Former ambassador to Argentina and Business Day columnist Tony Leon said in a radio interview with Eusebius McKaiser yesterday that he agreed with the statement: Corruption was rife under apartheid. However, that is not what he said in his column, the subject of the radio interview.
In the column, Leon argued that the National Party did not tolerate corruption and, to the extent it did, those caught were not shielded from punishment by their political party affiliation. He also said that corruption and the lack of consequence for it came in the wake of democracy in 1994.
Tell me, how can corruption be rife yet not tolerated in a system that doesn’t let perpetrators get away? There’s a leak in the logic here only explainable by saying that the National Party, to a large extent, turned a massive blind eye to corruption, which would undermine the premise of Leon’s argument. Hold up his view that the present-day sickening cycle of corruption with no consequences came in the wake of 1994 against his agreeing that corruption was rife under apartheid and you’ll realise that precious little of what he’s said makes sense.
Here is Leon in his own words, emphasis my own:
The NP promoted and prosecuted a political system which oppressed and disfigured this country, and its security apparatus did far worse. But it was not so forgiving of its own members who looted public office for personal ends. And to the extent that it turned a blind eye, it did not interfere when the departments of justice and correctional services indicted and processed its members, some of them very prominent indeed.
Like the entire column, the statement is an elegant cascade of questionable elisions and untruths couched in truths and built on a false premise that caused those who rightly read with the context of Leon’s time in public office to question his motivation for writing it.