Viva ANC NEC for this first hard step against corruption
by Edward Senzo Mchunu
The formation of the ANC in 1912 came as a beacon of hope for many black South Africans as well as other peace and justice loving people in the country. It declared that its aim was to bring all indigenous Africans together as one people, to defend their rights and freedoms, and fight against the atrocities of colonialism.
Throughout its 108-year lifespan, the party’s constant message has been themed around liberation – of the oppressed majority by the various white minority oppressor regimes throughout the years, dating back to the days when the African people fought against the British and Boer colonisers.
Post the 1994 first democratic elections, discussions on liberation got a new consolidated meaning, with the liberators now looking down on erstwhile oppression and in control of political power. This has made liberation the longest, all-involving topic and blood-soaked activity by all social strata over time, including various national executive committee meetings.
The recent NEC meetings seem to have, however, broken the record, as corruption dominated our discussions for more than one and half days in the first meeting and for three days in the meeting in August.
What was interesting and remarkable was the sobriety, emotions, anger, frankness, contradictions, indignation and all during the debate. At the end, the NEC did well and unequivocally supported the letter of the president to the members of the ANC and decided it was time we turned our backs as the governing party against corruption and acted accordingly.
It is good that the letter has reached out beyond the membership of the organisation and has also sparked countrywide commentary. It has been bad for the ANC to reject corruption on public platforms but seemingly embrace it when it matters most.
Corruption in South Africa possesses the same characteristics and objectives as imperialism – the outcome is in essence the same, betraying and stealing. It betrays the dreams of the many hopeful South Africans who have entrusted the government to lead, the state-owned enterprises to produce jobs and revenue, municipalities to deliver services and public servants to serve with honesty and integrity, but instead they have produced and delivered the loot and raised its status to subculture level. Governance under the ANC can’t be the same as governance under imperialism.
The reasoning that the ANC is not corrupt, that only some of its leaders and members are, is correct, but not exactly.The cases of corruption in the public space have tended to be associated with the ANC, it is this power dominance that makes us “Accused No 1”. The ANC can’t stand anywhere and simply declare that it is only some of its leaders or members that are corrupt, it has to take responsibility.
The president’s letter helps us to take this responsibility first and then act against corrupt individuals, and this is now where the focus should be.
The decision of the NEC that the ANC should turn its back against corruption, led by the president, makes us get heard loudly and seen clearly from the top. Ambivalence at the top and inaction against corrupt individuals is to take the side of corruption. It is for this reason that passing a giant involved in a fight with a dwarf and not intervening means siding with the giant.
The letter, the turn and the ANC as a whole cannot rid the whole country of corruption overnight and in the medium term. It has been allowed to take root for too long, both in the public and private sector – even creeping into law enforcement agencies themselves.
It is going to take a national effort and multi-pronged strategies to suck the poison out and there is, undoubtedly, going to be resistance.
The call for a review of law enforcement agencies is, therefore, not misplaced; it is a task that has to be undertaken energetically and with a sense of urgency.
The president’s letter states: “The ANC may not stand alone in the dock…” Indeed, businesses have an interest and a role in heeding the call from the president and the NEC.
What businesses need to adopt is an ethical manner of conducting their affairs while being mindful of the impact of their actions on the country’s economy and the citizens. Businesses in South Africa have a formidable voice and influence. Double-pricing, inferior quality of goods and services as well as unsavoury relations when doing business with government officials need to be put to an end!
In its dealings, whether with government or other stakeholders, the private sector needs to ensure it is principled and maintains high standards in respect of its products and services. These are some of the qualities which must be considered upon the awarding of a contract– not connections and underhanded dealings.
The private sector needs to improve its compliance mechanisms, blow the whistle on corrupt activities and contribute in the promotion of transparency, accountability and ethical governance.
The manner in which corruption has been made a norm by society is disheartening. Civil society organisations have lost their voice in speaking out on behalf of members; instead, we see collusion between politicians, government officials, the private sector and civil society in some cases, causing erosion to the accomplishments made to date. Civil society needs to be vocal and proactive in the fight against corruption and ensure it is united, as it serves as one of the strongest weapons the country has against corruption.It should encourage individual citizens not to turn a blind eye on corruption.
In turning its back on corruption, the NEC and ANC as a party is returning to its founding values, reviving its image and regaining its integrity and moral high ground. It is not an exaggeration that the NEC has, over time, lost some of its credibility and prestige, largely because of its lack of a principled stance on corruption.
The task ahead is rebuilding the economy of the country by all the members of the ANC, particularly its structures, right down to the branch executive committees.
Economic growth needs to be an agenda item in all meetings of the constitutional structures of the ANC. This will instil a sense of renewal that economic growth is not the same as tenders and the corruption that goes with them.
* Edward Senzo Mchunu is a member of ANC national executive committee and Minister for Public Service and Administration.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.