Johann Rupert is often singled out as representative of white monopoly capital by politicians who enjoy the products of the companies he runs – jewellery, sugar, alcohol, pension fund dividends and taxes, among others.

He got yet another lashing from the ANC recently for daring to speak the truth.

Rupert had remarked that the ANC’s radical economic transformation was nothing but a codename for theft. In response, the ANC issued a statement condemning his “arrogant attitude towards the poor”.

The statement went on to insinuate that Rupert, by virtue of being white and having benefited from apartheid’s policies, is not entitled to criticise theft when he sees it because the governing party finds such criticism offensive.

Intriguingly, the ANC’s statement doesn’t deny the ongoing theft of taxpayers’ money by its leaders and their parasitic associates. The statement doesn’t mention the Guptas who, unlike Rupert, don’t create wealth but have been given permission by the ANC to redirect state money meant for poor black South Africans to bankroll a wedding of children from India.

Nothing can be so glaringly arrogant and insulting to the poor than the Sun City wedding of the millennium where poor black waitresses were stripped of their right to dignity.

It is so insulting that given what we know now, all South Africans who attended that wedding, including those who did so innocently like IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, should publicly apologise for having been honoured guests to theft and Gupta racism.

It is estimated that R100bn has been looted in state capture corruption alone. The ANC statement didn’t mention that the money was looted while Bell Pottinger and the Guptas were extolling the virtues of radical economic transformation while castigating South African entrepreneurs who create wealth.

The ANC has failed to appreciate that through the conduct of its leaders in government, it has damaged the reputation of its own policies, including important transformation policies meant to empower black people. Corruption has robbed the policies of their moral legitimacy. They have been perverted.

Instead of howling at Rupert, the ANC should be concentrating on fixing its house which, according to Makhosi Khoza, is beyond repair. The ANC has persecuted Makhosi and forced her to quit for speaking her mind.

It’s not only white people like Rupert who can see that South Africa is suffering from crippling theft of public resources, including theft of political decision-making from voters. The majority of poor black people who depend on the state for education, health and other services can feel the impact of the theft.

It’s arrogant of the ANC to deny that its policies are being used as a cover for theft. For as long as the theft continues and is not punished, citizens would be entitled to conclude that this is official policy of the ANC.

In his judgement in the case between Gupta companies and the Bank of Baroda, Judge Hans Fabricius raised concerns about the signs of collapsing rule of law and the failure of the police and the National Prosecuting Authority to act according to their constitutional obligations.

Having read affidavits in the case where the Guptas failed in their court bid to compel the Bank of Baroda to keep their accounts open, Judge Fabricius said: “I could not help to wonder whether, unbeknown to me, democracy and the rule of law had somehow been suspended pro tanto. Could it be possible that the future, so bright in 1994, was now only history?”

Fabricius is right. The overwhelming evidence of prosecutable crimes in Gupta banking transactions and the failure of the police to act on it could make one doubt whether the legal order envisaged in the Constitution is still intact.

The ANC should be focusing on addressing these genuine concerns from all sectors of society – from the Bench, business leaders, trade unions, intellectuals, church leaders, students and others. Instead, it wastes time and deflects attention.

Tackling people instead of the substance of the issues they raise is, however, not a new strategy. In 2012, the ANC criticised businessman Reuel Khoza for raising concerns about the conduct of what he termed a “strange breed of leaders”.

“Our political leadership’s moral quotient is degenerating and we are fast losing the checks and balances that are necessary to prevent a recurrence of the past,” Reuel said, long before evidence of state capture surfaced.

Only the delusional can claim he was wrong. But the ANC didn’t engage with the substance of his comments and instead focused on the fact that he made the comments in the first place. It thus missed an opportunity to be schooled.

“As the ANC, we may have views about business leadership, some of these views may be positive or negative,” secretary general Gwede Mantashe was quoted saying in response to Reuel. “We will never use any platform to castigate them publicly.”

In the absence of ethical political leadership, business leaders have no option but to speak out. It is their public duty to do so.

The same applies to the church leaders who for many years have been allies of the ANC. Today many progressive church leaders are castigated by the ANC when they call it to order. Stay out of politics, President Jacob Zuma would say to those who won’t waste time praying for him.

The Fallist movement has also had its fair share of lashing from a governing party that is intolerant of criticism. #FeesMustFall and #ZumaMustFall activists have been labelled agents of regime change.

The judiciary, the only arm of the state that is holding on tight to the rule of law, has been criticised for “judicial over-reach”.

It seems as if the ANC is not interested in listening to the cries of South Africans. It wants to listen only to itself. In other words, it is resigning from its aspiration of being the leader of society. Now, society must accept the resignation.

– Mkhabela is a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria.