I hope that President Cyril Ramaphosa will prevail in the factional battle that is presently raging within the ANC, barely disguised on the eve of the elections.
There is much at stake for both the ANC and the country in the outcome of this battle. On the one side is the “constitutional” faction, which Ramaphosa heads and which is undoubtedly serious about stemming the tide of corruption that has swept the country, especially since the rule of former president Jacob Zuma.
In legal terms, this faction wants to restore “law and order”, an aim that must not be scoffed at, even if many in this faction favour neo-liberal policies. Against the unprecedented looting of the fiscus, through a profusion of underhand and criminal methods, which the Zondo Commission of Inquiry is unearthing, the outcome of this raging factional battle must be of the highest concern to every ANC member and in fact every voter.
On the other side of this factional war are the looters themselves, who have been fingered and whose identities have been exposed in the media. They are the politicians and their corruption networks in the private sector that have used government tenders as the focus of their looting devices.
Right now, this is the most dangerous faction in not just ANC, but South African politics. The crisis in state-owned enterprises and various government departments and the theft of so much public resources between them, shamelessly committed mostly by “cadres” of the ANC, represents the worst moment in post-apartheid South Africa.
The looters, predominantly “African”, have consciously used race for self-enrichment, including stealing resources meant for the poorest African people. Budgets at local government level, meant for housing and other basic services, have been looted unconscionably, destroying in the process every shred of the meaning and spirit of ubuntu.
In an interview with Ramaphosa in 2010, for the biography of former president Kgalema Motlanthe, he said that selfless public service was critically important and bemoaned the fact that it seemed we were moving in the opposite direction. But in his efforts to rid the state of corruption, of the type we have seen coming from the Gupta and Watson families, he faces a severe contradiction, regarding the apparently corrupt dealings of his son, Andile, with Gavin Watson, chief executive officer of African Global Operations, formerly Bosasa.
There are several conflicting statements both Ramaphosa and his son have made about the purpose of the R500 000 paid by the company. If one adds the R2 million Andile belatedly admitted receiving from the company, then it is very clear that Ramaphosa has much to answer for. He needs to urgently come clean. If not, this will seriously undermine his anti-corruption campaign and imperil his continued presidency of the ANC after the election.
However, many among the leftist critics of the ANC tend to only focus on a critique of neo-liberalism and do not sufficiently appreciate how devastating this looting faction in the ANC has been, especially since it seriously undermines the social transformation they seek.
The main reason why this looting has been so destructive is simply because it targeted the public purse, whose resources should have been spent mainly on those who bore the brunt of apartheid, the majority black-working class or to use the highly problematic racialist mantra of the ANC: “blacks in general and Africans in particular”. But the brutal irony of this mantra, however, is that this corrupt African faction has ripped off the poorest African masses. They spared nothing and nobody, not even “Africans in particular”.
That is why I argue that if Ramaphosa does succeed in cleansing the state of this rampant corruption we would be much better off facing the challenges that neo-liberalism itself has simultaneously inflicted on the provision of basic public services, such as water, sanitation, electricity and housing. In this regard the commercialisation and privatisation of these services opened up opportunities for corruption, especially at local government level.
While I doubt that he will do much about the fight against such neo-liberal policies themselves, Ramaphosa deserves the fullest support in his effort to rid the state of wanton corruption, but he needs to come clean on the relationship of both himself and Andile with Watson. Whatever we might think of his leadership at other times is another matter, but support for his crusade against corruption is vitally important.
* Harvey is a political writer and commentator.