Looking to the stars instead of jail

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The ANC still thinks it lives in a pre-internet age.

When Ace Magashule stood outside the Bloemfontein court last Friday spewing his political conspiracy theories and refusing to step down as secretary general of the ruling party, he thought he was talking to his supporters. But the whole world was listening, including any potential investors wondering if the unprecedented charging of such a senior official meant a sea of change in wanton state capture bequeathed to us by the lost decade under Jacob Zuma.

Like #PresidunceZuma before him, who used a similar scotched earth political strategy, Magashule isn’t just trying to discredit his political opponents, he’s humiliating himself and discrediting the whole country.

“No!”, you want to scream at the television, “Being charged with 21 counts of corruption for that infamously gratuitous R255m asbestos scam is not political manoeuvring.” You’re being charged with 21 counts of corruption because you allegedly did them. Of course, the word allegedly has to be in that previous sentence because journalism still abides by the rules.

Magashule’s charges are a welcome relief for a battered South Africa, where the utter impunity of captured officials has been a slap in the face. Worse, we’ve been dragged into the murky world of the ANC’s internal politics, forced to understand these internecine power struggles so that we can somehow overcome them.

Magashule

Image: News24

Right now, South Africa needs a focused team effort to rebuild the country after the economic devastation of the past year. Instead, we’re treated to the bitter rear-guard actions of disgraced politicians who have finally got their day in court but still drag the rest of the country into the gutter with them. So much for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s third investment conference this week. All eyes are now on Ace and the debilitating way the ANC’s inner power machinations continue to usurp the focus on rebuilding the country.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t care about whether Magashule steps down or is forced out. That there is even a semi-serious debate about it just shows how deranged these criminals in office have become. Where is the honour of being an official elected to serve your people and doing the honourable thing of resigning when you’re caught with your hand in the asbestos tender jar?

Obviously, there is too little honour in the world – and certainly in the ANC. How is the world supposed to take the words of ANC spokesman Mabe Pule seriously after he was seen outside the Bloem court supporting Magashule?

Meanwhile, another South African has shown what is possible if you try to make the world a better place, instead of stealing from the very people you were elected to take care of.

Elon Musk, surely the most famous but also least patriotic South African, just launched another four people into space and docked them with the International Space Station. This follows the first two US astronauts for Nasa in May which were flown by SpaceX and returned in its new capsule via a water landing. It’s noteworthy for a number of reasons, not least just the success of this trip.

Since the Space Shuttle was retired over a decade ago, Nasa has been using Russia’s Soyez capsules for getting its astronauts to the space station, reportedly at US$91m a seat. SpaceX can do it for significantly less. And, the astronauts are driven to the rocket in a Tesla. That’s what we should be celebrating, not that charges have caught up with a corrupt cabal. While Zuma and Magashule try to burn the house down to escape going to prison, Musk is looking to the stars. We need more of that.

This article first appeared in the Financial Mail.

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About Author

Toby Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff, a Forbes contributor and a Financial Mail columnist. He has been writing about technology and the internet for 20 years and his TED Global talk on innovation in Africa has over 1,5-million views. He has written about Africa's tech and start-up ecosystem for Forbes, CNN and The Guardian in London. He was named in GQ's top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper's influential young South Africans. He has been featured in the New York Times. GQ said he "has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country" while the M&G wrote: "Toby Shapshak is all things tech... he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech."

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