South African poster for Human Rights Day
Mar. 21, 2016 (GIN) – The usual celebrations marking Human Rights Day on March 21 were upstaged this year by an epic scandal that has shaken the party at its highest level. Little else has captured the attention of South Africa’s citizens over the past weeks as much as the story of government job peddling by wealthy friends of the president, Jacob Zuma. The alleged peddling came to light when a deputy in the finance ministry said he was called by the influential Indian-South African Gupta family to a meeting where, without any ANC official present, they offered him the Treasury’s top post, which he declined. The allegation sparked talk of a “state capture” by the business class, divvying up jobs and other contracts and making political decisions based on self-enrichment.
Veteran anti-apartheid fighters were shocked and dismayed. In an open letter signed by The Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, they expressed their fears.
This is a “difficult time in the history of the ANC and our country,” they began. While such periods have been resolved before, they said, “we are deeply concerned about the current course on which our country is headed. We believe this course is contrary to the individual and collective legacy of our Founders.”
“We hear what ordinary South Africans tell us through our work, and are challenged by friends and comrades who witness cumulative fragmentation of the ANC, a great organization our Founders helped build and sustain over generations… It seems to us that the ANC has significantly drifted away from the ideals to which our Founders and many others dedicated their lives.
“In the spirit of our Founders, we cannot passively watch these deeply concerning developments unfold and get worse by the day.”
The letter writers appealed to the National Executive Committee of the ANC to take note of the mood of the people across the country.
“History will judge the ANC leadership harshly if it fails to take the decisions that will restore the trust and confidence of the people of South Africa,” they warned, adding an invitation to seek their counsel. “Our doors are open!”
Members of the party’s senior ranks expressed support for the president but offered to investigate Zuma’s relationship with the Guptas and whether it has started a process of “state capture.”
Meanwhile, President Zuma addressed a full house at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durham on the occasion of Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre, whose theme this year is “South Africans United Against Racism.”