While Eusebius McKaiser simply views Nkandla and corruption as an ANC problem, I view it as a societal problem, says Mayihlome Tshwete.
Johannesburg - I will reluctantly address a man who is energetically doing the rounds plugging his book. I will reluctantly speak about a subject that has been spoken about by both my leaders in the government and within the ANC.
I will reluctantly share my opinions as a “voter” as Eusebius McKaiser described me (“ANC voters miss the point in Nkandla” - SEE RELATED ARTICLES ABOVE).
I would like to address his article on the broader aspect of corruption, the media’s coverage of it and matters pertaining to ethics, all from the perspective of a “voter”.
Reluctance aside, I agree completely with McKaiser in some aspects.
The escalation of costs at Nkandla is unacceptable and it has put the government in a compromised situation.
My view is that those responsible can’t be defended.
Here come the differences of opinion.
Many who have not read the report have laid all the blame at the feet of one individual.
These folks did not read the public protector’s findings. They listened to every word with nothing but perverse yearning for an intimate proximity of the words “Zuma” and “corruption”.
Theirs has little to do with a principled stance against corruption and everything to do with politicking.
All the odds are against any person who questions our approach as society in truly dealing with corruption.
The odds are against any form of reasoning that does not start with “Zuma must go”.
The discussion on corruption has been hijacked by highly politicised, simplistic zealots waiting for one example of corruption that affirms the government is corrupt. So much so that “credible constitutional authority, the public protector” cannot be accredited to the ANC’s beliefs of transparency and accountability. It is in itself an organic creation and above reproach.
These are simplistic arguments in which we should engage, lest we be accused of “defending Nkandla”. I have written previously about the danger of insisting corruption exists because of the ANC. To be principled on the matter of corruption, according to the definition of some, we must insist it is all the ANC’s fault.
My reluctance should be palpable, because unlike McKaiser, I am both a member of government and a supporter of the ANC.
I’m therefore not as unbridled in opinion as he is.
Somehow to some his unbridled opinion carries more weight than mine, because mine is deemed to be blind loyalty.
We are expected in our opinion to be “unbridled” and criticise the ANC and the government it leads. If we do so, we are received warmly by the media as true independent thinkers. They materially imply “the true independent thinker” must be critical of the ANC or democracy will be undermined. If one can do that, columns, radio stations and political commentary await “the true independent thinker”. This is a distortion of societal realities and ills.
The flaws in this thinking are embarrassing. The assumption is the ANC and the government is the only power we should speak truth to. The assumption is that the ANC solely moulds our society and solely defines the health of our society and so the media as watchdogs believe the only dog that should be watched is the ANC. I see it differently.
While McKaiser simply views Nkandla and corruption as a problem “about the ANC government”, I view it as a societal problem pitted in systematic failings that should not be simplified to fit bipartisan arguments.
I view history, the private sector and the privileged section of our population to be just as important as the ANC and the government in defining our society. If we view everything wrong with society as an ANC problem and everything that’s right as a product of anything but the ANC, then McKaiser is right – I don’t get it.
The true independent thinkers have taken on what appears to be a principled stance against corruption.
The principled stance has, however, conveniently isolated corruption as a problem of the ANC-led government and not society.
While corruption should not be accepted in any form, why do we expose and focus on corruption that has the ANC at the centre? And why do we always need to link that corruption to senior ANC members to be outraged about it?
Let’s be factual, even if it’s boring – the Nkandla report does not imply any corruption on the part of the president.
However, I understand McKaiser’s point about the question of ethics not being defined by a guilty verdict.
Pallo Jordan said something similar: “Although Madonsela does not suggest President Zuma acted corruptly, he cannot evade moral responsibility for what occurred.”
Ultimately, as an “ANC voter”, I expect my president to take a stern stance on corruption.
I expect a strong reaffirmation of action about the government’s stance on corruption.
Ethically, I expect my president to stand in front of us and speak frankly about the abuse of state resources by those who mischievously exploited his need for safety.
I don’t assume resignations being called for by those pursuing political agendas is a display of ethics.
As a voter, I expect our political opposition to be responsible and not assign to the report things it did not state.
I expect less sweeping generalisations.
I expect a resistance to the opinionated extremism that is beneath the guise of a principled stance.
* Mayihlome Tshwete is Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba’s spokesman. He writes in his personal capacity.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.