OPINION: Sibongile Mani’s a millennial legend, she’s just doing what her role-models have done before, writes Kevin Ritchie.
WE LOVE blaming the government for all our ills, but we get the government we deserve – those of us that could be bothered to pitch up to vote, that is.
We all moan about the ANC, but the truth of the matter is that the party was voted in by only one in every four eligible voters at the past general election. A third of the eligible voters didn’t bother to register to vote. Of those who did register, another third couldn’t be bothered to use the public holiday they were given to pitch up.
The leadership of our country is the leadership of the ANC – decided on by fewer than 5,000 delegates every five years.
In 2017, Cyril Ramaphosa snuck in at Nasrec with a majority of 179 votes. If you think that’s paper thin, then you’ve forgotten the election of his eminence grise, “Dr” (Hons Causa) Ace Magashule, who squeaked in with 24 votes as secretary-general against his opponent.
Do we, as a nation of 62 million people, ever learn though?
This week, the Twitterverse pretended to be agog and aghast at the election – as treasurer of the Walter Sisulu University’s Eastern Cape convocation – of Sibongile Mani. She’s the person who took the National Student Financial Aid Scheme for the kind of ride our fraudsters of old could only have hoped for. An accounting error paid her R14 million, and, like the old lottery slogan, it was a case of tata ma chance, tata ma money.
Mani was eventually bust for blowing R800,000 in a two-month spree of booze, blankets, beauty treatments, bags and furniture. She was convicted, sentenced to five years inside but then released when she appealed. There’s no sign on when the appeal will be heard, so, like so many highly aspirational South Africans of her ilk, she took it in her stride. When the opportunity arose, she stuck her name on the hustings, after all, she’s definitely been exposed to handling big sums of money.
And then she got elected.
Walter Sisulu University is investigating the entire process, closing the gate after the horse has bolted. It wasn’t as if Mani campaigned by proxy or in secret; she did it openly.
The university is mortified, but should it be? Mani’s a millennial legend, she’s just doing what her role-models have done before. She didn’t struggle/study to be poor. She didn’t steal small, she went big, very big. It’s the South African dream – look at Jacob Zuma. He quietly put in a land claim for the entire country on February 27. It was hardly even reported on, because it’s obviously expected of the Nkandla Crooner.
Today, WSU convocation. By 2024 an MPL in the Eastern Cape legislature. Who knows where Sibongile Mani could be in 2029? The east wing of the Union Buildings? That’s democracy for you and South Africa is no different. The people have a short memory and a bit of a need to back the underdog – even if their concept of sticking it to the man and Robin Hood, sticks it to all of us and robs the ’hood.
* Kevin Ritchie is a seasoned former newspaper editor and current media consultant. He writes the weekly Carping Point column.