Opinion

JAN-JAN JOUBERT: We all know the bad guys, but can you spot the good?

06 August 2017 - 00:00 By Jan-Jan Joubert

This past Monday, I was excited - and somewhat taken aback - to read, on the front page of our sister paper The Times, that "The bad guys are losing". Upon buying the paper, I learnt that this welcome news came from the pen of one of South Africa's most gifted and critical analysts, Justice Malala.
After conceding that we have not seen "prosperous-looking men descend the steps from a courtroom down to the cells" quite yet, he builds a case that the bad guys are quaking in their boots. Their end is nigh.
I certainly hope he is correct.
His column got me thinking about how easy it is to name the bad guys in our body politic.
But could one do the same with the good guys, especially those in politics? Who are they, where are they, and are they good enough?Starting in the ANC, it saves everyone time and hassle to just leave No1 out of any search for the good guys and focus on the succession race, a battle between Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa. The rest of the declared candidates are clearly also-rans hoping for a position on the coat-tails of either.
Dlamini-Zuma is, in my experience, one of the most personable, warm and hard-working politicians. But the company she keeps politically! Given the identity of her prominent support base co-starring in this upcoming political horror movie, its title could either be State Capture: The Sequel, The Usual Suspects II or Married to the Mob, Again.
Few, if any, good guys there.
Ramaphosa's bunch, at first sight, look better. In fact, let's accept that they are. They include many impressive, professional people.
The question, however, boils down to the core matter upon which the 2019 general election and the nature of resultant coalitions will be decided.
It will be a battle between those who believe the ANC can rid itself of corruption, and those who believe it cannot.
Will Ramaphosa be able to rid the ANC of corrupt cadres? Surely it would not be enough to act only against the Guptas and a few of their more prominent henchmen?
The rot goes much deeper, to municipal capture, to coin a phrase - rampant ANC corruption on a level that begets service-delivery protests.
The ANC will need maximum unity if its members want to avoid being unseated and possibly entering prison, so Ramaphosa will have to make many deals with the devil, at risk of probable capture by same.Behold, for example, the powerful position of David Mabuza, the (to be kind) deeply flawed premier of Mpumalanga, wooed by everyone, including the Ramaphosa lot; a situation doubtless replicated on branch and municipal level. At what cost to integrity and the promise of better government? Fatal?
Some good guys there, with huge challenges.
It is a truth that those considering alliances with a possible Ramaphosa-led ANC should consider seriously.
Outside the ANC, the DA seems to govern better, and, like most political parties, it contains some truly excellent people.
But anyone believing that all is well there should consider two caveats.
First, the conduct of an admirable guy like chief whip Mark Wiley in shielding acting Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela in the legislature's investigation into alleged unethical conduct.
It shows early signs of mirroring the worst ANC toadyism and may well be replicated should the DA govern elsewhere.
Second, there is a clear and present danger that the DA brain drain will soon exacerbate as it forfeits some of its brightest and best due to the centralisation of policy decisions in a too-small and like-minded group, frustrating gifted people and leaving them to become outsiders, parliamentary button-pushers and constituency pamphlet distributors.
The leadership should confront this with a nondefensive and thorough listening process over time, starting at this week's caucus breakaway.
Good guys, but danger lurks in the weaknesses they ignore or are ignorant of.The EFF boasts immense talent, academic education and energy in its upper echelons, and is stellar at revealing and combating corrupt practices. It has handled the challenges of being the third-largest party, in hung councils and in parliament, admirably.
But its policies, especially on land and nationalisation, would ruin the country because they render anything anyone owns worthless, even the meagre possessions of the poorest South African, and - as Zimbabwe and Venezuela show - would destroy any chance of investment and growth, once the joys of the initial property grab dissipate.
Its racism - now extending to Indians too - is vile, dangerous and off-putting.
Potentially good guys, but seriously flawed.
So South Africa's politicians are a mixed bag, like people everywhere. Few people are simply good or bad guys; we are divided between sinners who try and sinners who don't.
The trick in politics is finding the sinners who try the hardest to do good. That is the closest one gets to good guys, in politics and in life, here and anywhere.

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