There's right and wrong and then there's the ANC
We should soothe ourselves by remembering that the ANC is neither moral nor immoral but entirely amoral
This week the ANC announced that it is “shocked” by the extent of corruption in this country.
Many South Africans have reacted to the ANC’s shock with shock of their own, expressing astonishment that Cyril Ramaphosa’s party could be so eyewateringly two-faced.
I wasn’t shocked, but I must confess that I’m surprised. Mostly, I’m surprised that we’re still here. I’m surprised that we’re still finding ourselves emotionally ambushed by the hypocrisy of politicians; that we’re still bitterly aghast when the thieves clutch their pearls and claim they didn’t know the heist was happening.
I’m surprised that many South Africans still believe that a rattlesnake is a guide dog, even after the snake has bitten them. But I’m also surprised that others still blame the rattlesnake for being a rattlesnake. “Bad rattlesnake!” they cry, never moving beyond their frankly mad belief that a rattlesnake might, with a few small improvements, become a good friend.So when does it stop? At what point do we set aside these vexing, limited beliefs that politicians are either liberators or crooks? When do we mature enough to start wondering if it’s much, much more complicated than good and bad; that it’s something else entirely?
For example, what if most senior members of the ANC literally don’t know the difference between right and wrong? What if the party has become so infused with corruption that graft now feels as normal as breathing?
What if demanding that the ANC roots out corruption is as naive and misinformed as demanding that political parties in the United States root out capitalism?
We still gravitate to the idea of the “good” ANC and the “bad” ANC, but what if these morality-based judgments are completely useless when discussing an amoral parasitic organism?
And if we can make this shift, how must our participation in democracy change? To be fair, it’s not as if the ANC has ever tried to hide its true nature from us.
The party has either masterminded or enabled two of the greatest thefts of public money in this country’s recent history: the Arms Deal and the Gupta-Zuma conspiracy, now called State Capture.Only two senior accomplices have served prison time for activities related to either of these. One was Schabir Shaik, who served two years and four months. The other was Tony Yengeni, who served four months. The same Tony Yengeni who has just been appointed to head up an ANC committee tackling crime and corruption.
Again, many people want to be shocked, both by the appointment and by the party’s defence of it. Jeff Radebe, the former Justice minister, explained that it was appropriate since Yengeni was a member of the National Executive Committee.
That it was appropriate for a convicted fraudster to serve on the NEC wasn’t even up for discussion. To me, however, this doesn’t speak of a party avoiding justice, lying, or sneaking around in the dark.
Rather, this is an open and honest statement by the ANC – the real, true, once and future ANC – that it doesn’t understand that corruption is a crime, or that it is committing that crime.It genuinely doesn’t understand that theft of public money is wrong any more than a fish understands it is wet. It knows that voters don’t like this thing called corruption, but it makes no connection between that thing and itself, which is how it can condemn corruption while it has fraudsters on anti-graft committees and Gupta accomplices in the cabinet and parliament.
In other words, when Radebe defends Yengeni, or Ramaphosa says he didn’t know about State Capture, we shouldn’t see politicians lying to cover their tracks.
Instead we should see a psychopath cradling a human head, bemused and slightly alarmed that police are yelling at him to put his hands up.
When we hear of yet more tender fraud or outright theft, instead of reacting with upsetting shock or moral confusion, we should soothe ourselves by remembering that the ANC is neither moral nor immoral but entirely amoral.
Those cadres who vex us by stealing our money are not actually stealing it: many of them genuinely, honestly and earnestly believe that our money is a legitimate reward – a sort of salary, if you will – for the work they’ve put into their political careers.
It’s not right. It’s not wrong. It’s just the ANC.