Vote for Mahlangu shows the ANC is rotten down to its roots
It wasn't the party's leaders who voted her in. It was its rank-and-file members. This should be making us very worried indeed
We have, sadly, become used to political leaders being callow, deceitful, two-faced liars who fill their boots at the expense of the poor people they claim to represent. It is a 21st-century reality.
We laughed at the time, but some of us are reminded of that former Mpumalanga premier Ndaweni Mahlangu. When he was confronted about appointing three dodgy MECs to his provincial cabinet back in 1999, he said, without any shame or irony: “It is acceptable for politicians to lie.”
So last week the Gauteng ANC – which loftily told Jacob Zuma in the run-up to the 2014 election that he was so scandal-soaked and so ethically challenged that it would be best for him to steer clear of the province because he would cost the party voters – voted for Qedani Mahlangu to be part of its provincial executive committee.Everyone now knows Qedani Mahlangu. Despite howls of protest from her officials she moved hundreds of patients from certified mental health facilities into uncertified, unregistered and inadequate facilities, some of them private homes. The patients died. Some of the 144 patients died of hunger and thirst. Some died of neglect. Some were abused.
Mahlangu has blamed everyone but herself. It is this person who the ANC has re-elected to a position of power and responsibility.
Now, it is not David Makhura, the ANC provincial chairperson, or his deputy, Panyaza Lesufi, who did this. It is ordinary ANC delegates from branches and regions of the ANC across the province who lobbied for her and elected her last weekend. The distinction is important. It wasn’t shocking to see Cyril Ramaphosa walking down the street – in one of his power walks in Soweto earlier this year – with Qedani Mahlangu by his side. It may have been sad and disappointing to see, but it wasn’t shocking. He is a political leader. They bend that way, mostly, these political leaders. Expediency is part of the game.
The people who voted for Qedani Mahlangu are the real ANC. They are branch chairmen and secretaries. They are the “masses of our own people”. They are the ones who, every five years, go to ANC conferences and tell Jacob Zuma or Ramaphosa where and how they are going wrong. They are the ANC.
Their vote for Mahlangu sends a clear message: we will put a party leader far above the needs of the society we live in. We are about one of our own and not about the people.That message is clear and unambiguous. One can buy the “well, Brian Hlongwa is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law” story because it has some inkling of truth in it. In the case of Mahlangu, you just have to read former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke’s damning summation in his Esidimeni hearings last year and there is no doubt whatsoever that Mahlangu deserves no role in leadership.
We should stop making a distinction between the good ANC and the bad ANC. The rot is too deep, too ingrained within the party. The so-called good ANC is just the lesser of two devils. The good ANC is the ANC that does not even think twice before voting for a Qedani Mahlangu.It is the same ANC that voted Mduduzi Manana onto the ANC national executive committee just two months after he was convicted for beating up two women. It is the ANC that voted for Jacob Zuma in 2007 and 2012 despite knowing that he violated his friends’ daughter. Indeed, if you really want to get ahead in huge parts of the ANC, it seems, then you have to show that you are ready and willing to behave scandalously.
The lesson from the Gauteng ANC’s election of Mahlangu is that the snake is not just rotting from the head as it did under Zuma. A huge chunk of the body of the organisation is rotten and wants to continue in such a fashion.
It is simply mind-boggling that any decent party would vote for a Qedani Mahlangu to its leadership corps. The ANC just did. I don’t think any message could be clearer.