DO SOMETHING! Our advice to the President

By Stephen Grootes 2 August 2011

Through a series of events, some his fault, others not, President Jacob Zuma’s troubled inbox is piling high again. While we understand the reasons for a certain obvious lack of action on his part, this holding pattern cannot last forever. Well, not past Mangaung anyway. So, once again, in the interests of putting the country first, we present our advice to Zuma. By the ever meek and modest STEPHEN GROOTES.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear Mr President. Things have got a little away from us, haven’t they? But don’t worry, there is a way out, that might, with a bit of luck, make you look a little stronger than you are or appear to be at the moment.

There is a raft of issues that need your attention. From the case of the missing Chief Justice, to the missing-in-action cooperative governance minister and the slightly careless national police commissioner there is, to be frank, a lot going on.

Let’s start with the urgent and then move to the simply pressing.

There was a little bit of a mistake with the whole Chief Justice cock-up, but it’s easily fixed. Appoint Dikgang Moseneke. Do it now. Ring him up, (during office hours it’s (011) 359 7400, ask for Judge Moseneke’s chambers) and pop the question. He’ll say yes. You ring up the Judicial Services Commission, ask them nicely to have their hearing this week instead of next, and then call up Athol Trollip and the other guys in Parliament with whom you need to consult. And by Saturday you’ll have that problem sorted. A whole week ahead of schedule.

Yes, we get why you don’t want to act. But think about it this way. Everyone will love you, and it’s not like it happens very often that you need a Chief Justice to do your bidding. Then, while nobody is looking, you get to quietly fix the process of filling that vacancy on the court left by Ngcobo. And so you get what you want. Another executive-minded judge on the court, and the plaudits for appointing Moseneke. It’s a bit of smoke and mirrors, but when has that ever failed in politics?

Right, on to that blasted cabinet re-shuffle. We get that you don’t want one. Either way it looks like you’re headed for trouble. You push Sicelo Shiceka, you have to push Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, you push her, you need to sack Bheki Cele. It’s a toughie. Our advice, just do it, sack the lot, and tell them to do their worst. And then when any of them come for you, just call them “liars”. There’s a downside and upside to all of this.

With Shiceka, the downside is he’ll try to work against you from the outside. It’s not much of a downside when you consider the upside, you get to put someone you trust in his place, and Cosatu will get off your back about him. Sacking Mahlangu-Nkabinde doesn’t really have a downside, but firing Cele most definitely does. Firstly, what does he know, and secondly, how much support will that cost you in your base of KwaZulu-Natal. If he doesn’t know too much, then just do it. If he does know something compromising, find something on him. And while it will cost you, you will get Cosatu back on board there too.

All in all, you could turn this re-shuffle into getting Cosatu back in your camp for the next 18 months. It’ll be tough, but well worth it.

Now, young Julius. Ja, there are times when we don’t know where to start either. It’s obvious that there is a problem with the young lion’s finances. Let the process run. Ring up Anwar Dramat at the Hawks, and let it be known that he has your full support. There seems to be a battle underway for his soul at the moment, make sure you win it. You already have the soul of Menzi Simelane over at the National Prosecuting Authority, and Dramat’s boss, Nathi Mthethwa, answers to you. So let the processes run.

At the same time, give a speech, with those two “right-wing demagogue” opponents by your side. Zwelinzima Vavi and Blade Nzimande together control enough political resources through Cosatu and the SACP to give you adequate leverage against Malema. And they’re dying to help out. But I’m afraid you will have to also deal with the root of the problem. Fikile Mbalula. It’s time to do something. Neutralise him, and you get rid of half your inbox.

How to do that is the tricky part. Firstly, you need to isolate him. You could do with a bit of rough and tumble at the moment, you have the power of incumbency and it’s time to use some of that. Challenge him to come out, then nail him. He has a fiery temper, use that against him. So there’s your “in”. And once that action starts, the investigations etc., he will react, probably badly. You have far more patience than him, so use that strength. And in the ANC, you will need to start putting an emphasis on wisdom. Virtually all the provincial chairs of the party are the generation between yourself and Mbalula. Remind them that if he has his way and gets into the top job as secretary general at Luthuli House, they will never have their chance. It will be in all of their interests to make sure he doesn’t get in.

It’s going to be a hairy couple of months. But remember, everyone loves a man of action. It will remind people “who’s the boss?” still applies. Oh yes, “you are”. You may have just 18 months left as President and as head of the ANC. It’s not long. The fact that virtually nothing was decided at last week’s Cabinet lekgotla must surely tell you that if it all ended now, you would have no legacy. Act. It has to feel better than being remembered for doing nothing. DM



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"The soul is known by its acts" ~ Thomas Aquinas