ANALYSIS: ANC can’t distance itself from Mokonyane and Co
It must punish those who use its name to reap corrupt rewards, or accept the consequences of tolerating corruption
The ANC was still basking in the afterglow of its 107th anniversary celebrations when Angelo Agrizzi took the witness stand at the Zondo commission to reveal industrial-scale corruption involving senior leaders of the party. The former Bosasa chief operations officer has cracked open a closet of skeletons, creating a veritable nightmare for the ANC on the eve of the final voter registration weekend ahead of the 2019 national and provincial elections.
The ANC has been energised by polling data showing President Cyril Ramaphosa’s pulling power and potential to win back votes from supporters who became disillusioned during the Zuma years.
The new revelations of corruption reveal the level of depravity and entitlement in the ANC leadership, and will cement the despondency that many people are feeling.
Corruption and rot will be a major factor in this election with voters having to weigh up whether it is worth investing in the Ramaphosa hoopla when the party he leads is still dominated by people tainted by scandals.
It would really be impossible to make an informed and considered choice about which party to vote for without the Bosasa scandal and the Gupta plunder being top of mind.
Agrizzi’s bombshell evidence of bribes paid and favours done for ANC leaders and government officials cannot be circumnavigated on the election trail. What can the ANC seriously sell when ostensibly the same pool of people who betrayed their electoral mandate, or are still loyal to the chief perpetrators of state capture, are in poll position to represent the party in parliament?
As yet, the ANC does not have a coherent response to explain how all the looting and capture occurred on its watch, or how to cleanse its ranks of disgraced people.
There are important points to consider about Agrizzi’s evidence.
While the Gupta looting spree could be blamed on a faction in the ANC, the Bosasa infestation was widespread. Because the Watson family are longstanding ANC members, their influence and sponsorships were not seen as problematic.
Many ANC leaders therefore accepted favours and gifts while condemning the Gupta capture – without seeing the irony.
A donation to Ramaphosa’s presidential campaign and security upgrades at ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe’s house, for example, did not set off alarm bells until they became public knowledge.
Agrizzi’s testimony revealed that Bosasa’s generosity was not without motive. They paid bribes and sponsored funerals and parties, and even gave liberally towards the ANC’s flagship election rallies because there was the expectation of payback.
Agrizzi said they approached environmental affairs minister and ANC national executive committee member Nomvula Mokonyane because they knew she was “extremely powerful” and an “Energizer bunny”.
“If you needed things to be done, it would be done. If we had any issues, it would be sorted,” he told Judge Raymond Zondo. However, the company did not get contracts from the departments she headed, he said.
Mokonyane was the ANC’s head of campaigns while she was on the Bosasa payroll. She knew the company was buying her favour and therefore made outrageous demands of hundreds of kilograms of meat and chicken, and gallons of alcohol.
This went beyond asking a friend for a helping hand in times of need. Mokonyane, like former president Jacob Zuma who receives underhand funding from multiple crooked business people, believed she was entitled to money and special favours on top of her government salary.
There is also an element of gluttony and swagger.
You do not allow your children to demand cabriolets from business people because there is a desperate need. It is simply the need to show off.
It is even more revealing that Mokonyane’s response to Agrizzi’s testimony is not a protest of innocence. Her lawyer wrote to Zondo to complain about the commission’s process and said she was aggrieved that she had not been given the opportunity to make representations ahead of Agrizzi’s testimony.
Her lawyer says Mokonyane also felt “betrayed” when she received media queries about being implicated in Agrizzi’s affidavit.
In the letter, Mokonyane relies on a fake message purporting to be from a journalist working at the Sunday Times about how stories about Agrizzi’s testimony came to be carried in the paper.
The fact that Mokonyane had to rely on obvious disinformation and a procedural issue showed that she is not able to counter the damning allegations in Agrizzi’s testimony.
It is also telling that nobody in the ANC is publicly defending Mokonyane.
In fact, several people in the ANC leadership say privately that they know the allegations are true and that Mokonyane should face the music.
The problem for the ANC is that it cannot simply distance itself from the allegations against Mokonyane, Zuma and its other leaders, including prominent MP Vincent Smith.
“Regardless of how many names of ANC senior politicians or leaders appear before the commission as (some) have appeared before, it does not mean they appear on behalf of the ANC,” said acting party spokesperson Zizi Kodwa.
But all these people are in the public eye and were targeted for bribes because of their deployment by the ANC. They derive their power and their positions from the ANC.
These people all represent the ANC brand. In fact, the party colours and logo even adorned a cake that Bosasa gifted to Zuma for his 72nd birthday.
The ANC therefore cannot wait around to see how the chips fall and pretend it is business as usual. It either acts decisively to punish those who use its name and deployment to reap corrupt rewards, or it must accept the consequences of tolerating corruption in its ranks.
The only reason the ANC is not heading for a wholesale defeat in the elections is the lack of a viable alternative to govern SA.
This is a gloomy reflection of the state of politics. But it is also a signal to South Africans to think out of the box if we want better representation in government.
The vast majority of us have self-respect and want to lead honest lives.
So why do we think we have no choice but to be governed by entitled crooks?