Saturday, October 27, 2018

South Africa ANC Political Murders

It is a damn shame that people who struggled against the violent apartheid regime, grew up under it, or were the first generation not to know apartheid have no problem murdering each other for money and power. It is what it is. Can you imagine living in a country in which power depends not only on the vote but also on who has more button men? That would be a pretty crappy place to live.

One could argue that political violence in South Africa is the inevitable blowback from apartheid-that people who have grown up impoverished and hating themselves without stable social, economic, or political systems to safely channel dissent and disagreement will find it easy to employ violence against each other. Even so, political murder is not normal. It is symptomatic of a sick society. Trump and his initial churlish response to the attempted pipe bomb murders of his political enemies are where things like this get started. This story could be the US future if we're not careful. 

UMZIMKHULU, South Africa — Their fear faded as they raced back home, the bottle of Johnnie Walker getting lighter with each turn of the road. Soon, Sindiso Magaqa was clapping and bouncing behind the wheel of his beloved V8 Mercedes-Benz, pulling into familiar territory just before dark. Minutes later, men closed in with assault rifles. Mr. Magaqa reached for the gun under his seat — too late. One of his passengers saw flashes of light, dozens of them, from the spray of bullets pockmarking the doors. The ambush was exactly what Mr. Magaqa had feared. A few months before, a friend had been killed by gunmen in his front yard. Then, as another friend tried to open his front gate at night, a hit man crept out of the dark, shooting him dead.
Next came Mr. Magaqa, 34. Struck half a dozen times, he hung on for weeks in a hospital before dying last year. All of the assassination targets had one thing in common: They were members of the African National Congress who had spoken out against corruption in the party that defined their lives.
If you understand the Cosa Nostra, you don’t only kill the person, but you also send a strong message,” said Thabiso Zulu, another A.N.C. whistle-blower who, fearing for his life, is now in hiding. “We broke the rule of omertà,” he added, saying that the party of Nelson Mandela had become like the Mafia. Political assassinations are rising sharply in South Africa, threatening the stability of hard-hit parts of the country and imperiling Mr. Mandela’s dream of a unified, democratic nation. 

But unlike much of the political violence that upended the country in the 1990s, the recent killings are not being driven by vicious battles between rival political parties. Quite the opposite: In most cases, A.N.C. officials are killing one another, hiring professional hit men to eliminate fellow party members in an all-or-nothing fight over money, turf and power, A.N.C. officials say. But corruption and divisions have flourished within the A.N.C. in recent years, stripping much of the party of its ideals. 

After nearly 25 years in power, party members have increasingly turned to fighting, not over competing visions for the nation, but over influential positions and the spoils that go with them. The death toll is climbing quickly. About 90 politicians have been killed since the start of 2016, more than twice the annual rate in the 16 years before that, according to researchers at the University of Cape Town and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime.

“The politicians have become like a political mafia,” said Mary de Haas, an expert on political killings who taught at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. “It is the very antithesis of democracy, because people fear to speak out.”

For good reason. After Mr. Magaqa’s death, Mr. Zulu, the whistle-blower now in hiding, loudly condemned corruption in Umzimkhulu. The impoverished municipal government spent a large chunk of its budget to refurbish a historic building called the Memorial Hall. But after five years and more than $2 million in public money, the project was a sinkhole of dubious spending, with little to show for it. For breaking the code of silence, Mr. Zulu and another party official are now in grave danger, according to a 47-page report released in August by the Office of the Public Protector, a government authority that investigates corruption. The two whistle-blowers, the report said, fear that “they may be assassinated at any time.”
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