The Devil’s praise singers

The politics of kleptocracy

Former president Thabo Mbeki once suggested that the white man had entered into a Faustian compact, in effect selling his soul to the Devil for the illicit, short term gains to be made in Africa. He’s probably right: its difficult to look at the whole Imperialist endeavour and not see a clutch of scurrilous bandits raping and pillaging the continent.

(There is, of course, the little matter of the – plus/minus – R30m paid to Mbeki by a German shipbuilding company to guarantee it would receive a submarine contract in South Africa’s multi-billion rand arms deal, (Sunday Times, August 2008). But it’s water under the proverbial bridge as they say. As Rian Malan caustically observes,  “In the past two decades, South Africa has been stricken almost weekly by scandals that would have toppled governments in the West but seem almost meaningless here.”


Perhaps as a nation we have seen so many morally derelict rulers, been abused and deceived for so long (Rhodes, Verwoerd, Zuma – choose your rogue) that we are – if not resigned to our fate – then punch drunk. We stumble about the ring, dazed and confused, teeth punched out and eyes so swollen we can’t tell our opponent from the referee. Our faces are gashed and covered with blood, while Gedleyihlekisa* chuckles in his corner, his Gupta acolytes squeeze water onto their champion from Sahara branded bottles. (*“The one who laughs at you while physically hurting you” is the meaning of Zuma’s second name).

But what then are we to call the ANC’s betrayal of the people of South Africa, if not Faustian?

For this was the liberation movement of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Albert Lutuli and Walter Sisulu.

How did it all go so wrong?

In some respects it’s more disappointing than the banal colonial narrative: colonialism and its deformed apartheid offspring was always about shameless and gratuitous theft by grubby imperialists and calvinist bullies; but for a short while, the ANC owned the moral high ground, which is why it’s fall from grace is all the more shameful.

When did the ANC invite the devil into the bedchamber for an entirely different and unsavoury sort of congress?

Bonginkosi Madikizela wrote recently,

“The vast mass of Zuma’s sins lurk beneath the water. South Africa and the world know this. We know that his corrupt insider deals, capture of the state, manipulation of the police and prosecution, undermining of Parliament and zero policy direction for our economy all coalesce to paint the real picture of his terrible presidency. Yet the ANC stands behind him unwaveringly.”

This “vast mass of sin” is rummaged through by Pieter-Louis Myburgh in his book, The Republic Of Gupta – A Story of State Capture (published 2017).

Our president is a nightmare, no doubt. And if destroying this country was a particular talent of the apartheid leaders, then Mr Zuma’ bust should appear in some dismal little gallery rereserved for the worst of the discredited leaders of this country..

But Dale T. McKinley points to a far more insidious and pervasive culture of corruption of which Zuma is merely the most recognisable example.

“The real storyline is not one of good (past) ANC leaders versus bad (present) ANC leaders; not one of selective and individualist memories of contribution or propagating conveniently revisionist histories of struggle and sacrifice. In this story there are no unsullied and incorruptible individual heroes, no personal saviours and no constructed vanguards of the workers and poor who are going to save the day.

Rather, the story has a simple yet profound framing: what the ANC and its alliance partners have truly forgotten is that how one lives (and leads) is much more meaningful and important than where one lives, how much power and money one has or what institutional and social position one holds in society.

Until and unless that life lesson is (re)learnt, by both the ANC and society as a whole, South Africa will continue to mistake consequence for cause.”

This is how the ANC works – the unwritten methodology and practice | GAVIN HARTFORD | Daily Maverick | 24 April 2017

See also

Mistaking consequence for cause: Zuma and the real story of the capture of the ANC and the state | DALE T. MCKINLEY |25 APR 2017

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s