Angola leads the way
Angola can show South Africa a thing or two when it comes to holding politicians to account.
The 38-year long presidency of Jose Eduardo dos Santos led to some of his children becoming exceedingly wealthy. His daughter, Isabel, was often described as the “richest woman in Africa.” A large portion of her assets was confiscated and it seems she has by no means finished with corruption trials from her home in exile. Her brother, Jose Filomeno ‘Zenu’ dos Santos, was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for fraud, money laundering and influence peddling. The former president is living in exile in Spain.
Former cabinet ministers in Angola are also not above the law. Former minister of communications, Manuel Rabelais was sentenced to 14 years in prison for a €98 million corruption case. Former transport minister Augusto da Silva Tomas also received a sentence of 14 years for corruption.
Namibia provides another example for us. Bernard Esau, former minister of fisheries and former justice minister Sakeus Shanghala are both in jail awaiting trial on charges of corruption.
The only South African examples that come to mind are fraudster Tony Yengeni who served a brief period in prison before being paroled and elected to high office in the ANC; the Travelgate MPs, who stole money from the people of South Africa, got off with fines and some of them went on to promotion – even into the cabinet; and Schabir Shaik.
Zuma’s financial adviser, Shaik, was sentenced to 15 years for fraud and corruption. He served for only 28 months (not in a cell, but in the prison hospital) before being released on compassionate grounds. According to his doctor’s report to the parole board he was suffering from a terminal illness, depression, eyesight loss and high blood pressure. 14 years later he is said to be a regular golfer.
There is of course John Block, former finance MEC in the Northern Cape, who is serving a 15-year sentence for fraud, corruption and money laundering. Correctional Services has denied as “fake news” the story that he was about to be paroled. One hopes that it is fake news.
The biggest political fish, Jacob Zuma, is about to (or not) go on trial for serious offences dating back for decades. If the trial goes ahead, one hopes that Zuma will follow a few other retired heads of state to prison. But don’t hold your breath. If he is ever convicted, I predict President Ramaphosa will pardon him.
The Secretary-General of the ANC, Ace Magashule, once described by President Ramaphosa as his “boss,” is facing a serious criminal trial, but seems free to campaign against Ramaphosa and his own party. Unbelievably, the whole country is transfixed by the spectacle of the infighting in the ANC among its most senior leaders about whether office bearers charged criminally should “step aside” or whether this should extend to those who are merely facing serious allegations.
The Zondo Commission and the NPA are hard-pressed because of the sheer number of alleged criminals, but they will get there.
The truth is that so many senior office holders and ANC members are or were involved in criminal activities that the party and the government at various levels will be hard-pressed to function properly when and if all the criminal trials finally commence and justice is done. With a bit of luck that party and government will have the biggest clean-out of crooks in a quarter of a century
Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His website is douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com
This article first appeared in The Star