Corruption the defining trait of SA politicians, from Oom Paul to Juju

The writer argues that even as the EFF leader Julius Malema claims to wage a political struggle for blacks, he is motivated by the desire to acquire wealth in their name.
The writer argues that even as the EFF leader Julius Malema claims to wage a political struggle for blacks, he is motivated by the desire to acquire wealth in their name.
Image: GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/ AFP

We can only appreciate where we are today if we can see a wider vista of South Africa's political trajectory, even if it is for the mere sake of it.

Indeed, the purest form of knowledge is that which is sought for its own sake, not for a utilitarian purpose.

That South Africa's politics is changing is obvious. To contextualise the changes, we must retrace the steps that have brought us where we are today.

When we say "politics" we mean that which is embodied in the life of the person called "politician". To grasp politics is therefore to understand the character of the politician, for there would be no politics without a politician. How, then, has the character of South Africa's politician evolved?

In a nutshell, modern South Africa has seen five types of politician. The first was a capitalist-cum-politician. He was a commander-in-chief of a company (Dutch East India Company) who also presided as governor over a small population of free burghers occupying a small expanse of land in the Cape.

The character of this first type of politician was that of an extravagantly haughty European, steeped in classics. His outlook was aristocratic. Such types were obsessed with material comfort and prestige. Study the life of Simon van der Stel and his Groot Constantia farm, if you need a practical example.

The second type of politician was British, also very aristocratic in outlook. He was typically a product of the prestigious Oxbridge education system, and therefore arrogant. Almost all these types were knighted, and thus their names were preceded by a "Sir" or "Lord".

Given his aristocratic educational background, the second category of South African politician was motivated by honour, as it is conceived in Victorian England. But English 'honour' did not apply to black people or Afrikaners.

The third type of politician was Afrikaner and nationalist. The best example is Paul Kruger. The universe of this kind of politician was that of a Calvinist calling. He was willing to die for his people at the expense of the rest. Apartheid best expresses the mind of this third type.

The above-mentioned types of politician were all corrupt. They took bribes and lived far more comfortably than the average member of their respective communities.

Cecil John Rhodes represented the worst of English corruption in South African politics. Kruger is the father of state capture among Afrikaners. He was captured by a dodgy Jewish businessman called Alois Hugo Nellmapius.

The fourth type of politician was black and also nationalist. Willing to die for his people, he spent his life either in jail or exile. Humanist idealism was the motor behind this type of politician. Nelson Mandela was its best embodiment.

This type of politician valued education, even though conditions for acquiring it during his time were extremely difficult. This politician was not incorruptible, but had a relatively higher moral consciousness.

We now come to the fifth type. This politician is young, black and corrupt.

Those in this category who go to school do so for a show. They want it known that they have an honours degree from Unisa or some other university - even if they remain intellectually hollow.

Our new politician is good at pretending that he is fighting for black people, when he is actually in politics purely for money. This type is best exemplified by Julius Malema.

To be sure, Malema and Van der Stel are equally corrupt.

Since they are not ethically grounded, our young politicians cannot be genuine about the cause of their people. Their chief motivation is to make money, to buy a Range Rover and drink expensive whisky.

When in future you hear them yell slogans about black people, remember their real motive - money in the name of blackness.

X