Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The thing about Politics

6 December 2011

I am frequently asked why I do not consider going into politics. My stock response is that I have seen far too many of my friends ruined by politics. Perfectly nice people prior to 1994 have become arrogant, pompous, self-serving and narcissistic. Politicians across the spectrum, except for a few, are a horrible lot. One such friend, Yolanda Botha, received a damning editorial in the Argus (30 November 2011) for lying under oath that she had vested interests in a business company that received R50 million contract from the Northern Cape Department of Social Development and in return her house was refurbished at a cost of R1.2m. Worse, she retains her position as chair of Parliament’s Social Development - wait for it - oversight panel, which adds R180 000 to her already exorbitant salary of R800 000.

Botha was a nice woman and one wonders whether there are anymore honourable ANC politicians left. The height of cynicism is the Speaker’s reprimand which yet again reinforces the culture of impunity that has left political corpses strewn all over the place - likeable men and women like Winnie Mandela, Jackie Selebi, Bheki Cele, Mac Maharaj, Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka, Judge Hlophe, Baleka Mbete, Allan Boesak, and Tony Yengeni, to name a few. More generally, the ANC has destroyed swathes of people who should have been in senior positions today to give direction and guidance to aspirant young people. 

Instead young, inexperienced, untrained and incompetent people are governing us and their role models are those at the highest levels of government, even in the judiciary, have been crooks.

 This stranglehold of impunity in the hallowed halls of the legislature must be smashed. Its seeds are deep and were sown with the start of the Arms Deal and entrenched by the Travel Scandal. The most sacred space where the country’s laws are made has been defiled and “moral regeneration” continues to elude a society desperately in need of a moral fabric that will inspire SA’s youth. Regrettably, when the morally degenerate occupies the levers of power, then we have no hope of addressing the challenges of health-care, housing, unemployment and poverty that the country. No wonder SA has declined on Transparency International’s corruption index from 54 in 2010 to 64 in 2011 – worse than Namibia, Rwanda, Mauritius, Cape Verde and Botswana.

Can we blame some of the cops for being corrupt? Can we blame Home Affairs officials for taking bribes? Can we blame some magistrates and prosecutors for taking chances? 
Political office and the entitlement that goes with it have destroyed wonderful people, many of whom were my friends; we belonged to the same political organisations; we worked at the same university; we frequented the same parties, and so on. Today many who now serve in government, universities, and on corporations view themselves as entitled and despise columnists especially when they become the objects of our critical pens. Those who enter politics as a first step towards wealth and those who have wound up their vested interests with political office and steal from the very poor they profess to serve, harbour resentments towards opinion-makers, so venomous, that one knows they are guilty. The problem is – the fallen still remains mighty. We, the citizens, should dislodge them. 

A pensioner friend of mine is starting the first act of defiance. She told me that she would refuse to pay in any tax demands over and above what she has already contributed this year.  She can no longer take the flagrant abuse of our taxes for personal enrichment and conspicuous consumption. I concur and will join her. Any takers? 

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