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Analysis: John Block and Marius Fransman stepped down when charged – why not the same action for President Zuma?

If the ANC’s Integrity Commission had any lingering doubts, Friday’s Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment confirming the reinstatement of 18 charges of 783 counts against President Jacob Zuma should have cleared it all up. Precedents have been set. Former Minister of Communications Dina Pule resigned in 2013 after an investigation by Parliament’s ethics committee; in 2014 the Integrity Commission asked Northern Cape ANC Chair John Block – later sentenced (in 2016) to a 15-year jail term – to resign, and in 2016 Western Cape Chair Marius Fransman was asked to step away pending charges of sexual assault. Will the Integrity Commission bare its fangs when it comes to Zuma? By MARIANNE THAMM.

October 2016 BGL (Before #Gupatleaks)

On 10 October 2016, two months after the ANC’S dreadful showing in the 2016 local government elections, the party’s Integrity Commission drew up a 16-page discussion paper in preparation for a meeting with the party’s top six.

Reading the paper and its nine-page executive summary now, in retrospect, the document, its language, its tone and its sentiments bear the distinct traces of the party’s good DNA – the desire to serve, to be inclusive, diverse, effective, brave, to embrace the challenges of incumbency and modernity, to deal decisively with corruption and to find members who can pass though the eye of the needle.

In short, all those qualities the oldest liberation movement on the continent once embodied but which now have unravelled to expose a voracious kleptocratic and criminal ruling class which is undermining the ruling party’s own gains since 1994.

The ANC Centenary reminds us of the foundations and values of the ANC, and of the sacrifices made by its succession of leaders to live up to those ideals and values. The leadership challenges that we face today place us far from those ideals and values,” reads the second paragraph of the executive summary.

In the discussion paper itself, under the headline “A deep sense of crisis”, the author/s noted unflinchingly that “the poor results of the ANC in the local government elections are a direct outcome of the members expressing a strong message of dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction has been building up as branch members across the country feel that their concerns are not heard. It is also a direct rejection of the widespread corruption that has taken root in the country under the ANC leadership.”

The Constitutional Court Nkandla judgment in March 2016, which found that President Zuma had violated his oath of office and the Constitution, “has shaken the foundations of the ANC. Instead of calling the President to account to do the honourable thing, the ANC glossed over the judgment which led to a serious disillusionment among members of good moral standing,” reads the paper.

Later it puts forward seven proposals including that “any comrade charged with serious offences of fraud, corruption or any other serious criminal offences must be immediately suspended from their position and only reinstated if they have been found innocent”.

ANC disciplinary structures should, suggested the report, be strengthened “to process disciplinary cases speedily and effectively”.

The ANC should also “uphold and respect the separation between State and Party, and moreover uphold and respect the Rule of Law and the Constitution; not only in words, but in behaviour and practice”.

Under the heading State Capture the paper noted that “the issue of State Capture reflects a serious breakdown of the Separation between State & Party….There have been various allegations that the Guptas have influenced senior political and public appointments. The superficial and half-hearted investigation by the ANC into these allegations has not provided adequate answers.”

Oh, and the authors also called for the President and the top six to resign and to “take ultimate accountability for the failures of the elections”.

The Integrity Commission reminded those at whom the discussion paper is aimed that it had been established at the party’s 53rd conference in Mangaung in 2012 and that a resolution at the party’s fourth National General Council in 2015 held at Gallagher Estate strengthened the mandate of the commission to deal with corruption within the ANC.

That same year, in December, after the party’s NWC report had been presented to the NEC, ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said structures needed to understand that the Integrity Commission was not a disciplinary committee in which the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” was applicable.

It is expected that, if I am brought before the Integrity Commission, it must appeal to my own conscience to step aside,” Mantashe said, adding that when individuals didn’t step aside voluntarily, the ANC would “nudge” them to leave.

Fast-forward to Wednesday 2 November 2016 when outgoing Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her 355-page State of Capture report documenting the extent of the corruption implicating the President and several of his Cabinet ministers including Mosebenzi Zwane and Lynne Brown, as well as Eskom head Brian Molefe and others.

A month later, on 3 December, the Integrity Commission had met with President Jacob Zuma and asked him to resign.

He refused. The IC does not know if the President communicated that decision to the officials, to the NWC or the NEC,” speaking notes for a further meeting and party officials scheduled for 3 April recorded.

However, on 30 March Zuma suddenly reshuffled his Cabinet, recalling finance Minster Pravin Gordhan from an overseas investor road show, and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, and axing them both.

The following Monday, 3 April, Integrity Commission Chair Andrew Mlangeni wrote to ANC Secretary-general Gwede Mantashe calling for an urgent meeting with the party’s top officials and noting that the Integrity Commission was “deeply perturbed” by President Zuma’s decision to reshuffle the Cabinet without consultation.

(At the time, ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa denied that the letter existed or that the Integrity Commission had asked Zuma to resign. He accused Daily Maverick of manufacturing “fake news” in this regard. Three months later, in July, at the ANC’s policy conference at Nasrec, ANC veteran Sindiso Mfenyana, who is a member of the Integrity Commission, confirmed to eNCA that the commission had indeed asked Zuma to resign.)

