Fight tigers and smash flies
Earlier this week this lowly newspaperman spent time reading through the ANC’s national general council discussion documents.
As usual, some sections are very interesting, informative and brutally honest, while others are downright banal and paranoid. Quality or lack thereof aside, the ANC is to be commended for keeping to the tradition of being transparent about sharing its internal pains with South Africa.
The Balance of Forces document is particularly refreshing, as it outlines in brutally honest fashion the party’s internal tribulations, and its governance challenges. It is candid about corruption, maladministration and internal rot.
The document has a section that deals with “the legitimacy of the polity and the state”. It talks about how “clear intent and serious action” in dealing with what’s wrong gives “confidence to society about the ethical foundations of the state”.
“However, when there is repetitive poor management of allegations of corruption and patronage within high leadership echelons, the legitimacy of the state and the polity as such is undermined,” it says.
It continues: “Indeed, over the past few years, a general impression of systemic corruption has been created, ranging from unsavoury developments in state-owned enterprises to strange machinations within security and tax authorities and unconvincing responses to admonitions for accountability by relevant constitutional bodies.”
I safely assumed that these “unconvincing responses” included the ANC’s dismissal of rulings by the Public Protector.
How shocking, then, when I tuned into the happenings in Parliament and watched this very same party adopting Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s shambolic report on the R246 million corruption monument. It was rather disconcerting watching one Mamoloko Kubayi – who used to have good brains before the Martians crept into her bedroom and sucked them out – complete her transition from activist to a siwengu, mindless member of the mob. (By the way, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being a siwengu, so long as you are an Orlando Pirates one).
Then there was the bit in the Economic Transformation document about the governance of parastatals in which the party emphasises its strategic role in planning and driving growth. It outlines the urgent need to get state-owned enterprises to be effective. It says, among other things, that these entities need “clear roles and responsibilities for boards and executives” and the government has “to appoint competent board members and executives”.
At this point I wondered about the Marie Antoinette of SAA, the Weskoppies escapee who runs the SABC and many other deployees who have been appointed against all reason.
I scoured the Peace and Stability document hoping for decisiveness on restoring peace and stability to the police and prosecution services.
Instead, the document tells us “the police service is a well-resourced professional institution staffed by highly skilled officers who value their work, serve the community, safeguard lives and property without discrimination, and protect the peaceful against violence and respect the rights of all to equality and justice”.
Ignoring the spike in crime over the past two years, it notes “statistics released by the police for the period 2008/09 to December 2013 indicate a continued general decrease in serious crime”.
In search of light relief, I turned to the everdependable SA Communist Party. They did not disappoint. In a column titled: “What we can learn from the Chinese fight against corruption”, party spokesperson Alex Mashilo wrote about fighting tigers, smashing flies, hunting foxes and upgrading to Skynet. The tigers he writes about are corrupt high-ranking government and Chinese Communist Party officials and private sector accomplices, the flies are mid-level ones and the foxes are those suspects who flee abroad to evade justice. Skynet, Mashilo explains, is the hi-tech search for the foxes, which sometimes extends to space.
Mashilo writes about how China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection proactively pounces on those suspected of violating “party discipline” – in this case corruption.
“The commission does not wait for allegations to conduct its work. At any time, any official can be inspected for adherence to discipline.”
Stating that party discipline is “stricter than the law” Mashilo approvingly writes about a Chinese man who hanged himself in his office earlier this month while under “discipline investigation”.
Then he cuts to the nub: “What can progressive left political movements and governments learn from all this? There is no doubt that we need our own ‘fighting tigers, smashing flies and hunting foxes’ in South Africa.”
He also expresses no doubt that his party could be consistent about its commitment to fighting corruption, no matter how high the “tiger” sits.
But then, we live in a world and a time of great contradictions.