Step aside should not be used to fan factionalism within ANC

Johannesburg – The ANC was this week thrown into turmoil when the governing party’s suspended secretary general Ace Magashule took an unprecedented step of “suspending” ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa.

At the heart of this war of attrition – which has been raging since the party’s elective conference in December 2017 – is a resolution that seeks to help Africa’s oldest liberation movement to regain its battered image due to corruption, among others.

This column does not seek to oppose or promote a certain interpretation of the resolution, but rather to reaffirm the centrality of and importance of fighting graft in all sectors of society. Corruption has permeated almost all facets of our lives – from paying “cold drink” to access a government service or avoid arrest for wrongdoing, to state capture.

As a country, we continue to pay a premium price for corruption, which has hollowed out state-owned enterprises, crippled departments from delivering basic services, promoted tax evasion and many other ills that hamper the state from delivering on the promise of democracy and a better life for all.

Coupled with these ills are the triple challenges of poverty, youth unemployment and inequality.

It is within this context that it was important the ANC takes serious steps to fight corruption.

For many years now since the democratic breakthrough in 1994, the ANC has been plagued by corruption.

Conference after conference, successive leaders have been warning about the culture of corruption that has taken root in the movement and spilled into the state.

To this day, the “revolutionary” movement still harbours some men and women who have looted the state’s coffers, who have run institutions to the ground; whose moral and political character is questionable; men and women who used finance development institutions to fund their friends and families and also used them as piggy banks, to mention just a few examples.

They are found on both sides of the factional divide – in the so-called Radical Economic Transformation and CR17.

That some have not been criminally charged does not mean they should not be held accountable.

Criminal charges and institutions that preside over them are a contested political terrain. We have seen how insurmountable political pressure was exerted on the National Prosecuting Authority to drop charges of corruption against former president Jacob Zuma, only for some of the graft charges to be reinstated later, when the political power changed hands.

Therefore, the fight against corruption should be a principled one. It should not be about who belongs to which dominant or weak faction of the ANC, or the social status and power of a person.

We are equal before the law. It will be interesting to see if those told to step aside would do so to protect the image of the ANC.

On the whole, the ANC should be commended for upping the fight against corruption – but also reminded to do it as a matter of principle, not factionalism.

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