The idea that it is permissible or even admirable to steal from or destroy the establishment, be it business in the local mall or employers or institutions (they sacked the blood bank) has had its expression in what is happening. Looting is not seen as bad, at worst a bit ‘naughty’, but forgivable and understandable and permissible. The idea that ‘we’re perpetually oppressed, we should be allowed to loot’ is firmly established in the psyche of ANC and EFF members, no matter what their economic circumstances.
James Lorimer Daily Friend 15 July
This extract from James Lorimer’s Daily Friend article resonated with me because of what I was told several years ago, but which I have been too inhibited to write about until now.
You can read the background here, but it relates to multi-million rand looting which occurred while Matilda Gaboo was head of the SABC’s international programme acquisition division.
By the time the Sunday Times published a report leaked by an SABC whistle-blower, I had asked for early retirement from what by then had become a state broadcaster which was subsequently bankrupted twice by deployed cadres whose attempts on the life of the only white woman among the SABC 8, Suna Venter, were without precedent when the National Party was in power.
I managed to make contact with the whistle-blower and what I was told bears out exactly what Lorimer identifies in his Daily Friend article.
When the whistle-blower asked black colleagues what they thought of this over-invoicing scam, their reply was that, as their forebears had suffered under apartheid, they had a moral obligation to steal in recompense from an institution which had been established in the apartheid era. They saw nothing wrong with what had happened – and the pervasive corruption at the SABC for the past two decades relates to that.
How many generations does it take to change that mindset?
In an era when every cellphone is a video camera, we saw two striking clips in which a young man driving a Mercedes costing half a million rand did a U-turn outside a shop being looted, strolled across the road to participate in the pillaging frenzy, loaded his stolen goods into the boot of the Merc and drove off.
In a country where the governing party is prosecution-averse and where convicted ANC stalwarts are reverently carried shoulder high to start their truncated sentences (Tony Yengeni) or before being pardoned (Alan Boesak), or miraculously surviving mortal illness (Schabir Shaik), the chances of this thief ever facing any sort of sanction seem remote.
Add to that understanding the knowledge that the police response is almost bound to be dilatory and that there will be incompetence at ministerial level, and the insouciance of the looters was justified.
The ANC turned the once-pristine city of Pietermaritzburg into a cesspit years ago. Even so, to a former resident like myself, reading what Melanie Veness of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Commerce had to say about the looting was heart-breaking.
Given the ANC’s antipathy to media freedom and its attempts to control the narrative through cadre deployment at the SABC, the SSA-funding of the African News Agency and the ANC support of the Gupta media companies, I did not find the trashing of community radio stations to be coincidental.
To the ANC’s unlawfully deployed cadres, nothing is sacred.
We saw this, when the deployed cadres at the East London municipality exploited the Nelson Mandela funeral to enrich themselves by stealing from municipal programmes intended to uplift the poor and needy.
I wasn’t surprised when Gwede Mantashe was fingered at the Zondo Commission in the context of Bosasa’s home-improvement policies, because I remembered that there were similar concerns in the same context a decade ago about the then minister of police, Nathi Mthethwa.
Many South Africans will remember how then president Jacob Zuma was humiliated, when those who had gathered in the FNB Stadium in Soweto on 10 December 2013 for the Nelson Mandela memorial service booed him when he arrived and booed every time he was shown on the big screens there.
At the time I thought that the audience, most of whom were from Soweto, were booing him because of his perceived corruption.
That was not the case, as I was later to discover. They booed him because the then new toll-road system – for which they held him responsible – was having an adverse impact on them financially and, if many of them were not paying for electricity (relying instead on an illegal connection to the nearest substation, or meter- tampering), they did not see why they should now pay to use roads which they had previously used for free.
Gareth van Onselen has written that, when it comes to ANC corruption, the rot started with the failure by Nelson Mandela to sanction Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma over the Sarafina II scam.
I would argue that the pervasive ethos of entitlement and sense of impunity when it comes to ANC corruption has earlier roots – the Radio Freedom broadcasts by Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki decades ago in which ANC followers were urged to render South Africa ungovernable and to stop paying for government services received.
Soweto owes Eskom billions of rands for electricity, but the illegal electricity users know that, every few years, the electricity arrears will be written off.
Orgy of looting
The people engaged in the current orgy of looting want to live like the ANC elite live – Nkandla Style.
Among those who bought into the ANC shtick of ‘A Good Story to Tell’ and ‘A Better Life for All’ are those who now leave their homes before sunrise to queue for hours in the desperate hope of buying staples like bread and milk.
The glorious ‘National Democratic Revolution’ is no chimera – it is here.
What the ANC relies on, with absolute justification, is that today’s corruption scandal will be overtaken by tomorrow’s, and be quickly forgotten.
As an example, you will very probably have forgotten that Lorraine Masipa – see here and here – is allegedly a very close friend of Ben Martins, whose name just happened to crop up in evidence before the Zondo Commission.
The money involved was spent a long time ago and will never be recovered.
Those who bought into Ramaphoria have had their optimism assailed by the Digital Vibes and multi-billion PPE scandals, but I wasn’t surprised because the ANC’s innate sense of entitlement goes back a long way.
More than three decades ago, friends in Pietermaritzburg set up the country’s first shop devoted exclusively to fly fishing. They had acquired the Orvis franchise and what they sold was expensive.
One of the directors, Hugh Huntley, told me the following story.
Cyril Ramaphosa’s interest in fly fishing had become the stuff of local legend and the shop was visited in the early 1990s by Cyril and a few local captains of industry who were not known to be fly anglers.
As they wandered around the shop feigning interest, Hugh told me, Ramaphosa leant forward and whispered in his ear: ‘Don’t hold back, they’re paying.’
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR
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