Editorial: ANC to blame for Present dilemma

The ANC has acted swiftly to dismiss cash-in-transit heist suspect Errol Velile Present from its employ, leaving some of us to question why the party has not disassociated itself from other criminally charged individuals such as, well, Jacob Zuma, or convicted fraudsters including Tony Yengeni.

It is, of course, far easier to dispense with worker bees than it is with politicians. But it was almost certainly the political pressure brought on by Jo’burg’s mayor, Herman Mashaba, that forced the ANC to act immediately against Present.

Yengeni, who is a member of the ANC’s national executive committee and an MP, was appointed as chairperson of the party’s working group on crime and corruption for the party’s election manifesto workshop last month. It was a delicious irony — until the party’s deputy secretary general proclaimed that Yengeni had done nothing wrong and had received a raw deal by having to serve time in jail. At that point, it became gravely concerning.

If the party’s senior officials see nothing amiss with Yengeni accepting a discount from arms-deal bidder Daimler-Chrysler Aerospace while he chaired a committee on the acquisition of defence equipment, to be supplied by that bidder, then the ANC may very well be in the kind of darkness that no new dawn will ever enlighten.

It is the ANC’s record of corruption that will be weighing on voters’ minds as they go to the polls next year. And this brings us back to Present.

At a time when the ANC appears to be grappling with its penchant for scandal and corruption, and showing signs of rebuilding public trust, the fact that its employee may have been involved in a string of robberies and hijackings points to a bigger problem for the ANC. Its reputation has been so tarnished by years and years of theft from the public purse that the fact that its employee is accused of being a member of a cash-in-transit heist gang appears entirely in character for the ruling party.

And before ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe begins barrelling down the radio at the Mail & Guardian, we’re quite certain not every person in the ANC is a thief. Of course not. But the ANC’s inability to effectively root out a culture of corruption among its political office bearers means that the entire party has been tainted with a reputation for theft.

The ANC may claim that Present’s involvement in Luthuli House, and thus the running of the ANC, was tangential, but this is not the point here. He is another ANC official who stands accused of theft.

And while the party waits for him to explain why he should not be expelled from the ANC, it would do well to also consider how it got into this situation in the first place. It’s the party itself that has long been hijacked.

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