There is a truth in politics: this crisis will pass, and people will be distracted by the next one. Just survive this moment, and you will escape accountability.
This is a universal playbook, and the ANC knows it by heart.
But Covid-19 has shifted something in South Africa. The ANC, so used to pulling someone out of circulation and then popping them up in another position (say, as head of Parliament’s home affairs committee) has hit a wall. The looting of money meant for protective equipment — equipment needed to save lives during a pandemic — was so brazen that even they realised that a line had been crossed.
We have all, after all, made enormous sacrifices to help our society escape the worst of Covid-19. People have buried parents, children and friends — at a distance, looking on through a phone video stream. At least three million jobs were lost. The economy is in crisis. More than 14 000 people have died.
Yes, our personal, economic and social sacrifices have helped to flatten the curve. Far fewer people have died than otherwise might have.
But while they talked up the need for these sacrifices, our leaders went about feasting on tenders meant to make it that bit easier and safer for all of us.
With opposition reaching a crescendo, President Cyril Ramaphosa moved first, writing an essay to his party, saying it stood as “accused number one” when it came to corruption. The reaction from those facing allegations of wrongdoing was immediate and vituperative.
Even former president Jacob Zuma found the time to write (or have written for him) a personal essay, despite telling the Zondo commission that he doesn’t have time to drop by to face the numerous accusations against him.
All of this went to a showdown at the ANC’s national executive committee meeting this past weekend.
Ramaphosa won: he is still in power. The party committed to taking the steps it had committed to before, such as ridding itself of people who have broken the law.
As we report, now it’s time for implementation. Something this government has been very good at being bad at.
Unfortunately, once again it is already evident at ANC branch levels that there will be pushback, obfuscation and nitpicking about who should be on the list, either to be removed from their positions or sent out into the cold.
The ANC has far too many members involved in big and daring corruption cases for it to be able to simply remove all the convicted, charged and implicated bad apples.
The party may well implode with very few members left in their positions. Knowing this, the party will drag its feet in finalising these lists.
But we must not be distracted by the next crisis. The ANC runs this country, and we demand more of it.