A MAJOR problem in our body politic is the inconsistency with which principles are applied. This is glaringly evident in the African National Congress’s (ANC) response to its two major headaches, Nkandla and e-tolls.

Its kneejerk reaction to both has constantly landed it in hot water.

It set up an ad hoc committee to examine President Jacob Zuma’s response to the reports on the Nkandla upgrades, yet refuses to call him to appear before it to answer questions put to him, which he failed to answer in both the public protector’s and Special Investigating Unit’s reports.

This is particularly pertinent. In his response to the reports submitted to Parliament, Zuma gave Police Minister Nathi Nhleko the task of determining whether he should pay back any of the costs of the upgrades to his private residence — yet Nhleko said he had not received a formal request from Zuma in this regard (in reply to a parliamentary question).

Owning your mistakes and accountability apply only when you are in the wrong faction.

The salvo launched by the ANC in Gauteng against e-tolls has unleashed a fierce response from ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. He told The Star yesterday that Gauteng ANC chairman Paul Mashatile and former transport MECs Ignatius Jacobs and Khabisi Mosunkutu were "at the heart of planning this new technology". He says it is "disingenuous" of Gauteng leaders to "apportion blame to somebody else" and that if they want the mistake corrected, they should "own up" first.

Ahead of the ANC’s 2012 national conference in Mangaung, the South African Communist Party said there should be an "investigation" into those who initiated the project and into those who "benefited" from it — a veiled reference to the anti-Zuma Mashatile.

The Gauteng ANC has long been at odds with Luthuli House, particularly after it threw its support behind former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to replace Zuma in 2012.

On the other hand, the Department of Transport has repeated that Gauteng had no say and that e-tolls were a national competency. It said the national government, via the South African National Roads Agency, set the policy governing e-tolls and the Gauteng ANC had no way of overturning it.

The Gauteng ANC has long been at odds with Luthuli House, particularly after it threw its support behind former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to replace Zuma in 2012.

Mantashe is on record as saying that world-class infrastructure has to be paid for by those who use it. The ANC in Gauteng has said it is not opposed to the "user pays" principle and that the fuel levy is also an instance of it.

According to the ANC in Gauteng’s organisational report to its conference at the weekend, it was the national election team that presented provincial leaders with research showing that e-tolls and perceptions of corruption, including Nkandla, would have a damaging effect on its campaign ahead of local government elections in 2016.

The party’s support had slipped to 53% from 63% in 2009 — and it fared better than expected.

The national research showed that it would lose the province to a coalition of opposition parties. Still, the party appears not to care, adopting a factional approach to the e-tolls question.

Provinces strongly aligned to Zuma have come out against the fuel levy as an option to fund the upgrades to Gauteng’s highways, saying they should not be made to pay when their own roads are in a dire state. Mashatile counters these provinces fail to realise how much Gauteng contributes to SA’s economy.

This somewhat explains Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s comments at the Gauteng ANC conference that the electorate no longer cared about the party’s "factional battles" or who could render struggle songs the best. They cared about delivery — and this was why the ANC had to start dealing with "uncomfortable truths".

Its uncomfortable inconsistency in dealing with issues is obliterating the moral high ground which the ANC once proudly held — and the likes of Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema are now stepping up to claim.

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