It does not matter how many times the ruling party has screwed South Africans over, nor how many times it has been caught in the act, it continues to act with impunity.
This was made clear yet again in a statement the party issued about the recent trip to Zimbabwe by certain leaders, including secretary general Ace Magashule, who “caught a lift” to a meeting with their Zanu-PF counterparts with Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who was headed that way in an army plane, on government business. During lockdown, when international travel was not permitted.
Magashule does not currently work for the South African public in any official capacity. He is an employee of a private organisation. Despite the impunity with which he tore apart the Free State, he is — in theory, anyway — meant to be governed by the same laws as the rest of us.
When the group of party travellers was called out for abusing state resources, the ANC at first tried to pretend its senior members had done nothing wrong.
But the fact remains that the chronically underfunded military is not an Uber or Lyft for non-government officials, even if they believe with all their might that they are very important people.
This was not how the party saw it. It grappled with the seemingly alien concept of accountability, working through an outright denial of reality before settling on a promise to pay back the money.
This last concession, belated and grudging, came just two weeks after the ANC promised to do better, following a bruising meeting (and dressing down) of its leaders over corruption.
After the public outcry, and a demand for action from the presidency, Magashule said his party would pay for the flight. There was no mention of an apology or an acceptance that wrong had been done. The statement instead reads as an attempt to shut up those who are making noise, similar to giving a baby a dummy.
In its lukewarm statement the ANC is missing the point. South Africans are not demanding it pay back the money; they are demanding respect for the separation of party and state.
The governing party cannot use state resources as if it were entitled to them. In its response, the ANC shows it clearly thinks it can. It thinks it is the state.
The party has turned itself into an organ of self-enrichment through the looting of state resources, and is still debating with itself about whether there should even be any consequences for that looting.
Let’s read the ANC’s response for what it is: a middle finger raised to the millions of South Africans it has repeatedly failed.