And Rasool (allegedly) bribing journalists is okay

In January, I was quite pleased to read reports of ANC sources claiming that Ebrahim Rasool might be recalled from his ambassadorship in the US. Not simply because of a lack of fondness for him, but rather because it’s not outlandish to suggest he should never have been appointed as ambassador to the US until the investigation regarding the Brown Envelope scandal was completed.

For those who aren’t familiar with the case, the issue is this: Rasool was alleged to have indirectly used public funds to help incentivise two Cape Argus journalists to write stories that favoured him, and that presented his Western Cape ANC opponents in a negative light. These bribes were (if these stories are true) paid in cash, placed in brown envelopes.

The internal ANC investigation into these allegations was terminated in 2006, but the matter was nevertheless considered serious enough for ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe to confirm that Rasool was fired as Western Cape Premier in 2008 partly as a result of the allegations: “Rasool was removed as premier of the Western Cape all because of this case, among other things”.

Now, it’s true that Ashley Smith never appeared to be the most credible of witnesses. Perhaps Rasool was indeed falsely accused. But some within his party seemed to think the allegations true. They are also serious enough that it’s welcome news that Gasant Abader’s (current editor of the Cape Argus) access-to-information application to compel the ANC to release their report on their investigations has been successful.

The relevant parties are still studying the report, and we’ll no doubt hear more on this as time passes. But in the meanwhile, Rasool continues in a high-profile ambassadorial post, despite not only the Brown Envelope scandal, but also further allegations of corruption made in 2010 to the police commercial crimes unit. You’d like to think that allegations of significant corruption matter – not only in party deployments, but also with regard to our international representatives abroad.

Some ANC leaders agree that these matters are serious. In 2011, one of them said:

One issue that constantly cropped up in the elections research, even among our staunchest supporters, is that the ANC is soft on corruption and looks after their own. This requires a system for processing such allegations that will send a message of an ANC that is intolerant of corruption.

Today, an ANC leader is quoted in the Cape Times as saying that he didn’t think the Brown Envelope investigation needed to be completed, because “Ebrahim (Rasool) is no longer premier, he has gone on with his life”.

The first quote is from ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. The second? Also Gwede Mantashe. I suppose that’s another allegation “processed”, then.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.