A Ruling Party Official’s Arrest Boosts South Africa’s Fight Against Corruption

A Ruling Party Official’s Arrest Boosts South Africa’s Fight Against Corruption
Ace Magashule, secretary general of the African National Congress party, at a bail hearing in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Nov. 13, 2020 (AP photo).

A shock wave rattled South Africa’s political landscape on Nov. 10, when the Directorate for Primary Crime Investigation, a unit known as the Hawks, issued an arrest warrant for Ace Magashule on 21 charges of corruption, theft, fraud and money laundering. Magashule is currently the secretary general of the ruling African National Congress party and a longtime ally of former President Jacob Zuma, who is himself awaiting trial for graft.

The charges against Magashule have to do with the awarding of a contract worth 255 million rand ($16.5 million) for work that was ultimately never done, as part of a campaign to remove asbestos from public housing when Magashule was premier of Free State province between 2009 and 2018. He has not yet been asked to plead in the case, but he has previously denied any wrongdoing. The case highlights how endemic corruption has become within the ANC and the South African state at all levels, but also some more positive developments since Cyril Ramaphosa replaced Zuma as leader of the ANC and as president of South Africa.

Nothing has more rapidly accelerated South Africa’s descent from the moral high ground it occupied during the era of Nelson Mandela than the scourge of corruption. Graft has damaged the economy, rendered many state-owned enterprises dysfunctional and facilitated naked self-enrichment by ANC cadres, even as levels of poverty and inequality among the broader population remain severe.

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