ANC’s sliding scale
And the Niehaus slippery slope
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.