Quote of the week

It is necessary that the integrity of the electoral process be maintained. Indeed, the acceptance of the election as being free and fair depends upon that integrity. Elections must not only be free and fair but they must be perceived as being free and fair. Even-handedness in dealing with all political parties and candidates is crucial to that integrity and its perception by voters. The Commission must not be placed in a situation where it has to make ad hoc decisions about political parties and candidates who have not complied with the Act. The requirement that documents must be submitted to the local offices of the Commission does not undermine the right to vote and to stand for election. It simply gives effect to that right and underscores the decentralised and local nature of municipal elections.

Ngcobo CJ
Electoral Commission of the Republic of South Africa v Inkatha Freedom Party
18 July 2007

Should sins of the wife be visited on husband?

The wife of ANC Western Cape secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha (pictured) has paid a fine of R1 000 after pleading guilty to theft. Nolusapho Skwatsha admitted reversing the transactions of four people who had paid their television licences at the post office at parliament, where she was employed. She then pocketed the money.

Skwatsha initially represented herself during the proceedings, but a later application for a Legal Aid Board lawyer was granted. Her attorney would not comment when contacted by the Cape Times.

Now, I am not a great fan of Mr. Skwatsha, who is part of the Africanist faction in the Western Cape ANC and who seems to be a rather ungenerous and shifty individual. But should Mr. Skwatsha be judged and condemned for something his wife did?

When the wife of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad was twice caught for drunken driving, I felt quite sorry for the guy. He was obviously married to an alcoholic, so I did not feel he should in any way be blamed for what his wife did.

Why do I then think this case is different? Is it because I do not like Mr. Skwatsha, or is it because the crime here was a premeditated act of dishonesty perpetrated by someone who probably got a job at the post office in Parliament because of her husbands connections?

The theft by his wife does and should reflect badly on the Cape secretary of the ANC and on the ANC itself. After all, Mr. Skwatsha chose to marry a woman with a deeply flawed grasp of public morality. At best it reflects badly on his judgment of character. At worst it suggests that he might share the lack of public morals displayed by his wife.

She also worked in the post office at Parliament and perpetrated the theft there. This suggests that she was placed in a position of trust because of her connections with the ANC and Parliament.

If the ANC had a better grasp of what kind of public morality was expected from public officials, Mr. Skwatsha would issue a statement to say that in the spirit of ubuntu he stands by his wife, but that what she did was despicable because it completely abused the public trust placed in her and that the ANC condemns such dishonesty in the strongest possible terms.

So far no such statement has been issued. Instead Mrs. Skwatsha first denied that she was married to the ANC secretary and then refused to answer the phone. This suggests that Mr. Skwatsha is not wanting to deal with the matter as he will probably claim it is a private matter that has nothing to do with the voters.

Of course being married to a convicted thief must be embarrassing – especially if one is a public official and a political leader. The only honorouble way to deal with it is to deal with it. By hiding away one may well create the impression that one is complicit with one’s spouse or that one shares the criminal attitude of one’s spouse. Surely that is not the impression Mr. Skwatsha wants to convey?

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