South Africa

South Africa, Politics

Seven days in October: How two women bookend the beginning of the end for Jacob Zuma

It began on Saturday October 8 with the sudden death of Fezekile Kuzwayo, the woman who accused Jacob Zuma of raping her in 2005. It ended on Friday October 14 when outgoing Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, obtained a preservation order in the Pretoria High Court for her final report into state capture by the Gupta family. Sandwiched between these two bookends, a sequence of dramatic events occurred that marked the beginning of the end for the disastrous term of office of President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, the 13th President of the ANC and the fourth to lead post-apartheid South Africa. These seven days in October will go down in history. By MARIANNE THAMM.

It was circumstance more than anything else that served to disempower the first woman who features in the inevitable downfall of Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo as an individual was, by all accounts, able with considerable effort and personal pain remarkably to overcome a series of events that shaped the trajectory of her tragic, short life as the only child of two committed ANC activists, Judson Diza and Beauty Sibongile Kuzwayo.

Hers was a life lived mostly in exile after her family fled apartheid South Africa into exile in 1977. After Judson Kuzwayo’s arrest in 1963 and serving a 10 year sentence on Robben Island, he was twice detained again in 1975/76 before fleeing with his family to Swaziland where they lived until 1983. It was here that Jacob Zuma, Ronnie Kasrils and other ANC underground operatives came into contact with the family and with Fezekile, who was six at the time.

Fezekile was born in 1974 and was only three when she left South Africa. In 1983 Judson Kuzwayo was appointed ANC Chief Representative in Lesotho before he was transferred to Zimbabwe in the same position.

On May 1, 1984 Fezekile’s life was to be altered inexorably when her father died after his car had overturned en route to Lusaka. The death of her father, according to friend Thokozani Mtshali, devastated Fezekile and was to place both her and her mother in a vulnerable and precarious position, dependent on the kindness of strangers and those of the extended ANC “family” in exile.

Not only did she endure the violence and horror of raids on Swaziland by apartheid death squads but she was also to suffer further, as Ronnie Kasrils has written, dealing with several cases of sexual abuse “with which the ANC tried to deal – not always with success. Friends say she did not receive the justice and protection she deserved – abroad or back home.”

A supreme irony is that in 1986 Jacob Zuma commanded the Mandla Judson Kuzwayo (MJK) unit (named after Fezekile’s father) while in exile in Mozambique. The unit was headed by Yunis Shaik along with his brother Moe as well as Jayendra Naidoo. The MJK unit managed to infiltrate the security police in Durban and access information relating to ANC informers. It was the same year that Mozambican president, Samora Machel, died in a mystery plane crash on October 19.

The 30-year anniversary of Machel’s death was commemorated in Mbuzini, Mpumalanga, on Monday and was attended by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa who delivered the keynote address.

In December 1986 the South African government requested the Mozambican authorities to expel Zuma and six other senior members of the ANC. Zuma relocated to Zambia, where he headed the underground structures of the ANC and was later appointed as Chief of the Intelligence Department.

From 2005, when Fezekile accused Zuma, a man she had regarded as a father figure and uncle, of raping her and until her death she was known only as Khwezi, a name she was forced to adopt to conceal her identity from rabid supporters of Jacob Zuma who hounded both her and her mother.

So grave was the threat that the women were placed under police protection. Later, when Jacob Zuma was cleared of the charges in a trial which exposed the patriarchy, chauvinism and violence of the justice system, both women were forced into exile in Holland.

She returned to South Africa in 2011 where she began to rebuild her life and was a teaching intern at a school in Berea at the time of her unexpected death on Saturday October 8, 2016.

Until she died last Saturday, Fezekile and her mother still feared for their lives,” wrote Mtshali in the Sunday Times.

On Monday October 10 as news of Fezekile’s death was made public, another woman with a supreme sense of agency, outgoing Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, was preparing to release several final reports including one into the alleged capture of the state by close associates of President Zuma, the Gupta family.

According to Madonsela, the report was “an investigation into complaints of alleged improper and unethical conduct by the president and other state functionaries relating to alleged improper relationships and involvement of the Gupta family in the removal and appointment of ministers and directors of state-owned entities (SOEs) resulting in improper and possibly corrupt award of state contracts and benefits to the Gupta family’s businesses”.

That same day at 16:58 a clearly panicked Presidency issued a statement saying that Zuma, “as an implicated person is entitled to the documents and records gathered in the course of the investigation, to enable him to prepare his evidence”.

The President sought an undertaking from Madonsela that by “close of business” on Tuesday she would not conclude the investigation or issue any report until he had received all the evidence implicating him, was able to question witnesses and had the opportunity to tender his evidence.

Madonsela refused to back down and replied that Zuma has had ample time to reply to her questions.

On Tuesday October 11, at 11am, President Zuma was winging his way to Kenya on a chartered plane on a day of “unprecedented violence in and around the University of the Witwatersrand”, when NPA head, Shaun Abrahams, called a sudden Press conference and dropped a bombshell.

Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan, who had long been in the shifting crosshairs of the NPA and the Hawks, was to be charged, along with former SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula and Acting Commissioner Ivan Pillay, with charges of fraud relating to an early pension payout to Pillay of around R1.2-million. The men would be expected to appear in court on November 2. The “rogue unit” allegations, Abrahams announced in a rehearsed stentorian tone, were still being examined and charges would later follow, maybe, probably, possibly, who knows.

