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You Couldn't Make This Up

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on May 7, 2021 16:33

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Fact is stranger than fiction. Samson brought the temple down, and modern political leaders seem to be willing to pull their parties down with them rather than see a future different from their own. South African political drama seems to echo that of the United States in many ways.

It was a soap opera these last weeks in the South African political theater. The President finally put the Secretary-General of the ruling party on warning, only to have the Secretary-General issue a letter suspending the President. 

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has always been a broad church, an alliance between labor movements, the Communist Party, and a collection of nationalist, populist, socialist and opportunist factions.

A struggle in 2017 for the succession to President Jacob Zuma occurred between trade unionist and veteran negotiator Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ex-wife of the ex-President and master of political intrigue. Ramaphosa won, but at the cost of making many enemies. Ramaphosa was seen as the candidate for negotiation, reason, intellectualism, while Dlamini-Zuma seemed to represent her ex-husband’s populist, personality-driven tendencies. Both spent vast amounts on their party campaigns, and allegations of dirty money and influence buying surfaced almost immediately.

South African electoral laws run on a party list system where the majority party appoints the President. The Party is a government within government – a typically Soviet model.

Under President Ramaphosa, a litany of accusations of corruption and loading state institutions with loyalists under the previous administration kept the public entertained while clutching at their disappearing taxes. Ramaphosa, ever the conciliator, brought some of his opponents into the Party administration and even into his Cabinet. Chief of these is Ace Magashule, previous Premier of the Free State and now Secretary-General of the party. Magashule stands accused of a number of improprieties, but was formally charged with corruption in a housing scandal.

The party leadership, embarrassed by its Secretary-General in the accused bench, renewed a decision that party administrators accused in court must step aside. Magashule refused, and cartoonists had fun with his "sidestep" instead of stepping aside. Having exhausted all means of persuasion, the party’s executive mandated the President to issue a letter suspending Magashule. He reacted by issuing a backdated letter in almost identical language, suspending Ramaphosa from the post of leader of the party for having used tainted money in his internal campaign.

There is a difference: Magashule stands accused of misusing public money, while Ramaphosa is accused of having accepted money from tainted sources for election in a private, party-political election. This may seem like splitting hairs, but it has a legal basis, and it seems as if the markets, political opportunists, and most political leaders declined to support Magashule.

South Africa, and other countries with similar political dinosaurs that refuse to die, do not need this at the moment. The third COVID wave is looming and South Africa still has no coherent vaccination drive in place. The economy is in disarray while politicians seek to change street names and install new drivers license schemes.

Must politics be a soap opera?

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on May 7, 2021 16:33

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Source: Upworthy

South Africa's ex-president ignores a summons to appear before an anti-corruption inquiry.

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