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Mandela: SA's greatest son laid to rest (slideshow)
The world watched as Nelson Mandela was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Qunu following a dignified and moving funeral ceremony on Sunday.
PRESIDENT Nelson Mandela threw out a challenge in his opening speech at the ANC's national conference in Bloemfontein this week. "We need to launch a campaign to set the country on a new moral footing," he said, to cheers from the 3 500-strong audience.
He cited problems: corruption, non-payment for services, the blurred line between the legal and the illegal inherited from "the mess of apartheid", particularly "the rampant pillaging of public funds" in the last days of the previous government.
There are a couple of things such a campaign could start with, Mr President. The first is the case of Dr Allan Boesak. The honourable new ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva is becoming known as Dr Fingers -- though that's a lot better than what he was known as when he was constantly in the news as the priest with the most impressive record of marital infidelity. Now he is back in the news for his questionable use --or is it redistribution? -- of European funders' money.
It may be that Boesak can still prove his innocence. But do we really want an ambassador with such a reputation for dubious ethics? There is something touching in loyalty to the man who answered the ANC's call to help win the coloured vote. But there must, surely, be limits to the kind of accusations we can ignore.
Another instance, Mr Mandela, is the news that Winnie Mandela has allegedly been involved in dubious diamond deals in Angola. Strange activity for a deputy minister, but then she has been mixing with some of the oddest business characters. Are we going to see a full investigation and appropriate action if she can't prove her innocence?
While you are about it, Madiba, one of your partners in the government of national unity is wanted for fraud and theft in Botswana. We understand that Joe Matthews has returned the money that he was accused of taking from a trust fund before absconding, but he still has a criminal case to answer. He would understand this well -- he is deputy minister of justice, after all.
We can see the foundations of your campaign taking shape, Mr President. And while you are about it, there is one other thing you can address to prevent future corruption: implementation of the ANC policy of openness and transparency at your own national conference.
Keeping journalists out of all the important conference discussions is not only foolish, it is futile. Not even the National Party does it.
Take the case of the ANC's financial report. It was kept from the media, and dealt with only in secret committee. The first speculative report said the debt was R70- million. In fact, it was just under R50-million. But the effect of the bid for secrecy was to encourage journalists to probe, then to speculate, then to hit on the truth.
A bit of honesty, and open acknowledgment of the problem, might have done all of us, including the ANC, a lot of good.
So, we look forward to your campaign, Mr President.