Election season has begun in earnest. All the major parties, and the minor ones, have released their manifestos. The official process pertaining to the party lists has begun, with parties having submitted their lists to the Independent Electoral Commission – though that is not the end of the process.
In stages between now and early May, the party lists will be scrutinised by party members, their opposition and the public. There is time built in for objections to be lodged against any candidate who fails the terms set by law for their inclusion.
This issue is a huge headache for the ruling party, and it is coming to the fore once more as its party lists are examined within and outside the ANC. Already some are taken aback by the inclusion on the ANC's list of disgraced former communications minister Dina Pule, who was found by the public protector to have diverted funds to her lover and was disciplined by Parliament. If the party is serious about combating corruption, it should not even have considered Pule for the list or any candidate facing criminal charges.
The way the ANC dealt last year with national executive member Miriam Segabutla, who was facing serious claims of fraud and corruption, is correct.
It noted that, in the context of its Mangaung conference, it had resolved that those facing serious criminal charges should, of their own volition, step aside from participating in any ANC leadership positions or occupying public office pending the outcome of the court proceedings. The same could be said about findings against a public official made by the public protector.
To its credit, the ANC has set up an "integrity committee" to look into cases of possible malfeasance on the part of its office bearers and MPs and, as we reported last week, also inaugurated a vetting process to ensure that its electoral candidates are clean.
The ANC absolutely has to make sure that its candidates for high office are above suspicion, and it also has to clear its stables of any venal characters still lingering there. Such people are (or will be) the most visible face of corruption in South Africa if they are caught. But the process is compromised if the party can't deal with the suspicions that linger over its president and his relations and friends.
The ANC, and indeed all political parties, need to go further than the minimum the law requires. Compromised leaders can't be protected by an insistence on the probity of others, and it doesn't help if the body is clean but the head is dirty. Leadership in South Africa requires, or should require, even higher standards of integrity than the law asks for. Given the recent history of corruption in South Africa, we need leaders without even the faintest whiff of malfeasance clinging to them.