In April, however, Mlangeni had written to Mantashe that “we do not accept the reasons given for this decision, namely, that Cde Pravin conspired with Western governments to destabilise the government or the economy”.

In his letter the stalwart said that the Integrity Commission intended to meet Zuma again on 9 April.

Afterwards the commission noted that “the President stated that resigning would be a betrayal of our people and of our revolution. He believes that there exists a conspiracy by Western governments to oust him as president of the ANC and of the country. Their objective is to replace him in order to capture the ANC”.

Zuma had also told the commission that he felt “misunderstood” and that he had “certain reasons for doing what he was doing”. Reasons were never clarified.

It was an excuse the Integrity Commission rejected outright.

The Integrity Commission does not agree with the President’s explanation. It does not accept the notion that opposition to the President can be attributed solely to a Western conspiracy. This explanation ignores the very real problems in the ANC, as evidenced by the rapid decline in support for the ANC.”

In May Zuma survived a motion of no confidence tabled against him at a gathering of the NEC. Afterwards the veterans issued a statement that those who had opposed the motion were beneficiaries of State Capture.

On that occasion, the role of Zuma’s chief praise singer was given to the Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula, who said, “We can’t be blackmailed by the stalwarts who are filthy and stinking rich, because they benefited from BEE (black economic empowerment). If they have made up their minds to sell out, they must leave the ANC out of it… We won’t be lectured by them. They masquerade as people who are genuinely concerned about the ANC, but we know they are not.”

1 June 2017 AGL (After #GuptaLeaks)

On 1 June 2017 amaBhungane and Daily Maverick’s Scorpio began to publish the contents of over 200,000 #GuptaLeaks which cleaved open the shocking extent of the nature of State Capture by the Gupta family and implicating the President, his son, various ministers and officials who had enabled the looting.

These revelations had, four months later, claimed several scalps including Molefe’s as well as exposed global auditing and consulting firms, including KMPG and McKinsey, as enablers of a widespread international network of corruption.

In July 2017 the ANC at its Policy Conference at Nasrec resolved that the IC should be included in the party’s constitution, providing it with more independence and enabling it to subpoena anyone as well as make binding recommendations instead of having to rely on the approval of the NEC to act.

Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, addressing the media afterwards, said:

This means if I do something wrong I will be subpoenaed and if there is sufficient gravity, there is a prima facie case, I will be referred to the disciplinary committee. But the Integrity Commission will have the right to say to me that given that there are these accusations of such gravity, can you step aside?”

The snag, for now, is that the resolution will only come into effect if it is adopted by the branches at the party’s conference in December – if that conference still goes ahead.

An emboldened Zuma, secure in the apparent paralysis of the Hawks and NPA and a compliant Parliament which has failed to hold him to account, has for much of his presidency given the finger to almost everyone apart from the Guptas.

At the Nasrec Conference the President deviated from his speech to vilify the stalwarts, terming them “so-called” veterans and baiting them by suggesting that they were “not as strong as they project themselves”.

President Zuma’s tenure has exposed systemic weaknesses in the ANC itself, the NPA, the Hawks as well as in Parliament, which failed in its constitutional duty to hold him to account with regard to the Nkandla matter.

In 2015 ANC veteran Ben Turok, former chair of Parliament’s ethics committee, claimed that the Integrity Commission had been “silenced”.

We all know there are serious violations of integrity going on. There is a culture spreading of looting and helping yourself, and all types of cronyism behaviour. We are all alarmed by it and, quite frankly, the Integrity Commission ought to be doing something.”

Two years later and after Friday’s SCA judgment, the Integrity Commission no longer has any excuses not to act. President Zuma is now facing 18 charges relating to 783 counts. It has already asked him twice to step down, requests Zuma has simply ignored, protected as he is by the top six and the NEC.

Besides, several precedents have been set: disgraced former Minister of Communications Dina Pule resigned in 2013 after an investigation by Parliament’s ethics committee; in 2014 the Integrity Commission asked Northern Cape ANC Chair John Block – later sentenced in 2016 to a 15-year jail term – to resign and in 2016 Western Cape Chair Marius Fransman was asked to step down pending charges of sexual assault.

That NPA head Shaun Abrahams is entertaining the possibility of Zuma making representations is neither here nor there. The original prosecutor of the case, Billy Downer, has always maintained there is a strong case based on facts.

Jacob Zuma has taken the ANC down a political cul-de-sac. Will the Integrity Commission help to turn the old behemoth around in the nick of time?

Will the Integrity Commission and the NEC allow him to destroy it completely? Friday’s reinstatement of the charges should give the Integrity Commission the impetus and momentum to again – for the third time – ask President Jacob Zuma, Accused No 1, to step down. DM

Photo: President Jacob Zuma with Rivonia Trialist Andrew Mlangeni during the 50th anniversary of Liliesleaf Farm gala dinner in Rivonia 11 July 2013. (Photo: GCIS)

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