President Jacob Zuma. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee

The electorate should give the ANC a stern message at the polls this year – that corruption and enrichment of hangers-on cannot be tolerated, says Max du Preez.

Guess which exemplary ANC leader uttered these words at the ANC rally at Mbombela on Saturday? “The ANC is very clear that actions that bring our organisation into disrepute will not be tolerated and every ANC member should conduct himself or herself in a manner that is consistent with the core values and traditions of our movement.”

Let me give you some clues.

The speaker is the same man who has, according to court evidence, received vast amounts of money from a shady businessman in exchange for political favours. The businessman went to jail, but the politician, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, didn’t because the caretaker head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Mkotedi Mpshe, dropped the more than 700 charges of corruption, racketeering and fraud against him.

This decision was against the advice of the senior staff and legal advisers of the NPA, who described it as a purely political rather than legal decision. Mpshe said he had listened to secret tapes of phone conversations indicating possible political interference with the prosecution.

Zuma has used vast amounts of state funds to stop those tape recordings being made public. Mpshe was promoted to judge soon after he dropped the charges.

Zuma wasn’t a wealthy man when he accepted the dirty money from the jailed business associate. But his fortunes and that of his family and clan improved spectacularly after he became leader of the ANC at the Polokwane congress. A mere six years after this event there were more Zuma millionaires than any others in the country sharing a surname. A Young Communist Party leader called it Zuma Economic Empowerment.

Fifteen of Zuma’s close family members, including some of his children, are wealthy business people and have some 140 directorships or memberships of close corporations between them.

Zuma Incorporated’s fortunes soared further when three shrewd brothers from India, Atul, Rajesh and Ajay Gupta, realised that the new South African president would be amenable to a mutually beneficial relationship. His children Duduzile and Duduzane are top executives in the Gupta empire.

No wonder then that the Guptas were allowed to use Waterkloof Air Base as a private playground to fly in their guests for a family wedding last year. Officials who were told this was the wish of “Number One” were afterwards the only ones held accountable.

We have strong reasons to believe that Zuma actually knew what the Public Works Department was building for him at his private villa (called the Corruption Palace by Julius Malema) at Nkandla and that it was going to cost more than R200 million of taxpayers’ money.

Now let’s throw in Zuma’s much-publicised sexual adventures with the young daughters of two of his friends. One was HIV positive and accused Zuma of raping her, the other fell pregnant.

Consider all the above and then ask the question: was this conduct “consistent with the core values and traditions of our movement”? Has Zuma not, more than anyone else in the senior echelons of the ANC, brought “the organisation into disrepute”?

How does the ANC expect the people of South Africa to believe them that it is tough on corruption and will instill discipline in its members with that kind of leader – a leader shielded and defended tirelessly by the senior leadership?

When I saw the headline in The Sunday Independent, “Zuma Warns Rotten Cadres”, I simply chuckled.

Because I remembered that the leader of the ANC in the Northern Cape, John Block, has been on trial for a long time on charges of corruption, money-laundering and racketeering and had assets worth more than R20 million frozen by the Asset Forfeiture Unit. This did not affect his standing in the ANC or the provincial government.

I also remembered how the former ANC chief whip, Tony Yengeni, was accompanied to prison by a cheering commando of ANC luminaries after he had lied to Parliament about a transaction related to the arms deal and was sentenced to four years in jail. He was involved in several more scandals after he came out of jail, yet he is still a member of the national executive of the party and was at one stage head of the ANC’s political school.

I also remembered how the former communications minister, Dina Pule, was found guilty of lying to Parliament about her boyfriend’s suspect financial dealings with her department, but she wasn’t kicked out of Parliament or disciplined by the party.

So Jacob Zuma was actually telling the party faithful at the Mbombela Stadium on the weekend: “If you’re not me or in my inner circle, then don’t be corrupt or bring the ANC into disrepute. Do as we say, not as we do.”

The ANC leadership deserves to be given a stern message by the electorate.

* Max du Preez is an author and columnist.

** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Indepent Newspapers.

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