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The scourge of corruption is hardly new in SA — though lately the ANC has made an art form of it. A mere 50 years after the first Cape grape harvest Willem Adriaan van der Stel, son of and successor to the founding father of the country’s fine wine industry, was sent back to Holland in disgrace for abuse of his office. In an attempt to conceal his felonies (does this sound familiar?) he jailed the whistleblowers. The difference was that they became folk heroes, not the victims of anonymous assassins. It’s easy to feel a certain nostalgia for the 18th-century justice system.

Then, as now, hard work was the alternative to theft and fraud as a route to self-advancement. Many of the early settlers chose this path to success. Consider the history of Muratie, which was granted in 1685 to Laurens Campher — a soldier in the service of the Dutch East India Company. He fell in love with a slave, Ansela van der Caab, whose manumission he secured after she bore him three children. The fam...

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