Sam van den Berg
What conclusions can one draw from mounting evidence that the ANC may be steeped in corruption?
When the ANC adopted the principle of the armed struggle, like the USA under Bush at Guantanamo, or the Nazi functionaries at the Wannsee Conference (here), they abandoned 'ordinary' concepts of morality and legality and resorted to the Law of Moral Entitlement. It is a context in which graft, murder and torture - even democide - become conceivable and eventually acceptable, because it is done in the name of the greater good - racial purity, human progress, freedom, democracy or some such noble cause. Most people would probably say that during the Second World War this higher ethic was appropriate. It is debatable. Some people would agree that such an ethic is also acceptable in a war of liberation. Gandhi would have disagreed, but it is arguable.
Once a liberation movement becomes a government, it often finds it impossible to change its liberationist mind-set and accept 'ordinary' ideas of the rule of law. The ANC may have accepted the constitution and the Bill of Rights (read their lips), but always with a casuistic reservatio mentalis that everything was still subject to the higher Law of Moral Entitlement. The NEC of the ANC alone could be trusted with the sacred duty of upholding its concept of democracy. No-one else can be trusted.
At least honest
Whatever one might think of Mr Zuma's moral probity, he has been honest about one thing: he has twice publicly announced the supremacy of the ANC over the Constitution.
So - to take a purely hypothetical case - to pilfer state assets and divert money intended for the poor in order to fund elections and to buy the loyalty of influential people would not only be acceptable, but indeed a moral duty - the duty to protect Democracy. Even when things go badly wrong and corruption takes on a life of its own and gets completely out of hand, the Guardians of Democracy may still cling to their sense of moral entitlement - like corrupt and degenerate popes who still somehow managed to believe that they were doing God's work - even while moving in mysterious ways from one 'nephew's' bed chamber to the next.
Is it acceptable for the Guardians of Democracy to lie about their transgressions? No less a man than Winston Churchill answered this question: 'In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.'
The frightening thing is that this sense of moral entitlement probably implies that it is impossible for the Guardians to even think of the possibility of losing an election - and we know what that means in Africa (Mugabe, Kenya) ANC leaders pay lip service to multiparty democracy, but every now and then give the game away. It is significant that when President Mbeki went to Polokawne to seek a third term as ANC president, he did not bring an heir apparent with him. It was either Mbeki or nothing; losing was simply inconceivable. Stalin was also known for his policy of never permitting anyone to be seen as a possible successor.
Mr Zuma finds it inconceivable that a mere charge of corruption could possibly be allowed to stand between him and the presidency to which he is morally entitled, because only he really cares about the poor. The whole top structure of the ANC believes, like Mr Zuma, that the ANC will (and must) be in power 'until Jesus comes'.
Unfortunately - a painful lesson President Mbeki recently learnt: the gods take a very dim view of hubris.