By Douglas Gibson
I hear the allegation increasingly all politicians are crooks.
Ordinary voters, black and white, are appalled at the almost daily revelations about corruption.
Can one blame them when they are repeatedly let down by the politicians elected to represent them and the civil servants paid to serve them?
After a career as an attorney stretching over 45 years and a career in public life as a city councillor, provincial councillor, member of parliament and an ambassador extending over 50 years, I can state I am not a crook.
And nor were most of the people I encountered over my two lifetimes in the profession and the service of the public. I was only once in time offered a “present” I thought was improper: a very large property development company sent a case of whisky, addressed to “The Chairman of the Management Committee, Benoni Town Council”.
Since the council was closely involved in the approval of development projects, I thought it was appropriate to send the whisky back, with thanks. Almost all politicians, lawyers, clients and business people I came across, irrespective of their political parties, were honest and decent.
I continued to believe that was still the case for many years, but my confidence and that of the public was shaken when the former minister of social development (and president of the ANC Women’s League, as well as being a convicted criminal herself) stated in 2016 that “all of us have smallanyana skeletons”.
Bathabile Dlamini was referring to the members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the “glorious movement”, the ANC.
She added: “We don’t want to take out skeletons because all hell will break loose.”
What is dismal about this is that five years later we are still not anywhere near the truth about the smallanyana skeletons of each NEC member. We have also not seen any of them going to jail for their criminal actions.
Even more dismal are the revelations continuing to pour out. The latest involve Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize, his wife and his son. Not only did his department throw public money around in a reckless manner, benefiting two past employees of his to the tune of R150 million, paying R2.5m for “arranging the minister’s appearance on the news”, his son receiving R300 000 from the company concerned, and the electrician’s bill was paid on a townhouse owned by a trust controlled by the minister’s wife.
It does not end there. There are allegations of improprieties when the minister was an MEC in KwaZulu-Natal; of a road built with public money leading only to his farm; and payments made to enable his wife to buy the farm. When he was an MEC he, a doctor, kept quiet about his disagreement with president Mbeki’s views on HIV, showing a lack of integrity where his political job was more important to him than his principles and the Hippocratic Oath he swore on becoming a doctor.
President Ramaphosa was humiliated when questioned in front of President Macron of France. He was “waiting for the investigation to be completed”.
Mkhize briefed the president and unless he lied, the president knows exactly what his minister of health – during the approaching third wave of the pandemic – has done. Mkhize should not rely on the shop-soiled “innocent until proven guilty”.
* Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His website is douglasgibsonsouthafrica. com
**The views expressed here are not that of The Star or IOL.