THE ANC train has no brakes.
The culture of corrupt cadres at the heart of the party, which was given free rein during the Jacob Zuma era, has only grown and taken deeper roots under Cyril Ramaphosa's leadership.
Corruption and tenderpreneurship are clearly no longer just unwelcome phenomena; they are woven into the fabric of the ANC.
It's like a cancer that has spread throughout the entire body: if you cut it out, you might end up killing the patient.
This doesn't mean every ANC leader or member is corrupt, but it does mean that they all choose to live with it; they accept it as the nature of the beast.
There is a realistic chance that the once-glorious 112-year-old liberation movement will lose power in the upcoming election after 30 years.
The party of Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Sol Plaatje, John Dube, Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela may have to sit in the opposition benches later this year.
The fact that this realisation hasn't shocked ANC leaders enough to take concrete action speaks volumes about what the party has become.
Oh, Ramaphosa still talks about renewal and clean, effective governance, but citizens listen to it like you listen to an old rogue saying the cheque is in the mail.
No wonder the ANC is building its election campaign around the argument that South Africans are better off today than in the days of apartheid and oppression more than three decades ago.
One could boldly declare that the ANC of 2024 owes its existence mostly to a broad system of patronage, with a bit of nostalgia and ethnicity thrown in.
Ask not what you can do for the country; ask what the ANC can do for you.
They still call each other comrades and speak spiritedly of “the revolution" but today's ANC is more of a crime cartel than a liberator — at best, an empowerment organisation for loyal cadres.
The corruption extends from local councillors and mayors to traditional leaders, provincial administrations, senior government officials, state enterprises, parliament, the cabinet, and a wide network of deployed cadres and rent-seeking business people.
The Gupta brothers may have fled and Zuma may have been reduced to a pathetic figure on the periphery, but grand state capture has given birth to thousands of small state capturers who, like ants, devour our national morality and economy.
Ramaphosa's own image as a corruption fighter has been severely tarnished by his dubious Phala Phala transaction and clouds of suspicion hanging over several members of his cabinet and executives at Luthuli House.
People like minister Gwede Mantashe and deputy secretary-general Nomvula Mokonyane who received favours and gifts from Bosasa. Like deputy ninister David Mahlobo who, according to testimony before the Zondo Commission, carried bags full of illegal cash to Zuma. Like minister Blade Nzimande, who allegedly was involved in shady dealings at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
This tolerance towards corruption at the highest level has been sending the message for the past 15 years that stealing from the state, from the public, is not a sin. It's how things are done in South Africa.
And it is in this climate that several major crime syndicates have begun to grow tentacles like giant squids during the Ramaphosa administration, making it increasingly difficult for various sectors to do business.
In this climate, according to Kaizer Kganyago of the Special Investigating Unit in an interview with eNCA this week, more than 40,000 students (or their parents) have applied for NSFAS assistance when the parents earn too much to qualify. Some of these parents are well-off, he says, but use the identity of a struggling grandmother or aunt to make the application succeed. This costs the system more than R5 billion.
Ramaphosa will probably announce the election date in the State of the Nation Address on February 8. It could be as early as the last week of May.
But just in the last few months, we had to find out that there was still corruption in the management of NSFAS and Transnet, where a tender of R80 million for security gates at ports suddenly grew to R300 million.
And this week, the amaBhungane investigative team reported that a notorious political operator, Lawrence Mulaudzi of Equator Holdings, was appointed by the technically insolvent PetroSA as a partner in a major offshore gas project.
Mulaudzi was a key character in the Mpati Commission's investigation into corruption at the Public Investment Corporation and allegedly funneled money to the former health minister, Zweli Mkhize, and the deputy leader of the EFF, Floyd Shivambu.
This decision by PetroSA comes shortly after the revelation that the state enterprise concluded a suspicious transaction of R3.8 billion with the Russian Gazprombank.
And then there is Ramaphosa's deputy, Paul Mashatile. News24 had published a series of articles implicating him in shadowy transactions, and reported yesterday:
“The Gauteng Department of Human Settlements paid a company, which donated to the ANC and has links to Deputy President Paul Mashatile, R134 million for a housing project conceived in 2013 - but not a single house has been built."
Ramaphosa and his inner circle might want all corruption to stop but they realise that a proper cleanup in the ANC will bring down the entire house.
♦ VWB ♦
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