If you want to know who South Africa’s power elite are, you should have been at the ANC gala fund-raising dinner held in Durban on Friday 11 January 2013, to celebrate the ruling party’s 101st anniversary. Predictably, ANC benefactor and local mining billionaire, Patrice Motsepe, was there and reportedly paid R500,000 to sit at the same table as president Jacob Zuma, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, and other ANC leaders.
Another big-time ANC benefactor who was present was Robert Gumede, founder of the controversial IT group Gijima, which was embroiled in a tender fracas with Home Affairs. Gumede also has interests in the energy sector in South Africa, Zambia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Through the Guma Group, he also has interests in mining resources; property; water sanitation and dams; hydro, nuclear, coal and turbine power; infrastructure; and construction.
Vivian Reddy also didn’t miss the opportunity to join SA’s power elite in the ANC celebrations. Late last year the Durban-based mogul was quick to admit that he had helped Zuma finance the president’s Nkandla homestead in Kwazulu-Natal. Reddy is the founder of the Edison Power Group, a commercial and industrial electrical company that was responsible for all the electrical installations at King Shaka International, a contract valued at some R500 million.
Other members of SA’s ruling power elite and big business, who rub shoulders with ANC luminaries and cabinet members, included Nafcoc president Joe Hlongwane (who is also a pastor at the Assemblies of God church); FirstRand’s Sizwe Nxasana; Chamber of Mines’ Bheki Sibiya; Siyabonga Gama of Transnet; former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni; Sasol executive Maurice Radebe; as well as CEO of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee and National Lotteries board member, Danny Jordaan.
At the dinner, Zuma controversially told ANC business benefactors that their fortunes would multiply if they threw their lot in with the ruling party. “Support is fine, we love it. But if you just go beyond that and become a member, you’ll realise everything of yours will go very well. If you are a businessman business will thrive. Everything you touch will multiply,” City Press quoted Zuma. The self-made billionaires and millionaires present confirmed this.
And so did Reddy’s some “R1 billion gift” from the city of Johannesburg, as Mail & Guardian put it. The investigative weekly revealed on Friday 18 January 2013 that a highly contested electricity smart card tender valued at R1,25 billion was reportedly awarded to Reddy’s company, the Eddison Power group, and that Reddy paid R450,000.00 to be at the ANC’s celebratory dinner.
But if you weren’t at the ANC’s celebratory extravaganza – which netted donations to the value of some R21 million, thanks largely to the efforts of the party’s new treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize – how does one know who are part of SA’s power elite?
Columnist and political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi told Daily Maverick that it was relatively simple to work out who the power elite were on the national platform: just follow the money. “Understanding who is in charge of this country means understanding the nexus between money and politics, and which interests are hegemonic in South Africa,” said Matshiqi.
The ANC is the obvious hegemony, with its political majority in government. But who are the power players? “Well, you have to look at which companies are dominant in the South African economy, and which companies the ANC cannot ignore when it comes to its interests,” said Matshiqi. “I think one has to look at it in those terms. And you have to look at which logic these companies support in the decisions they take – they can be powerful, but at the end of the day whose logic do these companies support?” he added.
Or, as Martin Plaut and Paul Holden state in Who Rules South Africa: “The most powerful political (but not necessarily economic) players are those BEE moguls and senior security advisers who have coalesced around the presidency of Jacob Zuma. Many have relationships with the President that go back a long way, while others have been elevated through Zuma’s control of the ANC deployment committee after 1998, which allowed him to place friends and allies in key positions in early 2012.” To this one must also add those drawn into the elite through their familial ties or royal lineage.
Royal bloodlines aside, another strong theme evident when Daily Maverick drew up the ‘power elite’ list (contained at the bottom of this story) was that of the military. Suffice to say that if you played a significant role in MK intelligence during the Apartheid years, were an MK general, or leader of the armed resistance, there’s a good chance you’d be in the golden circle.
