ANC’s slid­ing scale

And the Niehaus slip­pery slope

Finweek English Edition - - Openers -

THE AFRICAN NA­TIONAL CONGRESS and Afrikan­er­dom don’t ex­actly have a happy his­tory. Not many Afrikan­ers joined the lib­er­a­tion move­ment (and I don’t sus­pect many ANC moles ever in­fil­trated the Broeder­bond) and those that did par­tic­i­pate in the strug­gle seem to have turned on the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Take Breyten Breytenbach. Jailed writer and fighter in the bad old days of apartheid, Breytenbach now lam­basts the coun­try, the ANC and even Nel­son Man­dela at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity from the rel­a­tive safety of France. He says young peo­ple should leave the coun­try af­ter the failed revo­lu­tion. JM Coet­zee does much the same from his Aus­tralian abode.

Marthi­nus van Schalk­wyk, Min­is­ter of Tourism and the En­vi­ron­ment, is a dif­fer­ent story of course – but he had the fore­sight to join the ANC only af­ter they took power. Not that he’s nec­es­sar­ily good for the im­age of the ANC, but in com­par­i­son to Carl Niehaus he’s Barack Obama. (Never thought that Obama and Kort­broek would ever make it into the same sen­tence, but don’t we live in strange times?)

If you ever won­dered if the ANC val­ues loy­alty above all else, the Niehaus saga makes it clear. Even as ev­ery day brings a new rev­e­la­tion Niehaus con­tin­ues to be called Com­rade Carl. At first the or­gan­i­sa­tion wouldn’t ac­cept his res­ig­na­tion. He was to be re­de­ployed some­where, where he could do less dam­age (an­other am­bas­sador­ship? Gu­atemala maybe?)

More and more of Carl’s dirty tricks were con­fessed to and ex­tended leave was of­fered. It begs the ques­tion: Why is forg­ing sig­na­tures of top pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials – the first of the long list of Niehaus ne­far­i­ous­ness to emerge – less of a crime than con­ning a travel agent into pay­ing for a trip to Mau­ri­tius (or was it Lon­don?) to help his ter­mi­nally-ill but non-ex­is­tent sis­ter?

How ex­actly does the cor­rup­tion scale within the ANC work? Forg­ing sig­na­tures ap­pears to be within the realm of the ac­cept­able, par­tic­u­larly when the fraud­u­lent scheme in ques­tion never gets off the ground. For that you can keep your job: nay, you can get a new job even if your com­rades have knowl­edge of it. Travel scams – a Niehaus spe­cial­ity – also aren’t a fire­able of­fence, con­sid­er­ing the Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment get­ting away with Trav­el­gate. What then? Not pay­ing back the money you owe com­rades is prob­a­bly the only plau­si­ble an­swer.

It’s not some­thing that Jesse Duarte, the ANC spokesper­son, has been able to ex­plain. Not that she’d re­ally want to: af­ter all, it was Niehaus who wormed him­self into her po­si­tion. A decade ago the cor­rup­tion scale ap­par­ently was a bit steeper. Duarte was asked to re­sign as a Gaut­eng MEC and forced into the po­lit­i­cal wilder­ness with the most damn­ing ac­cu­sa­tion against her be­ing she drove without a proper driver’s li­cence.

And Niehaus’s con jobs started a long time ago. Doesn’t say much about the in­sti­tu­tional knowl­edge within the ANC or re­gard for any­one out­side it that some­one such as Niehaus could be ap­pointed as SA’s Am­bas­sador to the Nether­lands, where some of his more elab­o­rate fan­tasies were fab­ri­cated. Com­pared to sec­tions of the US and Bri­tish body politic, Hol­land was one of the strong­est sup­port­ers of the an­ti­a­partheid move­ment. Imag­ine their dis­ap­point­ment to have a patho­log­i­cal liar and fraud foisted upon them and be­ing forced to call him “doc­tor”? The Dutch were prob­a­bly hop­ing to get a Bey­ers Naudé. And state­ments that “time spent in prison for his prin­ci­pled op­po­si­tion to apartheid” is what caused the spin doc­tor’s ac­tions prob­a­bly has Oom Bey spin­ning in his grave.

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