Gordhan’s summons was delivered to his home while he was addressing a conference in Johannesburg.

The announcement by the NPA that it was charging Gordhan was widely condemned by veteran ANC members, civil society, business leaders and opposition political parties. On the stock market, the rand plummeted, once again.

That same day Zuma announced the establishment of a “ministerial task team” on Higher Education which included the entire security cluster, Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko, Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, and Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, but not the man who holds the purse strings, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Also on Tuesday, the Gupta family, clearly feeling the heat, dispatched a lawyer’s letter to Madonsela’s office warning her that should her findings include that the family was “in any way whatsoever involved in improper conduct” she would be doing so at “her own peril”.

Madonsela didn’t flinch.

On Wednesday October 12, as Zuma jetted off to Goa (sans his Finance Minister Gordhan who was in fact preparing his coup de grâce to be delivered on Friday) to attend a BRICS Summit, police and student protesters at WITS and UCT continued to clash. Violence spilled over into central Johannesburg as the crisis in Higher Education deepened with no end in sight, creating scenes reminiscent of apartheid South Africa.

On that day NPA head Shaun Abrahams seemed to have had second thoughts and offered Gordhan and his co-accused the opportunity to apply for a “review” of the decision to charge them. Gordhan later declined the offer saying that he did not have any confidence “in the NDPP’s ability or willingness to afford… a fair hearing.”

Thursday October 13: Madonsela’s office announced that she would go ahead with a planned briefing to release her final reports – around 20 – on Friday. President Zuma announced that he has approached the High Court in Pretoria in an attempt to interdict the PP preventing her from releasing her final report into state capture.

Meanwhile, while giving a Press conference in support of Gordhan, EFF CIC Commander in Chief, Julius Malema, learned that he is to be charged under an old apartheid act, the Riotous Assemblies Act of 1956, for comments he made at the University of the Free State in 2014.

Friday October 14 at 10:00 another implicated person, Des van Rooyen, whom Zuma appointed Minister of Finance after firing Nhlanla Nene in December 2015, clearing the way for the accidental return of Gordhan, also approached the Pretoria High court in an attempt to stop the making public of the state capture report.

The applications were heard before Judge Dawie Fourie who issued a preservation order ensuring that Madonsela’s report would be released while ruling that interdict hearings would now take place on November 1, a day before Gordhan, Magashula and Pillay are also due to appear on fraud charges. Zuma’s application is due to be heard on Tuesday October 18.

Madonsela revealed at a later Press conference that she would be handing her report into state capture, which she viewed as final, to National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete, for safekeeping.

Clause B [of Friday’s High Court ruling] says the report shall be preserved and kept in safekeeping. That is not an interim report, that is my final report,” Madonsela told the media at a briefing at Public Protector House in Pretoria.

On Friday night Mbete reportedly refused to accept Madonsela’s report. A statement issued by the parliamentary communication services stated that Mbete was returning the final report and cited procedural matters as the reason.

The Speaker has an obligation in terms of the rules of the assembly to table all documents received for the information of Members [of Parliament] in order to ensure that the business of the assembly is conducted in an open and transparent manner. This report however cannot be handled in the same manner… The report will accordingly be returned to the office of the Public Protector,” the statement from Parliament read. (By Saturday however, after a little talking-to by ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mtembu, Mbete distanced herself from the statement, saying it was “grossly inaccurate”.)

On Friday Gordhan finally threw down the gauntlet, requesting the Gauteng division of the High Court in Pretoria to issue a declaratory order that he cannot interfere with the banks’ decision to drop the Guptas as clients.

In an affidavit attached to the request, Gordhan revealed that it was the estimated R6.8-billion in “suspicious and unusual transactions” that may have contributed to the decision by South Africa’s major banks to close accounts associated with the Gupta family. The payments – made by the Gupta family and their companies over the past four years – were listed in a Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) report attached to court papers filed on Friday afternoon. Finally, in a masterstroke, Gordhan had made public what everyone had sought to conceal.

Game, set and match.

The week had come to an end and President Jacob Zuma had been served several mortal body blows which will continue to have consequences in the weeks, months and years to come.

On Friday Thuli Madonsela bowed out after seven extraordinary years serving as the country’s most effective Public Protector. Her Nkandla Report served to legally solidify the powers of the office and forced Jacob Zuma to repay some of the public money used to renovate his private home. The Nkandla report led also to a ConCourt ruling that Zuma, as President of the country, had breached his Oath of Office.

On Saturday October 15 a small funeral service was held for Fezekile Kuzwayo at the Central Methodist Church in Durban.

Everyone who has worked with Fezeka has been touched by her… She brought out the best in us and made us believe that the world was a better place,” said one of her friends, Shawn Mellors.

Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo and Thulisile Nomkhosi Madonsela will go down in history as two women who played a significant role in ripping the mask from the face of the ANC led by Jacob Zuma and leaving citizens with no doubt as to its destructive and catastrophic legacy for the country. For that they are owed deep gratitude and respect.

The fallout, however, will continue for some time for Gordhan, Zuma, the Guptas and South Africa. On Monday Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa bowed out after putting up a massive struggle on behalf of the Guptas. More will topple. It is just a question of how and when. DM

Photo: South African President Jacob Zuma attends a luncheon for world leaders during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 20 September 2016. EPA/PETER FOLEY / POOL

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