If we can’t have ethics, let’s at least have miracle and wonder
Some use ‘integrity committee’ without quotation marks, as if it is somehow dedicated to integrity
It’s been a week, to quote Paul Simon, of hints and allegations. As Sunday’s cabinet announcement became Monday’s, and then Tuesday’s, and possibly Wednesday’s, we could only imagine the threats and ultimatums being flung around behind closed doors. But of all the mysteries we faced this week, one loomed over the rest, a macabre Yeti leaving tantalising footprints across the political landscape: the ANC’s “integrity committee”.
For some reason my colleagues in the media have started using the phrase without quotation marks around it, as if it is a committee that is somehow dedicated to integrity and not the same group of fart-catchers that cleared David Mabuza, Malusi Gigaba, Faith Muthambi and Bathabile Dlamini for another term at the trough.
Then again, our press regularly refers to “white monopoly capital” and “radical economic transformation” sans quote marks, so I suppose all that money paid to Bell Pottinger wasn’t wasted after all.
Critical faculties 0, Joseph Goebbels 1.
We know what the “integrity committee” doesn’t do: it doesn’t enforce a minimum ethics standard in the ANC. Although, to be fair, it couldn’t: if the ANC required its senior officials to understand the difference between right and wrong, Luthuli House would contain four people.
But what does it do? We know that it doesn’t make judgments based on actual evidence, so how does it decide whether you’ve been naughty or nice? And once it decides you’ve been naughty, and sentences you to another five years as an MP (because apparently that’s the standard punishment these days), does it deliver the verdict in writing, perhaps in chocolate sauce drizzled over an ice cream cake, or orally, on its knees, between your legs?
Earlier this week there was a polite outcry from SA’s atheists and constitutionalists when chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng called on parliament to “pray or meditate”. It was, they said, a worrying sign of religiosity creeping into the workings of the state.
When it comes to the “integrity committee”, however, I must confess that I want much, much more religion. And none of the wishy-washy metaphor and borderline agnosticism I grew up with in the Anglican church. I want, to quote Paul Simon again, miracle and wonder!
And why not? If there’s no paperwork, evidence or legalistic framework for the committee, its members are basically medieval sin-sniffers anyway, so why not go gothic and stage a full-blown exorcism?Imagine the scene. A little girl’s bedroom on the top floor of Luthuli House, Ace Magashule in a floral nighty, projectile vomiting at two ANC “elders” who are frantically dousing him with holy Johnnie Blue and holding out a fragment of the One True Pipe that was once smoked by Thabo Mbeki.“The power of Cyril compels you!” they chant. “In the name of Oliver, Walter and Nelson we command you to leave this child!”“Fools!” hisses Ace, now speaking Aramaic and crawling across the ceiling. “I serve only one master, and he is everywhere, well, except for Nkandla because we kind of lost that to the IFP, but you get my point. You have no power over me!”
An exhausted pause; the elders retreat to the hallway and restore their strength by having a plate of meringues, acquired at R25,000 per meringue from the catering company owned by a family member. And then they launch one more assault, bursting back through the door, chanting the Latin incantations of exorcism: “Matamela ramaphosa! Madiba slovo hani carolus! Sub judice ad infinitum!”
Until that happens, I’m keeping those quote marks firmly in place.