There was a special kind of symbolism in this week’s discovery that Eskom’s debt is now more than the combined budgets for health and education in SA: given the choice between us being sick and stupid or the Bhutibond continuing to gorge on money, the party has opted for gluttony.
Actually, that’s not really true. It is unfair to political parties to describe the ANC as a party. Because, of course, it isn’t one. Instead it is a corruption machine, rough and crass and roaring, that grinds away at our country and our psyche day and night, extracting wealth wherever it finds it to buy loyalty and power and silence.
It eats people and potential and hope, and s***s out ruination and division.
Still, I know that some people still believe the ANC is a party. I don’t want to be unkind to these people by suggesting that their heads contain nothing but a soup of cobwebs floating in arse-dribble. Perhaps they are just very naive, or don’t have access to newspapers, or live in a cave, on the moon, in the 12th century.
But after Monday, even the most, um, naive, of those people must surely be feeling the first stirrings of doubt. Because Monday was the day that Qedani Mahlangu (the lethally incompetent official who oversaw the deaths of over 140 mentally ill people in the Life Esidimeni scandal) was voted onto the ANC’s executive committee in Gauteng. Tuesday, however, was the real giveaway. Because on Tuesday, Qedani Mahlangu was a still a member of the PEC.
I know local politics are a cesspool. I know the ANC has set the bar for public office so low that all one requires these days is a pulse and lips that can make a reasonable facsimile of a kiss when the Big Man presents his buttocks.
But if Cyril Ramaphosa had any clout whatsoever, or any intention to practise what he’s been preaching, a red telephone would have rung on the desk of Gauteng premier David Makhura on Monday afternoon.
Five minutes later Mahlangu’s cellphone would have rung, and an hour after that she would have released a statement to the country explaining that she had decided to step down from the PEC for personal reasons.
But of course that didn’t happen, and still hadn’t by the time of writing.
Why? The answer lies in the mechanics of the corruption machine.
I believe that Ramaphosa wants to make SA less corrupt and its public servants slightly more accountable. He is a wealthy man who has seen the world and surely understands the basic mathematics of corruption, namely, that in order for everybody to get as rich as possible, it needs to be sustainable.
The corruption machine has to chug along at a happy pace, rumbling on decade after decade in the slow lane without swerving into the middle of the news cycle.
Jacob Zuma was fired because he drove the corruption machine badly.
He over-revved it and let it run dangerously hot.
When it started popping rivets and springing Gupta leaks, the senior cabal realised that Zuma was about to set the whole thing on fire.
And so he was dragged out of the driver’s seat, and Ramaphosa, a man with a lighter foot, a man who knows how to get billions of rand to the gallon, was installed.
The trouble is, the machine is still going at full steam. The ANC still thinks it’s a good idea to elect people like Qedani Mahlangu. It still doesn’t understand how Eskom is about to end this country.
It will take years for Ramaphosa to coax the juggernaut back on track and to let it cool off and slow down; years of carefully working the levers of power and money to reach a happy, sustainable, long-term level of corruption and patronage.
The question is, will Ramaphosa survive long enough to see that happen? Will we?