POWER TO THE PEOPLE? – editorial

Not often is an intelligent man reduced to such incoherence as was ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe this week when he claimed there was nothing wrong with the ANC benefiting from multibillion-rand contracts in Eskom’s new-build programme. He was defending the indefensible and he knew it, since it is a point long conceded by his own colleagues.

How can Mantashe claim that an ANC shareholding in companies bidding for public contracts cannot influence the outcome, when party deployees make the decisions? (Case in point: Valli Moosa served on the ANC’s fundraising committee and as Eskom’s chair during the tender in question, a conflict so blatant even former public protector Lawrence Mushwana had to recognise it.)

And how can the public believe that the ANC shares its concern over the effect on the poor – and the economy at large – of massive electricity price hikes when those very hikes are designed to pay for the contracts funding the ANC?

The logic is simple: when a ruling party is both player and referee, it is conflicted.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe — then secretary general of the ANC, as Mantashe is now – recognised this in an interview three years ago, after the M&G exposed the Chancellor House group as an ANC investment front, when he said: “The ANC can have an investment vehicle – but it must do business out[side] of government procurement, even outside of South Africa, so there’s no conflict of interest.”

When we exposed Chancellor House’s R5,8-billion stake (as it was then; presumably much escalated by now) in the boiler contracts for Eskom’s new Medupi and Kusile power stations two years ago, newly elected ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa couldn’t deny the problem either, promising that Chancellor House would withdraw from the deal.

He too identified the problem crisply: “Corporate governance and good business practices are binding on all citizens of this country. No one is above this.”

Of course, the ANC has not withdrawn, and of course, Mantashe and the rest of the ANC leadership will defend the indefensible or stand by and do nothing.

Why?

Do the maths: the ANC’s election campaign last year reportedly cost about R200-million — or the equivalent of about 3% of its stake in the Eskom contracts. The ANC’s dividend from the contracts is likely to be several times that.

Is that what was meant by “power to the people”?

Source:  MAIL & GUARDIAN ONLINE, 20100122

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