Once the power elite have been identified, the next big leading question is: what will they do next? “I have a feeling that once an elite is through the door, and has got control of the networks, its next logical imperative is to shut the door and to change the rules,” said independent political analyst Nic Borain, who added that the process of elite formation could be stormy. “Up close this appears like an awful process – the ‘from-a-distance’ view may judge it more kindly, because the descendants and networks of the incumbent elite will want to launder their image and reintegrate into society, so as to gain wider acceptance,” he said. Certainly the run-up to Mangaung with its bloody battles and party fractures offered evidence of this thesis.
Borain believes that there will be calm after the storm. “Essentially this is the flood, the hurricane as the distortions of the past unwind, and the flood pours through and throws everything into disarray. As we head towards a new equilibrium, the interests of the incumbent elite, however ignoble its origins were, will be to re-establish order and to re-establish the rule of law,” he explained.
“It is a process of class building, and in general it is the deep, hidden structural features of a society that ultimately determine the big outcomes and longer-term rhythms, and not the choices and failures of individual politicians. Eventually we will have a new equilibrium, and the ones who got through the door first, the incumbent elite, will want to close the door behind itself, change the rules and get on with the job of re-establishing themselves as upstanding members of society,” Borain added.
What’s useful in the South African context is for people to wipe pluralistic idealism from their eyes and to start understanding local politics in more Laswellian terms. (US political scientist and communications theorist, Harold Laswell, defined politics as “the art of deciding who gets what, when and how”.)
In these terms, politics is the massive struggle for the allocation of resources, which includes vote-rigging, lobbying, buying friends and entrenching networks, and whatever else it takes to ensconce the power elite. Speaking to people watching this process from the outside in, there’s often an expression of impotence, of not being able to impact this massive struggle for patronage.
Perhaps what’s crucial, then, is the role that is played in monitoring how elites assume and maintain power (while of course trying to balance or fragment that power). Political scientist and author of Dilemmas of Democratic Consolidation, Jay Ulfelder, is rightly worried that SA is slipping into authoritarian rule, as the elites secure their position.
“From my observation of democracies around the world, I’m worried that the risk of a slide into authoritarian rule in South Africa over the next several years is rising and substantial,” Ulfelder writes in Foreign Policy magazine.
Ulfelder states that his pessimistic view “emerges from an unconventional understanding of what makes democracies survive or fail”, and writes that in his view “the risk of regime failure appears to increase over the first 15-20 years of a democracy’s life span and then more or less holds steady after that.” In other words, what South Africa is seeing now is the struggle by the elites to entrench their power.
Organisations that can break a democracy are major political powers and the military, Ulfelder asserts. In South Africa, the opposition is limited because of the ruling party’s majority, so the power nexus is vested with the state security complex. “Depending on which organisation is doing the usurping, the resulting actions can take the form of a military coup, an opposition-led rebellion, or what some scholars call a ‘consolidation of incumbent advantage,’ where the winners of the most recent election try to cement their dominance by incrementally fixing future rounds of play in their own favour – rigging electoral procedures, harassing opponents, and circumscribing civil liberties,” he states. The latter is the state of play in South Africa: the nexus of power in the ANC is consolidating its incumbent advantage and trying to fend off any and all invasions to the gates of power.
Ulfelder believes SA’s “prolonged post-Apartheid honeymoon” is ending and the pressure on the ANC’s elite is increasing dramatically as people demand a better life, as was promised to them. “In the 18 years since Apartheid ended, the ANC has had no reason to tilt the electoral field to its own advantage, because it hasn’t faced electoral threats serious enough to warrant the costs.” However, this is changing, as evidenced by Marikana, the wave of strikes, service delivery protests, the workers’ rebellion at farms, police torture and brutality of dissidents and the numerous onslaughts against SA’s constitution. More evidence of it is to be found in the ANC’s unity drive and the party’s determination to expel or discipline any dissenters.
