Former South African President Thabo Mbeki declared last week that his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), “has become so corrupted that … unprincipled access to political power and the related corrupt self-enrichment has in fact become the norm within the organisation.”
Mbeki was speaking at a celebration honoring the birthday of the late Oliver R. Tambo, a leader of the ANC during its many decades of struggle against apartheid.
Mbeki is the latest senior member of the ruling party to denounce corruption within the organization. Such internal criticism was once virtually unknown, and severely punished, within the ANC, especially during Mbeki’s tenure. But it has grown during the administration of President Jacob Zuma, who is widely perceived to have allowed the government to be “captured” by crony capitalists like the Guptas, a family of Indian-South African businessmen.
The former president traced the problem, which he said threatened the “destruction” of the ANC, to “mercenaries who had joined its ranks” who “only see the ANC as a step-ladder to enable them to access state power for the express purpose of using that access for self-enrichment.” He noted that then-President Nelson Mandela had warned of the “emergence of careerism” in the ANC in 1997, and chastised the party for failing to “purge” accordingly.
Mbeki did not acknowledge corruption scandals that had already occurred by 1997, nor that his own policies — the expansion of the power of the central government, the weakening of parliamentary oversight of the executive, the promotion of “black economic empowerment” policies that were exploited by the ruling party to reward its own members — may have created an environment conducive to the kind of corruption that has taken over the ANC.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.