural people who worked the land were given access to the fruits of their labour.
Government increased the price peasants received for basic food crops.
Healthcare services were made available to millions, with massive child immunisation campaigns conducted, which reduced child mortality from 208 per 1 000 to 145 in just two years.
The emancipation of women was encouraged to combat the age-old subjugation of them. Illiteracy, which stood at 92%, was reduced through literacy campaigns.
We, the people, must draw a line in the sand against the ANC and its corrupt cronies who are standing in the way of the prosperity of our country.
I dream of a day when we will say the enemy must be combated, and really mean it.
Molatoli is a social justice activist and director at Bamboo Seeds Communications