But the ANC could still face its biggest stressors and this could take the form of “a split within the party or the emergence of a radical flank,” said Ulfelder. Prior to Mangaung, SA saw the potential for this in Mahikeng, Potchefstroom and Marikana. The flavour of this radical flank was saturated by militancy, courtesy of a radically socialist youth, until it was quashed within the ANC. But an angry and embittered working class is still clenching its fists to the sky in the mining and farming sectors.
How will the elite respond to possible warring factions or to those that threaten its power? The battlefield of Wesselton in February 2011 and Marikana in August 2012 could be an answer. The ANC’s clampdown on the media, the steamrolling of the POIB through parliament and the Tribal Courts Bill could be an answer. The death of Andries Tatane.
“These reactions suggest a willingness to play the kind of hardball that could lead South Africa into a competitive authoritarian regime, as challenges to the ANC grow more frequent and intense. The motive to steamroll potential rivals in this manner presumably stems, at least in part, from the personal fortunes some party insiders have accumulated in the post-Apartheid era,” writes Ulfelder. He adds: “Put those pieces together, and the picture that emerges is one of an increasingly oligarchical regime that seems likely to respond to emerging threats to its power by trying to squash them.”
SA’s power elite have risen to power. Now all they need to do is close the door behind them and change the rules of the game, to ensure they remain in power. DM
Want to know who’s got the power? Here is Daily Maverick’s, working and far-from-complete, list of South Africa’s power elite as of Friday 18 January 2013. Daily Maverick is indebted to Adriaan Basson (@AdriaanBasson) Assistant editor at City Press and author of Zuma Exposed for the generous use of his research to help compile this list. Thanks also go to Amabhugane for their continued investigations into Zuma Inc.
Jacob Zuma – President of South Africa. Re-elected as president of the ANC December 2012.
The Zuma Family Dynasty:
Cyril Ramaphosa – Deputy president of the ANC. Business magnate with interests in mining, telecoms, energy and the financial sector. Former Secretary General of the African National Congress.
Gwede Mantashe – ANC Secretary General. Former General Secretary of NUM and former chair of the SACP. Mantashe was the first trade unionist to be appointed to the directorship of a JSE listed company (Samancor) in 1975, a position he still holds today. Mantashe’s former deputy general secretary at NUM, Archie Palane, is head of corporate affairs and transformation at Samancor.
Patrice Motsepe – Mining mogul. ANC benefactor. Benefactor of the Jacob Zuma Foundation. Benefactor of the Masibambisane Rural Development Initiative.
Malusi Gigaba – Public Enterprises Minister. Former President of the African National Congress Youth League. Member of the ANC NEC. Member of the ANC National Working Committee.
Jeff Radebe – Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development. ANC policy head.
Bridgette Radebe – Executive Chairperson of Mmakau Mining, which has interests in gold, coal, platinum, chrome and uranium. President of the South African Mining Development Association. Vice Chairman of the Minerals and Mining Development Board advising the Minister of Minerals and Energy. Founder and Board of Trustee member of the New Africa Mining Fund. Director of SAPPI. SA’s first black female mining mogul. One of Africa’s richest women. Sister of Patrice Motsepe. Married to Jeff Radebe.
Robert Gumede –Diversified business leader. ANC benefactor. Founder of IT company Gijima and the Guma Group of companies which operates through Africa, as well as Canada, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East. The Guma Group has interests in the energy sector in South Africa, Zambia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Kenya. The business also has interests in mining resources; property; water sanitation and dams; hydro, nuclear, coal and turbine power; infrastructure; and construction.
