Yesterday, January 8th 2012, was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the African National Congress in South Africa.
The ANC was formed by contemporary Black leaders with the intention that it would supersede tribal, language and cultural boundaries, in order to speak for all Black South Africans with a united voice against the racial discrimination of what was then the newly-formed Union of South Africa. During the years of apartheid it was outlawed. Its 'armed wing', Umkhonto we Sizwe ('Spear of the Nation'), mounted generally ineffective 'guerilla' operations (which were more terrorist than guerilla in nature, and hurt far more Black South Africans than they did the ruling government). Nevertheless, it remained a uniting factor in Black politics in South Africa, and its propaganda built up the reputation of the jailed Nelson Mandela until he assumed a larger-than-life presence on the political stage. Following the accession to power of the last White State President, F. W. de Klerk, the ANC was unbanned. It participated in several years of negotiations with the apartheid government, leading to the first-ever universal democratic election in South Africa in 1994. The ANC won that election (and all subsequent ones), and has formed the government of that country since that time.
Unfortunately, its accession to power has not provided any real cause for celebration among the people of South Africa. As Time magazine points out:
The government's failure to transform South Africa from a country of black and white into a "rainbow nation," in Archbishop Desmond Tutu's phrase, means black poverty is still the key political issue. A second, related one, however, is the ANC's dramatic loss of moral authority. At 93, Mandela is still among the most admired people on earth. But his party has become synonymous with failure — and not coincidentally, arrogance, infighting and corruption. Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and, at 80, still the nation's moral conscience, encapsulated South African political debate last year when he came out of retirement to give two speeches. In the first he asked whites to pay a wealth tax in recognition of their persistent advantage. In the second he called the ANC "worse than the apartheid government."
. . .
... a phenomenon in postapartheid South Africa: the growth of the tenderpreneur. The term describes those who get rich from government contracts or from dispensing them for kickbacks. Tenderpreneurs have turned government into a business. The national Special Investigating Unit, which targets corruption, reckons that up to a quarter of annual state spending — $3.8 billion — is wasted through overpayment and graft. The Auditor General says a third of all government departments have awarded contracts to companies owned by officials or their families; in December it found that three-quarters of all tenders in one ANC-ruled province, the Eastern Cape, rewarded officials in this way. Those being investigated for suspected corruption include two ministers, the country's top policeman and the head of the ANC's Youth League, Julius Malema. (All deny the charges.)
Tenderpreneurs are just one chapter in the saga of ANC scandals. There are the perks, like the $550 million the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) claims ministers and their wives have spent on themselves since 2009. There is the state security minister whose wife was convicted of running an international drug ring, and the local government minister who used public money to fly first class to Switzerland to visit his girlfriend, also in prison for narcotics. There is the previous police chief, jailed for 15 years for taking bribes from the mob. And there is a corrupt $4.8 billion European arms deal that has haunted the ANC leadership since it was agreed to in 1999.
There's more at the link.
The Telegraph adds:
Since its ascent to power in 1994, the ANC has presided over steady economic growth, a drop in violent crime and the provision of basic homes and services to some - but not all - of the country's poorest.
But apart from the politically-connected elite enjoying their round of golf in Bloemfontein on Friday, few have seen much change in their lives.
Inequality within and between race groups has increased. Half of young people are unemployed and half the population lives on just eight per cent of the national income.
Thabo Mbeki's disastrous HIV/Aids denialism helped ensure that 16.6 per cent of the adult population is now infected and life expectancy at birth has slid from 61.4 to 49.3 years old.
Much of the gratitude towards the ANC has given way to disillusionment and anger that former freedom fighters and their families are growing rich on backhanders and government contracts while many continue to live in poverty.
Again, more at the link.
Corruption, nepotism, inefficiency, ineffectiveness and internal strife (a.k.a. 'fighting over the spoils') have become hallmarks of the ANC since 1994. Furthermore, it's been eager to uncover and highlight abuses by the apartheid government, but much more reluctant to address abuses committed by its own leaders and armed followers during the struggle for democracy. I have personal and very bitter memories of that.
Shortly after the 1994 elections, when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was formed to investigate the evils of the apartheid era, I offered to give evidence about incidents to which I had been a witness. Some involved government departments and forces, but others involved Umkhonto we Sizwe terrorists, including several acts of murder and violence perpetrated by them. I received an unambiguous warning from an ANC elected representative, to the effect that I was welcome to testify about the 'evils of apartheid', but that if I dared try to bring attention to what the ANC had done during the same period, I would be 'dealt with in the harshest way'. That's when I realized that there was no future for me in the land of my birth. I'd spent years trying to help the victims of violence (perpetrated by both sides), and was prepared to do my utmost to promote the reconciliation process - but it proved to be one-sided, partisan, and basically a lie. (I have little doubt that Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of the TRC, was sincere and honest in his approach; but I believe his efforts were hamstrung by political intervention.)
I'm afraid the ANC has taken a once-prosperous nation and run it into the ground. It has nothing of which to be proud in this, its centenary year. It would be a far better commemoration of its worthier ancestors to root out its corrupt members and begin putting the interests and needs of the nation ahead of its own . . . but that's a pipe-dream. If the ANC continues in power for another 17 years, I daresay South Africa will become just another failed African state like Zimbabwe.
You have no idea how it saddens me to say that about such a lovely and once promising country, that was formerly my home.