In his address to the ANC's 2012 policy conference yesterday, Jacob Zuma stated that, if the ANC was to remain a party dedicated to the vision of "a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa", it needed to do the following:
"To maintain this character the ANC should be able to cleanse itself of alien tendencies which range from wanton ill-discipline to those linked to incumbency. These tendencies include social distance, patronage, careerism, corruption and abuse of power; ineffective management of the interface between the movement and the state; a flawed approach to membership recruitment and a decline in ideological depth amongst cadres."
It was a curious sentiment from a man who has surrounded himself with miscreants; and that is putting it mildly, he is something of a miscreant himself.
Indeed, at the heart of almost any national decision the ANC makes, that rewards political loyalty over excellence and graft over goodwill, there you will find Jacob Zuma. Not that one can excuse the broader party mind you; it too, at every level, routinely rewards the crooked and corrupt with position and privilege.
How one does one best illustrate the problem? One of the more powerful examples is the Travelgate Scandal and the ANC's response to it. In particular, by looking at those national ANC members found guilty of defrauding the public and their rise through the party since the point is well made.
Thus, what follows is a brief description of each of seven ANC members of parliament found guilty of fraud and who still enjoy current prominent positions in public service. Jointly and separately they demonstrate that, contrary to Jacob Zuma's principled rhetoric, "careerism, corruption and abuse of power" and the "ineffective management of the interface between the movement and the state" are not "alien tendencies", as Zuma pretends, but standard practice, both for him and the party he leads.
Travelgate was a long-lasting and complicated scandal. Here is a very short concise summary, by way of background:
From beginning to end, it ran from July 2004 through September 2010, when the last ANC MP accused pleaded guilty. In the middle, in 2009, was a national election. The ANC took exactly zero notice of the various accusations against its members when choosing its election lists. Essentially, MPs had misused travel vouchers, issued to them to visit their constituencies, to go on holidays or trips unrelated to work, at a total cost of approximately R18million (in 2004). In some instances travel agencies - the middle men as it were - had inflated claims without MPs knowing and pocketed the excess. So they too were guilty.
PricewaterhouseCoopers audited the problem and the National Prosecuting Authority questioned some 135 MPs, resulting in roughly 79 being implicated and asked to repay monies deemed to have been misused. About 30 were charged, across a range of parties, the overwhelming bulk coming from the ANC. About half of those implicated had not stood for election in 2004 but the other half were still serving. Of them, a number of ANC MPs agreed to a plea bargain with the state as an admission to guilt, and fined. A number of travel agency employees were also arrested, charged and prosecuted.
The entire affair was marked by obfuscation and secrecy from the ANC, which protected senior figures implicated, allowing easier targets to take the fall. It used parliament to cover up and hide as much as it could and, at every step, indeed even after a number of MPs pleaded guilty, refused to take party disciplinary action against them - this despite an express undertaking to this effect. A 19 September 2004 the ANC National Executive Committee statement, with regards to Travelgate, said:
"...the ANC will institute disciplinary action against any of its MPs or other members found guilty of wrongdoing."
Nonsense, of course. It reneged and did no such thing. Indeed, as we shall see, instead, it rewarded every one of the seven with continued high level public positions, even promotion. In August 2011, the Speaker Max Sisulu revealed that parliament had failed to recoup some R12 million owed to it by errant MPs and had decided to write the debt off. This brought an end to one of the ANC's most shameful episodes. A huge scandal would become defined by cover-ups, political protection and, ultimately, reward for those found guilty and still ostensibly serving the public interest.
Here are the facts.
The ANC's seven crooked Travelgate MPs
Below are seven ANC MPs found guilty. In each case I have set out what they were found guilty of, their current position (as well as any promotions they have received - although the fact that they draw public money as a salary at all would seem reward enough) and the cost of their salary to the public. At the end, I have estimated the total cost to the public of their combined salaries since the beginning of 2011 (which is generous - most were convicted in early 2010).
I used the 2011/2012 salary bands, as determined by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers to approximately determine the salary of each person. Obviously these would have increased over time but, in a general sense, that is fairly set off by the fact that I only calculated the cost from the beginning of 2011.
Name: Bhengu, Ruth
Travelgate conviction: Pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud (R43 000). Fined R45 000 or two years' imprisonment and given a three-year suspended sentence.
Position on ANC's 2009 election list: 96th on the ANC's national to national list.
Current position: ANC Member of Parliament. Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport - a 2009 promotion under Zuma, from the position of ordinary MP. Member of the ANC's National Executive Committee.
Annual Salary: R1 118 654.00 as a Committee Chair.
Name: Booi, Mnyamezeli
Travelgate conviction: Pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud. Fined R50 000, or five years' jail and given until January 2014 to pay the money in monthly instalments of R1000.
Position on ANC's 2009 election list: 65th on the ANC's national to national list.
Current position: ANC Member of Parliament. Up until earlier this year and from the 2009 election, Booi served as the Chairperson of Portfolio Committee as Defence (again, a Zuma promotion). He was replaced after a clash with Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and now serves as an ordinary MP. Member of the ANC's National Executive Committee.
