It was not the amount of gobbledygook that ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe billowed out. Neither was it that the ANC national executive committee (NEC) once again chained its fortunes to that of President Jacob Zuma. It was not even that the NEC once again threatened ANC Members of Parliament with charges of misconduct should they vote against Zuma in a motion of no confidence that made the ANC’s Monday afternoon media briefing so bizarre. It was that the ANC NEC is seemingly oblivious that it has completely surrendered the party to the Gupta family. The ANC is now simply a campaign front for a criminal ring and has effectively handed over the responsibility of governance to private individuals. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
The ANC received 11,436,921 votes in the 2014 national elections. It was on the basis of these votes that it took up 249 seats in the National Assembly and elected Jacob Zuma as president. It was also through these votes that the ANC received a mandate to govern South Africa.
What has happened, however, is that the ANC is no longer in charge of governance in South Africa. From senior appointments in government and state-owned enterprises to decisions about major government contracts and even defining the national discourse, the ANC is no longer in charge. It has no control of the actions of its deployees in the Presidency and Cabinet, neither can it hold them accountable for what they say or do. All those powers and responsibilities have been surrendered to the Gupta network.
This was the first ANC NEC meeting post Zuma’s midnight Cabinet reshuffle, South Africa’s credit ratings downgrades and a number of sectors in society speaking out and protesting against the president. This was the ANC NEC’s opportunity to respond to public statements by its top officials that Zuma had proceeded with the reshuffle despite their opposition, that he had relied on a fake intelligence report to fire Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas as minister and deputy minister of finance, and that the list of new appointments to Cabinet was compiled outside the ANC.
It seemed important to Gwede Mantashe that journalists and anyone watching the ANC media briefing understood that the issue of Zuma stepping down was not the only matter discussed at the NEC. It made no sense however why communicating the outcome of that particular discussion was so imprecise and puzzling that it would have been better not to mention it at all.
The NEC statement on Zuma read as follows:
“There was a call made in the NEC for the President to consider stepping down as President of the Republic. This we considered to be part of a broader discussion characterised by the restlessness manifesting itself in society, where certain sections have made similar calls.
“A number of members of the NEC were of the view that the ANC should listen to this call. Various contributions in support of and against the appeal to President to step down were raised. Many more were neither in favour nor against the appeal but emphasised the need for unity within the organisation.
“The NEC sought to have a detailed analysis of the consequences of removing the President; appreciating that some calls, especially those made by the opposition, are not so much about removing the President by rather dislodging the ANC itself from power.
“The NEC concluded the matter by recommitting itself to focus on the task at hand and what our people expect from us.”
Trying to search for sense and logic in an ANC statement on Zuma is like trying to find a contact lens in a mound of horse manure during a monsoon downpour. It’s best just to walk away.
But one important takeaway was that the ANC again hitched itself to Zuma’s fate, claiming that calls for the president to step down were aimed at dislodging the ANC from power. This means that it is again trying to associate itself with Zuma’s failures and disastrous leadership rather than distancing the organisation from him. The NEC obviously learnt nothing from the Nkandla disaster.
There were two NEC decisions announced by Mantashe that were dressed up as concessions to public pressure.
The first was on ANC MP Brian Molefe who left the parliamentary backbench to return to his position as chief executive officer at Eskom. The NEC, like the public enterprises portfolio committee in Parliament, did not buy into the quagmire of nonsensical explanations conjured up by Molefe, Eskom board chairperson Ben Ngubane and Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown.
“The NEC reaffirmed that the decision to reappoint Comrade Brian Molefe to Eskom be rescinded and not to wait for the courts to direct them on this decision. Government itself encourages judicial overreach when it fails to lead when it should.”
It would appear that the NEC read the signs that Molefe’s reinstatement at Eskom would in all likelihood be overturned in court and therefore supported the position by the ANC’s top officials that he should be removed from the post. In any event, Molefe was a useful idiot to the Guptas and had no loyalty to the ANC – or vice versa. After serving the Guptas dutifully, Molefe could beg for sanctum in their Arabian hideout.
The other announcement Mantashe made was that the NEC “accepted the proposal that was tabled in the political report for the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture without delay”. The political report is presented to the NEC by the president – which means Zuma proposed setting up the judicial commission. This is while he is taking former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s “State of Capture” report on review.
