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The politics of effective pilfering

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Patriotic Alliance president Gayton McKenzie and secretary-general Kenny Kunene during the partys launch in Paarl. Photo: Ian Landsberg

If I were a criminal in South Africa, I would see politics as a new way of doing business, says Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya.

Pretoria - Gangland legend has it that when the FBI asked America’s most-prolific bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, he replied: “That’s where the money is.”

News that the Patriotic Alliance, a new party made up of former gangsters, a bank robber and a fraudster has been launched reminded me of Sutton’s memorable retort.

If you are looking at ways of enriching yourself quickly and easily, you have to fish where the fish are. In our country, that place is the public purse.

It is not the first time we have seen gangsters look to politics as an area of interest.

A few years ago, the northern Pretoria regional conference of the ANC was brought into disarray when two groups claiming to be the legitimate structure held separate conferences and each elected leaders.

Among those who claimed they were the legitimate ANC structure were men who had been arrested for a few heists and were themselves friends and relatives of some of the most-wanted men in the country.

For the record, I acknowledge that some of the leaders of the Patriotic Alliance have served their time and I do not have any basis to suggest they are still criminals.

I also do not wish to imply that anyone with a criminal past has nothing to contribute to the country and its politics. My Catholic upbringing taught me that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

But I do imagine that if I were a criminal in South Africa, I would see politics as a new way of doing business.

The business model is perfect. Sticking with Sutton’s theory, politics is where the money is. Big money.

The auditor-general’s last report told us that as much as R32 billion of state money was lost, misspent or not properly accounted for. Surely some of it was stolen. What is more, Minister of Public Service and Administration Lindiwe Sisulu admitted there had not been a single conviction of anyone guilty of flouting the Public Finance Management Act.

Now imagine what all this means to an intrepid criminal.

Thirty-two thousand million of rands available to steal if you play your cards right. And, as Sisulu has said, the chances of being caught are close to nil.

In the unlikely event you are caught, you can always accuse those who catch you of being racists (if white), ultra leftists (if black), or “pushing an agenda”, without needing to explain what that agenda is or why it should not be pushed.

If all that fails, you make an apology “to those who might have been let down” and continue with your life as before.

Unlike in your previous occupation, where Sutton said a gun was necessary because “you can’t rob a bank on charm and personality”, a criminal-turned-politician will no longer need a gun to pull a heist or spill blood.

Yes, a few people might die as a result of your actions or omissions, but the link will always be too tenuous to make you lose any sleep.

Instead of arranging for the best driver for your gang, you can get anyone with a licence to drive you as fast as they want provided they have a flashing blue light.

Another beneficial factor for a South African politician is that the issues are so clear-cut.

You merely have to show your unhappiness at the levels of unemployment, inequality and poverty.

When speaking to black people, warn them about the boers returning to take away their grant money, and when with whites, thank them for contributing to making the new South Africa what it is and spew something about Nelson Mandela’s opposition to white or black domination.

Around this time of the year, you rock up at a public meeting and mouth platitudes about the evil of hurting women and children. You can urge young people to stay in school and warn them about the futility of crime and how it might affect foreign direct investment.

In a phrase, perfect the art of talking about meat to butchers, bread to bakers and pies to both.

If you get your name in newspapers enough times and become part of the ruling party’s leadership, you could even be invited to be a shareholder in a huge company where you will earn millions of rands in exchange for having your name on the list of directors.

For this money, you do not need to threaten to separate the body and soul of anyone and merely have to make a call or two in case there are procedural or legal bottlenecks that might affect your new company’s project of making super profits.

The latest developments in the body politic suggest to me that the criminals are at last reclaiming their business from the politicians.

A patriotic citizenry should reclaim their country from both.

* Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is executive editor of Pretoria News.

Pretoria News

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