Don’t sell out a proud legacy

As with most other respectable newspapers in South Africa, we have over the past few weeks been fervently reporting on the bribery controversy surrounding Deputy President Zuma and the war that has ensued between his office and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). We have at all times endeavoured to report fairly and comment critically on the unfolding saga. We believe we have done our best to come out on the side of the Constitution and the laws of our republic, and have tried at all times to ensure that the views of all parties are reflected. We have argued strongly for the law to follow its course, and have expressed serious reservations about NPA chief Bulelani Ngcuka's decision not to give Zuma his deserved day in court.

This week we do what respectable newspapers do not normally do. By running the black, green and gold on our front page we are not suddenly declaring ourselves a party pamphlet. Far from it. We are a fiercely independent newspaper that curries favour with no one. We are merely echoing the cry of many South Africans, many of them members and some opponents, that the soul of this country's premier liberation movement should not be sold to selfish interests.

This newspaper firmly believes in the principles for which the African National Congress stands. As a newspaper we are proud of the legacy bequeathed by the likes of Pixley ka Seme, Moses Kotane, Thomas Nkobi and Oliver Tambo. We are not ashamed to be associated with a tradition that produced such noble documents as the Freedom Charter, and which in the past was able to distinguish between right and wrong. There is no expectation — except maybe from its political rivals — that the ANC should be cheerleading Ngcuka as he tightens his noose around Zuma. That would be shameful. But we are ashamed at the party's refusal to separate right from wrong in the current saga.

We are ashamed that the ANC has chosen to side with those who seem bent on besmirching its proud traditions. While Ngcuka's conduct of the investigation has been highly questionable, ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe's behaviour has been unbecoming. A man many in the ANC look to for moral and ideological guidance, Motlanthe has unthinkingly thrown his weight on one side of the argument and set the ANC up against a key state institution. Motlanthe has been the leading trumpeter in this cacophonous orchestra, speaking of dark plots, accusing the Scorpions of using unsavoury tactics in the investigations, of conducting "dirty tricks of special type" and of being part of a political campaign to destroy Zuma. Other leaders have also piled in, condemning the investigation and the institutions conducting it. Others have rushed to declare that the NPA's decision not to prosecute in fact exonerates Zuma.

At no point has the ANC called on the country's second-most senior leader to explain his master-pet relationship with Schabir Shaik. The ANC has not asked Shaik why he was running around using Zuma's name and the name of the ANC to further his business dealings. The result is that South Africa's leading liberation movement now stands divided. Many, including Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Penuell Maduna, insist that the probe must go on and that justice must be done and be seen to be done. In the meantime, Shaik has been boasting of his supposedly glorious role in the liberation of this country, pronouncing his loyalty to the ANC and claiming that he is an icon black people should be proud of. What has become clear is that this upstart merchant, because he knows the deputy president is somehow beholden to him, now believes that he has the ANC by the cojones. By remote control he is wreaking havoc in the ANC in a way of which the Nats of old could only dream.

Right now, it seems as if the soul of the ANC is being sold to groups and individuals who have no interest in what the party has to offer South Africa, but in what it can do for their self-advancement. At the risk of being accused by some of aligning ourselves, we say that we make no apology for wanting to defend the soul of the organisation whose integrity is central to our democracy. We believe that the quality of this democracy will be as good as the quality of the ANC which rules it.

If the ANC rots, we all rot. The ANC will not build democracy by denigrating the institutions it has created. In a few months the party will be launching an election campaign in which it will be promising us good governance and prosperity. The party will also be parading before us hundreds of potential legislators who will be responsible for giving us these benefits. It is essential that these people are beyond reproach and that their decision to seek political office is driven by the desire to contribute to the welfare of the South African people. It should purge itself of the sell-outs who want to betray a proud legacy.

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