/ 21 April 2011

The seven deadly sins in SA

There’s a whole lot of sinning going on, especially in the political realm. Mandy Rossouw comments on who needs to repent.

Our uniquely South African tenderpreneurs’ only discernible skill appears to be being at the right place at the right time. Take IT mogul Robert Gumede, whose bungled R2,5-billion tender with home affairs robbed South Africans of a state-of-the-art personal identification system. There’s also Roux Shabangu, who was planning to rent a building to the South African Police Service at the cost of buying a new one. And, of course, Sandile Zungu, who admitted that his stake in the R9-billion Kumba/ICT iron ore deal was merely money for jam.

For tenderpreneurs one tender is never enough because it opens opportunities for more. It’s by far the most lucrative “job” in South Africa, but it is becoming a congested terrain. New entrants start to threaten the comfortable system that needs only one thing to keep ticking over nicely — the preferred politicians who must remain happy and in power.

The Democratic Alliance has steadily managed to make its voice heard and become the official opposition. But that’s right where it will stay. The ANC can pull off massive rallies that fill two stadiums at a time while the DA can barely manage to fill an average-size hall. When there is talk of money, the ANC has proud funders who pledge a R1-million without batting an eyelid; the DA’s biggest cheque is that notorious half million from German businessman Jurgen Harksen, which it had to give back after his dodgy past came to the fore.

All this makes the ANC’s election budget — although inflated by grateful tenderpreneurs – make theirs seem like small change. But the biggest envy lies at the ballot box.

Despite its enormous failures in the past 17 years the ruling party is comfortable in its support. This might be slightly less than in its heyday but it is secure in its overall victory and will remain substantially unchallenged by the official opposition.

Government bureaucracy takes the prize when it comes to sloth. Anyone who has had to wait in a queue snaking out of the stuffy government building to get an identity document or a social grant can attest to this.

But the City of Johannesburg seems to sin daily. Ever tried to get through to City Power when the lights are out? Or held on the line for 45 minutes at Johannesburg Water to ask why your water has been cut off — only to be told you need to call Rand Water?

What added insult to ratepayers’ injury, though, was Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo’s comment when he finally came out of hiding to attempt to explain the recent billing problems — his only assurance was there was no crisis at all.

The legacy of former president Thabo Mbeki is peppered with crucial moments where, because of his inability to admit to a mistake, South Africans were let down by the very man they needed to take the lead.

When he told us to trust him after the national police commissioner got into trouble, or tried to convince us there is “no crisis” in Zimbabwe, it was not logic or even hope speaking, it was sheer pride. His dilly-dallying about Aids cost lives and entrenched the stigma about the disease that continues to haunt South Africans long since he left office.

Mbeki showed us how pride leads to a fall. It’s what got in the way when he insisted on standing for a third term as ANC president, despite it being clear at the 2008 Polokwane conference that the tide had turned against him. In the end he was forced to accept a devastating defeat and became the first ANC president to be rejected by his own people.

You’d be forgiven if you haven’t been able to keep up with Jacob Zuma’s love life. Our current president, who is also the former leader of the moral regeneration movement, has fathered more than 20 children. He has married five women over the years, with one now deceased and another divorced. Which leaves him with three wives, one fiancée and a young Swazi princess still waiting for the traditional nuptials with the First Citizen to be concluded.

His adage that he marries his women rather than keeping concubines took a nose dive when it emerged that he had a young lover in Sonono Khoza, his friend’s daughter. That might have remained under wraps if the news of their baby, born in 2009, had not been leaked to the media.

Khulubuse Zuma’s sin is bursting at his well-tailored seams, which he somehow manages to squeeze in and out of his tiny Mercedes SLS 63 AMG. Zuma, who is the nephew of President Jacob Zuma, feeds off the fat of the tenderpreneur land and lives a life that the starving workers at the Grootvlei mine, which he owns, cannot even imagine.

More mining deals in other African countries have ensured even more money. But the real sin is how he keeps it all to himself, except for that recent R1-million pledge to the ANC. Even the suicide of one of his workers – who had gone without pay for more than a year — does not move Zuma. He reportedly lounges in his Umhlanga mansion, surrounded by his 19 mostly imported cars feasting on loin chops and puffing on R500-a-piece cigars.

The silence from the ruling party speaks of a shocking lack of compassion but Zuma, who is taking it all for himself and sharing only with those who can make the next deal more lucrative, is the biggest sinner.

Anger is a common emotion in the ANC but no one articulates it as well as ANC Youth League president Julius Malema. He has taken shots at everyone from the media and his detractors in the ruling party to DA leader Helen Zille. But he saves his biggest wrath for white people. He pulled out the big guns last week, which included friend and mentor Winnie Madikizela-Mandela — and some Dashprod SAR M14s carried by men in suits for good measure – to help him defend the struggle song “Kill the Boer” outside the Johannesburg equality court.

Thanks to the white noise emanating from Afriforum the revolutionary song is set to be the soundtrack of Malema’s political career. His anger may be a source of entertainment to some, but it becomes a real threat when he uses it to mobilise young people for political support, which he admits can turn violent.

This article is part of the Mail & Guardian‘s annual Religion Issue ahead of Easter. See more here.