The Editorial: Setting an example
It has to be a South African record – the gap between the revelations of alleged misdemeanours on the part of Humphrey Mmemezi and his resignation as Gauteng housing minister. Usually it takes a great deal longer for any action to be taken in response to such allegations – if any is taken at all. Mmemezi’s resignation is in itself noteworthy because South African politicians are seldom known for graceful exits.
It seems clear that he resigned under pressure: he admitted to relatively minor sins while maintaining his innocence on greater ones. But at least he resigned, and at least the provincial government acted on the claims.
In this it was acting on a strong impulse that emerged at the ANC’s policy conference last month, where delegates were far ahead of the leadership in pushing for more accountability. A resolution was discussed that would require office-holders to step aside if under investigation. It is a sign of an increased drive from within the ANC to curb the kind of abuse of public funds and resources for which Mmemezi has been accused.
It should also be noted that Mmemezi was not chosen for the job of housing MEC because of any special talents. It was payback from the faction in the Gauteng ANC associated with Paul Mashatile (now arts minister) after its 2010 leadership battle. Mmemezi brought in the West Rand votes and was duly rewarded. In office, he behaved with an arrogance consistent with the abuse of office for which he is accused: one of our reporters remembers him scolding angry Thembelilhe residents as though they were naughty children. He was apparently unable to hear their concerns.
Mmemezi’s resignation, forced or not, demonstrates a welcome attempt to enforce accountability within the governing party and the offices of state structures. We can only hope this drive for accountability makes it to Mangaung and beyond.