Annual Salary: R843 017.00 as a Member of Parliament.
Name: Dlamini, Bathabile
Travelgate conviction: Pleaded guilty to one count of fraud (R254 000 service benefits/mileage claims) and was sentenced to a fine of R120 000.00 or 5 years imprisonment and a further 5 years imprisonment suspended conditionally for 5 years.
Position on ANC's 2009 election list: 16th on the ANC's national to national list.
Current position: Minister of Social Development. ANC Member of Parliament. From 2009 through to a cabinet shuffle in 2010, Bathabile served as Deputy Minister of Social Development, a Zuma appointment. Member of the ANC's National Executive Committee.
Annual Salary: R1 901 699.00 as a Minister.
Name: Dlulane, Beauty
Travelgate conviction: Pleaded guilty to one count of fraud (R289 000 service benefits/mileage claims) and was sentenced to a fine of R120 000.00 or 5 years imprisonment and a further 5 years imprisonment suspended conditionally for 5 years.
Position on ANC's 2009 election list: 58th on the ANC's 2009 national to national list.
Current position: ANC Member of Parliament. Chairperson of the ANC's woman's caucus.
Annual Salary: R843 017.00 as a Member of Parliament.
Name: Molebatsi, Angelina
Travelgate conviction: Pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud. Fined R25 000, or three years in jail, plus an additional five years suspended.
Position on ANC's 2009 election list: 84th on the ANC's national to national list.
Current position: ANC Member of Parliament.
Annual salary: R843 017.00 as a Member of Parliament.
Name: Sosibo, Elsie Jabu
Travelgate conviction: Pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud (R241 000). Fined R100 000 or five years jail, suspended for five years.
Position on ANC's 2009 election list: Elected on the provincial to national list.
Current position: ANC Member of Parliament and Whip in the National Assembly
Annual Salary: R934 285.00 as a Member of Parliament and Whip.
Name: Thompson, Barbara
Travelgate conviction: Pleaded guilty to one count of fraud (R170 000 service benefits/mileage claims) and was sentenced to a fine of R90 000.00 or 5 years imprisonment and a further 5 years imprisonment suspended conditionally for 5 years.
Position on ANC's 2009 election list: 48th on the ANC's national to national list.
Current position: Deputy Minister of Energy. ANC Member of Parliament. From 2009 through to her appointment at Deputy Minister in Zuma's cabinet in November 2010, she served as the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. So she has been doubly rewarded.
Annual salary: R1 556 089.00 as a Deputy Minister.
There were other ANC public representatives who admitted to guilt but were never disciplined by the ANC. Some stood for election in 2009 and missed the cut (like Patrick Maloyi), others had jobs in the public service (like Bruce Kannemeyer, who was serving as a municipal manager). Those listed above merely represent those elected to national office.
Between them, there is a Minister and a Deputy Minister, a Committee Chair, two former Committee Chairs, a Whip in the National Assembly, three ANC National Executive Committee Members and all of them Members of Parliament: not a bad haul for seven people who defrauded the public.
If one takes their collective salaries for the 18 months to date and from January 2011, it works out as follows:
- Bhengu: R1 677 981.00
- Booi: R1 264 525.00
- Dlamini: R2 852 548.00
- Dlulane: R1 264 525.00
- Molebatsi: R1 264 525.00
- Sosibo: R1 401 425.00
- Thompson: R2 334 133.00
- Total: R12 058 667.00
Roughly R12 million - ironically, almost the same amount parliament wrote off. Now, that is not money lost - someone would have to occupy all those positions even if these seven had not been re-elected - but it is an extraordinary amount to spend on people who have abused the public faith. Certainly it is to their benefit. And the more they abused that faith, the more they seem to have been rewarded. Bathabile Dlamini, now a Minister no less, was convicted of one of the biggest amounts out of the seven - fraud to the value of R254 000.
Of course there are a great many other examples of the ANC accommodating and explaining away corruption. This is just one, contained, example. But it does make the point.
What on earth is Jacob Zuma talking about, when he describes corruption as an ‘alien tendency'? He has rewarded those tendencies handsomely.
The United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal makes for a powerful point of comparison. 25 public representatives involved either resigned, retired or announced they would not stand again, including the Speaker of the House of Commons, on the back of a very similar set of circumstances, often involving fraud on a far smaller scale. That is, when they weren't convicted or suspended.
Not the ANC though. They do things differently. For the ANC, there is no relationship between public trust, its perceived faith in public representatives or the institutions in which they work, and the consequences that should follow. It matters not what the public might think. Or that their faith has been abused. Remember, we can't even directly elect representatives in South Africa. The ANC has used this to shield those implicated, hide problems, protect the powerful and, ultimately, reward those with enough patronage. More often than not, it's the President doing the rewarding.
These seven MPs are illustrative of a deep, well set and fundamental disease, and it's not going anywhere - it's quite at home in the ANC, warm and welcoming as that party is.
Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter