anc palace revolt

They can try to spin it the way they want to, but there is no truce, no smoking of the peace pipe between one-time friends and comrades Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. And there's not likely to be any such thing in the foreseeable future.

They can try to spin it the way they want to, but there is no truce, no smoking of the peace pipe between one-time friends and comrades Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. And there's not likely to be any such thing in the foreseeable future.

Of course, we're all wishing and praying that it shouldn't be this way. There has been much sage pronouncements that the two will kiss and make up in the "interests of the country", for the protection of our young democracy. But it looks like neither Mbeki nor Zuma is prepared to back down now. It's a worrying situation for our country and a clear threat to our democracy.

We are on the edge of the cliff peering into the abyss. If all this sounds overly dramatic, consider the signs, the evidence from recent events.

Just days ago the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) served Zuma notice that he would be charged with corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering. He faces 16 charges, including the implication that he was involved in soliciting a bribe through his jailed financial adviser Schabir Shaik from a French arms company that won a slice of the multibillion-rand arms deal.

Zuma's enraged allies, through Cosatu's KwaZulu-Natal leader Zet Luzipho, have threatened that "blood will be spilt". The statement was later withdrawn, but the point had been made.

Just a few days later, the Scorpions' Gauteng head Gerrie Nel, who is linked to the corruption probe of national Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, was arrested by 20 armed police officers.

Nel was arrested at his home in front of his family on charges of corruption and defeating the ends of justice.

The acting head of the NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe, expressed shock and dismay at the arrest. Nel was subsequently released on R10000 bail.

It's perfectly obvious what's going on: it's a tit for tat battle for supremacy being waged using the state organs of the Scorpions and the police. What we had all feared has come to pass.

Some powerful men and women in the ruling ANC are using all the power at their disposal to settle scores. This is not to say this has not happened before. The only thing now is that it has become so blatantly obvious, which is more worrying, because it appears the combatants are losing all restraint.

This mess is a result of increasing corruption and loss of moral values within the ruling party. Many ANC members want to make a quick buck, regardless of the cost, ranging from the tender worth a couple of thousands to the multibillion-rand purchases like the arms deal.

In fact it seems that much of the trouble stems from the arms deal, particularly when it comes to Zuma and Mbeki. The government cleared itself of any blame for corruption in the deal, particularly from the main contracts. But now evidence is emerging that this is certainly not the case. The main contracts seem to be where all the wheeling and dealing took place, implicating Mbeki and his cabinet ministers, in either not keeping careful watch or looking the other way.

This does not mean that Zuma can be absolved from all the charges against him. But there appears to have been a purposeful attempt to make him the fall guy, much like Tony Yengeni, who went to jail for taking a car discount, when in fact many others within the ANC had also taken car discounts from a company that had won a slice of the deal.

Yengeni lied about the discount, which made it worse for him. But corruption is corruption.

This goes to the heart of the problem, the mix of money and power. To point this out in South Africa does not prove racists right that blacks cannot govern. It is just confirmation again of what we all know, that power corrupts, much like the widespread looting of the state and corruption of the white National Party during apartheid and the white colonialists before them.

The stench of this emanates from virtually every government across the globe, particularly when it comes to dodgy arms deals.

The picture is depressing, especially since we have all experienced those heady early days when this country was a shining example to the rest of the world. Things are falling apart rapidly and much work needs to be done to prevent a fall into shame and disgrace.

Perhaps, citizens will decide that the best way to respond to this state of affairs is to use their vote in the 2009 elections and teach those in power a necessary lesson. Maybe then we will all be drawn back from the edge of the cliff.