In 2018, ANC stalwart Andrew Mlangeni accepted an honorary doctorate at Rhodes University. He was, at that time, chair of the ANC’s integrity committee. This was a party that he had given so much for, but was now riddled with corruption.
In his speech, he said: “Some of our political leaders have become absolutely corrupt — they are no longer interested in improving the lives of our people. They are busy lining their pockets with the money that is meant to help the poor people. What a disgrace. They have forgotten that many people died for this democracy that we are enjoying today. The percentage of our unemployed youth is very high, poverty is rampant, and there is no sign of an immediate solution.”
This remains the reality of South Africa, something Mlangeni made it a point to constantly address, repeating that this is not the country he fought for. He and many others sacrificed their freedom, spending decades behind bars fighting apartheid.
Today, too many ANC comrades will send tributes for Mlangeni — applauding him for years of sacrifice, integrity and honour — yet steal from the fiscus and loot what is meant for the poor.
For instance, this week ANC member Nomvula Mokonyane gave quite a performance at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. “Mama Action” has a career packed with allegations of corruption. Under her watch, the water and sanitation department went bankrupt. People in Giyani still don’t have water. And her interference in the next phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project will mean that the Vaal System will run out of water during the next big drought. She shows arrogant disregard for the lives of the people she was meant to serve.
She denies any wrongdoing.
At the Zondo commission she launched into an attack on her accusers and then said it was usual for companies to give money and other forms of support to the ANC. These are companies that have done well because they got lucrative state contracts. And, often, these contracts are given without due process. At least she was honest about corruption in government and the ruling party.
Last week, our editorial focused on the low level of “consequence management” in the ANC. The party reinstated two officials in Limpopo who were implicated in the looting of VBS Mutual Bank. People lost their life savings, but still the ANC agreed to the argument that they couldn’t be suspended if other corrupt officials remained in their jobs.
The ANC has and has had no shortage of corrupt officials. It is hard to agree with Mlangeni’s view that only “some” of our political leaders are corrupt. Covid-19 has exposed how widespread corruption tore the heart out of our institutions, from parastatals to hospitals and infrastructure projects.
But there are indeed good people in the party who keep things going. Mlangeni, we thank you for having been one of them.