On Friday the Presidency issued a statement saying Zuma was “not opposed” to establishing a commission of inquiry on state capture. It said Zuma believed however that Madonsela’s proposed remedial action was “irregular, unlawful and unconstitutional”. Madonsela said in her report that the Chief Justice should select the judge to head the inquiry.
The Presidency said that none of the grounds in the president’s application for review of the public protector’s report suggest in any way that he is opposed to the establishment of the commission of inquiry. “What is at stake is the interpretation of the Constitution on a matter as fundamental as the powers of the Head of State and Government and the relationship of the executive branch with other branches,” the presidency said.
This statement formed the backdrop for Zuma’s political report to the NEC.
In the face of growing calls for a commission of inquiry, including from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma could not be seen to be opposed to the idea. However, the NEC’s decision on the inquiry did not mean that Zuma would drop his application for a review but asked for it to be “accelerated”. It would also not be confined to the Guptas’ capture of the state.
“The terms of reference of such commission of inquiry must be broad enough to uncover the influence of business on the state. The NEC expressed its desire to see all processes of reviewing the public protector’s State of Capture report accelerated so that they are not an obstacle to the speedy establishment of the judicial commission into state capture.”
Because ANC NEC statements have no impact whatsoever on judicial processes, this call means nothing. The judicial review cannot be accelerated because the ANC said it should be. All this does is buy time for Zuma and his benefactors while duping the ANC and society into thinking that the inquiry will be established “speedily” once the legal processes are complete. The ANC NEC is also not able to deal with the anomaly of Zuma being implicated in the state capture allegations and still being in charge of the process of appointing the inquiry.
Meanwhile, the ANC NEC has provided a shield for Zuma in the motion of no confidence vote in Parliament:
“The NEC reaffirmed its confidence in comrades deployed as Members of Parliament trusting that they would continue to conduct themselves in line with Constitution, prescripts and norms of the African National Congress. Regardless of whether a secret ballot is granted by the court or not, ANC MPs, as always, are expected to vote in line with the decision of the caucus of the ANC.”
The NEC claimed that MPs who vote against the president would be guilty of misconduct in terms of the ANC constitution. The NEC said this would be a violation of rule 184.108.40.206 which prohibits ANC members from “acting on behalf of or in collaboration with
- counter-revolutionary forces;
- a political organisation or party other than an organisation or party in alliance with the ANC in a manner contrary to the aims, policies and objectives of the ANC”.
It is strange that the NEC saw it fit to threaten MPs with disciplinary charges but have not contemplated similar action against the president and members of Cabinet who are serving the agenda and taking instructions from people outside the ANC. The emails published in the Sunday press show that several ANC leaders are under the thumb of the Guptas, including taking instructions from them on how to navigate controversies and defend their business interests.
This is in violation of several rules in the ANC constitution including 25.17.8:
“abuse of elected or employed office in the organisation or in the state to obtain any direct or indirect undue advantage or enrichment”.
But if the ANC was unable to confront Zuma on his betrayal of the organisation in favour of his benefactors, and could not demand explanations from its deployees in the state who have sold themselves to the Guptas, it is unlikely that they would go as far as instituting disciplinary proceedings against them. Mantashe said he could also predict the issue of Zuma stepping down would again be raised in the NEC.
Speaking at the Cosatu central committee meeting later on Monday, South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande warned about the creation of an imperial presidency. He said Zuma was making the same mistakes for which former president Thabo Mbeki was recalled from office. But the difference is that Mbeki could still be held to account by the ANC – as was evident by the party’s decision to instruct him to resign. Zuma is a law unto himself and the ANC, as was evident as this weekend’s NEC meeting, has no power over him.
The ANC has completely surrendered to Zuma and the Guptas. They are now fronting for the Guptas who have captured their electoral mandate, and governing on their behalf. The question now is why should anyone continue to vote for the ANC if their plan is to hand over the votes to an outside party?
In two years, that will be an extremely difficult question for the ANC to answer on the campaign trail. The ANC will live to regret the long trail of mistakes, including the NEC’s impotence this past weekend. DM
Photo: President Jacob Zuma addresses guests at the official launch of the Trans Africa Locomotive at Koedoespoort in Pretoria. 4 April 2017 (Photo: GCIS)
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