Political Watch

Battle against corruption could rip ANC apart

Thula Nxesi urges corruption clean-up
Thula Nxesi.jpeg

Follow-through on an instruction to root out corruption by the ANC-led alliance’s recent summit could trigger raging battles throughout the party in weeks to come.

At the centre of these battles, if they do occur, will be sitting members of local governments, seeking re-nomination for next year’s nationwide local government elections.

In a very frank and forthright article on the party’s official website, ANC Today, a member of its National Executive Committee and Minister of Public Works, Thula Nxesi, describes corruption as the number-one enemy of the party and the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).

He says the failure to decisively deal with “this cancer is slowly killing the liberation movement”.

What the party regarded as strategic and well-intended cadre deployment, has become an entrenched patronage-client network. The medicine prescribed might become as deadly to the organisation as the illness itself.

In his article under the heading “Corruption: The No. 1 enemy of the NDR”, Nxesi, who is also deputy chairperson of the South African Communist Party, reminds party members that the “objective of combating fraud and corruption” is also reflected in the ANC strategy towards the 2016 local government elections:

“Our branches are instructed to undertake a performance assessment of current councillors and municipalities during July – before candidate nomination – in order to remove corrupt and incompetent representatives. It is therefore imperative that - at every level of the Alliance – we support and empower honest cadres to carry out this mandate.”

Councillors will fight back

Membership of local government has become a fulltime career for probably the majority of councillors. This is reflected in the recent request by the central body representing municipal authorities, the South African Local Government Association’s (SALGA), that councillors receive the same remuneration package as member of parliament.

Judged by how often councillors and their homes have become targets during the proliferation of service delivery protests, protests over alleged corruption in the allocation of housing and the like, many of them are at the centre of local “patronage-client networks”.

Under these circumstances it can be anticipated that not only will sitting councillors fight tooth and nail to retain their positions, but also that there will be some very keen challenges from other aspirants. It can be expected that the contests will become messy and even violent, besides legal actions by sitting members being kicked out.

It is understood that the ANC plans to complete the nomination process before the end of the year, although the date for next year’s election is not known yet.

Fighting a losing battle

Minister Nxesi himself testifies to what extent corruption has taken hold of the affairs of state.

He writes: “Allow me to share my experiences at the Department of Public Works since being appointed Minister at the end of 2011. It is here that I have come to realize that pervasive levels of corruption, tenderpreneurship and the insidious relationship between business and politics - and the counter-revolutionary threats that these pose to our struggle for social justice. This poses one of our greatest practical and reputational risks.”

He also writes: “We appear extremely vulnerable when it comes to the public perception of how decisively - or not - we deal with perceived or real instances of corruption in the public sector.”

Despite the commitment at the alliance summit to the “need to combat fraud and corruption and the other practices that weaken our movement” and a list of recommendations on how to combat it, the movement is probably fighting a losing battle on that front.

The strategy of cadre deployment facilitated the entrenchment of corrupt relationships and wide-spread inefficiency, as reflected in the crises presently experienced at state enterprises.

At the same time that plans to fight corruption are effectively sabotaged, the way some policy programmes are implemented creates breeding ground for corruption.

A prime example of this was exposed last week by an article on the Moneyweb Today website. Antoinette Slabbert reported how Eskom and South African Airways have, without warning, imposed new black empowerment measures on some of its contractors.

It demanded that 30% of these contractors’ equity be transferred to black-owned small businesses, apparently nominated by the two state enterprises.

In reaction to this news, corporate governance expert Charl Kocks of Ratings Afrika said it would corrupt the existing black empowerment programme, which has been carefully introduced over a period, and increase uncertainty in the market about the rules of doing business with government.

The discipline of a competitive market was being diluted by this kind of central control and inefficiencies would increase, while the door was being opened for corruption, Kocks said.

by Piet Coetzer

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