The ANC’s long history of taking cash from dodgy donors

By 2010, the system of milking foreign governments for cash was firmly established in the ANC, but then all of a sudden the wheels came off.
Whatever happens to Cyril Ramaphosa and his presidency (at the time of writing it wasn’t clear), it’s ironic and almost inevitable that he was tripped up by his party’s cavalier attitude to party funding. This attitude goes back to the start of the democratic era. Former president Nelson Mandela was enormously ethical in many aspects of his life, but his Achilles heel was party funding.
Actually, “Achilles heel” is a glorious understatement. On party funding, the ANC has always decided, well, to party. Way back when I was a political correspondent in the 1990s, I was told a story I refused to believe at the time. Mandela was meeting with a head of state in 1990 shortly after he was released from prison. I’m not sure who it was, but my guess is that it was General Suharto of Indonesia. He asked for $10-million in cash and it was agreed upon immediately.
So Mandela waited around and was eventually asked what he was waiting for. Mandela said, somewhat indignantly, for the money. So some poor officials had to nip down to the central bank on a Sunday, open the vault, and withdraw $10-million in cash, which, amazingly, they did. It was then presented to Mandela, who took it back to SA in a briefcase.
I didn’t believe anyone would have the gall to do such a thing and after having done so, that the head of state in question would agree so readily. Clearly, I was much younger and much more naive. When the Indonesian ambassador subsequently presented his credentials after the new government was formed, Mandela thanked him for his country’s “generous donations”. Suharto then visited SA in 1997 and was awarded the Order of Good Hope, the country’s highest honour.
Actually, as it happens, Suharto got away cheaply. Huge sums were raised from King Fahd, the former leader of Saudi Arabia, who reportedly donated $50-million in 1994 and then another $10-million in 1999. Before the 1999 election, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan of the UAE donated $10-million, also reportedly paid “on the spot”. At one point, Mandela apparently asked Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for $10-million, but he gave $50-million. He also got a gong.
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