Glued to their televisions watching the dramatic Zondo Commission and its revelations of former president Jacob Zuma’s nine years that were lost to corruption, South Africans woke up to a sideshow.
The usual suspects, the US, the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland, claim to be champions of democracy and human rights and anti-corruption.
But these countries’ diplomats dropped all diplomatic niceties and leaked a memorandum they collectively wrote to the media demanding that President Cyril Ramaphosa deal decisively with corruption and stop “South Africa’s frequent changes to policies for industries, including mining and the protection of intellectual property rights”.
They failed to respect the well-established tradition in international relations of communicating with the head of state through the country’s diplomatic missions abroad, and the foreign affairs ministry.
It is surprising that these muddlers decided to leak their ill-conceived and executed memorandum at a time of high global tensions with the events in Venezuela. The very same muddlers in South Africa’s electoral process are also actively interfering in a country in Latin America - Venezuela.
Unlike in South Africa’s case, in Venezuela the muddlers unashamedly endorsed the unelected opposition leader Juan Guaido, who claimed himself interim leader on January 23 this year.
What can we read into the memorandum to President Ramaphosa? Could it be a veiled threat for Pretoria’s steadfast opposition to the coup in Venezuela?
This memo came at a time when South Africa is preparing for general elections. The US, the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland could not wait for the State of the Nation Address to hear President Ramaphosa’s short, medium- and long-term position on the clean-up exercise left by his predecessor in the country’s institutions of governance.
It would have made more sense to hear President Ramaphosa address the nation on sensitive matters such as anti-corruption measures, policy prescriptions for his administration including the mining, property rights and the Black Economic Empowerment before issuing a memorandum.
Shockingly, the US, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland embarked upon this action at a time when they are themselves blaming Russia and China for interfering in their electoral processes.
It is imperative to note that corruption in South Africa has an international dimension.
There are international companies in South Africa, including ones from these five countries, that are actively participating in corrupt activities.
The diplomats from the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland should perhaps spend more time building democracy at home rather than teaching other about the norms and values of democracy. They should also assist South Africa to resolve the legacy of colonialism and apartheid through land distribution and involvement of its black majority in the mining sector.
More importantly, these diplomats should not be hypocritical. They should not blame Russia and China for interfering in their electoral processes while they are themselves engaged in acts of sabotage in Venezuela. South Africans overcame one of the spills brutal system in the world - apartheid.
One has no doubt that they will overcome the erosion of democracy under President Jacob Zuma’s presidency. This can happen if our diplomats know their place. They can also help the country in its attempts to fight corruption by monitoring their own companies involved in tax evasion and corruption.
Monyae is a senior political analyst at the University of Johannesburg