It was reported earlier this week that ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, wittingly or not, added a new instalment to the proud SA tradition of stealing paintings by JH Pierneef. Somehow, a gilt-framed canvas worth millions of rand left the former Free State premier’s office with his personal possessions. It was then “gifted” to security aide Ricardo Mettler, who “gave” it to an unnamed businessman, who tried to have it appraised for auction. You can see the logic: what belongs to the state belongs to the ANC; what belongs to the ANC belongs to me, as a deployee; what belongs to me can also enrich those who have been or will be useful to me. This warped version of arts patronage has been applied by the governing party and its cadres over the last two decades and more — using art as a fraudulent means of bolstering networks of political patronage. Variations on the theme include the siphoning of public funds to pals and cronies through overblown commissions, the channelling of priv...

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