The Gupta family – Zuma family benefactor. Owners of The New Age. Business interests in mining, resources, aviation and technology. In his book, Zuma Exposed, Adriaan Basson writes that six months after Zuma was first elected ANC president at Polokwane in 2007, the president’s family was in bed with the Guptas. “The twins, Duduzile and Duduzane Zuma, had been co-opted into the Guptas’ network of businesses. Duduzile was appointed as a director of Sahara Computers, the family’s main business, in June 2008. A month later, Duduzane became a director of Mabengela Investments (PTY) Ltd alongside Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta, the youngest of the three Gupta brothers, and in September Duduzane was appointed as a non-executive director, alongside Rajesh Gupta, of mining labour broking firm JIC Mining Services.” Speaking to people with knowledge of how the Zumas role, Basson was told: “The Guptas are the new Shaiks”.
Lindiwe Sisulu – Minister of Public Service and Administration. Former defence minister. Daughter of ANC leaders Walter and Albertina Sisulu. Sister to Max Sisulu. Former MK intelligence.
Zweli Mkhize –Elected ANC treasurer-general in Mangaung. Keeper of the ANC’s funding secrets. Premier of Kwazulu-Natal. Chancellor of the University of Kwazulu-Natal.
Siyabonga Cwele – Minister of State Security. POIB champion. Cwele was married to Sheryl Cwele, who was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment after facing one count of dealing in dangerous dependence-creating drugs or conspiring to do so, and two counts of incitement to dealing in dangerous dependence-creating drugs.
Nathi Mthethwa – Minister of Police. Was on the board of directors of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee.
King Goodwill Zwelithini – Zulu royalty, eighth Monarch of the Zulus.
Vivian Reddy – Founder of Edison Power Group. Unashamed Zuma benefactor. Self-proclaimed as the “great success story and shining example of the resilience and trailblazing new generation of Black South Africans”, Reddy says he “started Edison Power with R500 and a bakkie and today Edison Power Group is the largest electrical company in South Africa, employing 2,000 people with a multi-billion rand turnover. Born in Durban and from very humble beginnings, he has virtually single-handedly created a business empire with diverse interests in energy, casinos, healthcare, financial services and property development. Reddy also very modestly proclaims that his “stature and profile easily dwells among that of the top icons in South Africa and he commands the respect of both the financial and political hierarchy in this country and most parts of Africa.”
Sandile Zungu – Chairperson of private equity, investment and resources company, Zico. Former chairperson of Denel, Barnard Jacobs Mellet Holdings and Spectrum Shipping. Bankrolled Zuma’s successful bid for presidency.
Don Mkhwanazi – A close friend of Zuma. A Zuma financial backer. Founder of Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust, of which Zuma was the beneficiary. Mkhwanazi’s wife owns Ikhono Communications, which has won numerous government tenders. Mkhwanazi, a BEE dealmaker, is the strategic advisor to Ikhono.
Siphiwe Nyanda – Zuma’s personal representative in Parliament. Former Minister of Communications. Former chief of the SADF. Former MK chief of staff.
Barnabas Lekganyane – Zion Christian Church leader.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – First female leader of the African Union. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs & Health. Former wife of Jacob Zuma.
Sibusiso (S’bu) Ndebele – Minister of Correctional Services. ANC NEC member. Former ANC provincial chair.
Collins Chabane – Minister in the Presidency – Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation.
Blade Nzimande – SACP general secretary and cheerleader-in-chief for all things Zuma.
Tina Joemat-Pettersson – Minister of Agriculture.
Naledi Pandor – South African Minister of Home Affairs.
Ace Magashule – Free State Premier. Longest serving ANC provincial chairperson.
Michael Hulley – Zuma’s personal lawyer. The presidential legal adviser. Protector of the Zuma “spy tapes”. Overseer of bid committees.
Brian Molefe – CEO of Transnet. Former Public Investment Corporation boss.
This list is just a beginning of a longest journey, and Daily Maverick will be adding to it and updating it in the weeks, and months, to come. DM
Correction: The earlier version of this story stated that Duduzile Zuma founded the Dudu Zuma Foundation as well as African Star Communications. In fact, Duduzile Zuma founded the Dudu Zuma Foundation together with African Star Communications. We apologise for the mistake.
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