South Africa

Op-Ed: What does Lindiwe Sisulu have to show for her years in office?

By Sara Gon 17 November 2017

As at October 2017 Sisulu has been on the NEC for 24 years uninterruptedly and in Parliament for the same period uninterruptedly. Since 2001, she has held Cabinet portfolios for five ministries in less than 24 years. Not once in all that time did she express public disagreement with a decision of the NEC or the ANC in Parliament that was immoral, illegal or repugnant. By SARA GON.

Linidiwe Sisulu’s fitness for holding the highest office in the ANC and the land has been brought into question twice in recent weeks. First, she lashed out at ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe over his support for Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the ANC when she reportedly said:

“The question is: where was he (Mantashe) when we were fighting for this freedom in exile and in jail, which he today is abusing for his personal interest? He must hand over an ANC that is intact. Under him as an SG (Secretary General) we gave birth to Cope (Congress of the People) and EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) and fractured Cosatu – something we never imagined.”

Sisulu also thus managed by implication to trash the internal struggle as being irrelevant.

The second instance was a radio interview in which, on being asked whether she believed Khwezi’s version that she had been raped by Zuma, Sisulu said:

“I believe she believes she was raped.”

Sisulu was trying to sound empathetic, while still supporting Zuma and the judgment in his favour. It didn’t work and it wasn’t well received.

During the same interview she was asked if she took responsibility for Zuma still being President. Her responses said more about her unfitness to hold office:

“We must all take responsibility for the fact that President Jacob Zuma is still President of the country. I wouldn’t want to segregate down to individuals. I have taken responsibility.”

She didn’t elaborate as to how she had taken responsibility.

On being asked whether she shared the deep embarrassment of the ruinous rule of Zuma and her role in propping him up, Sisulu said:

“We are in a very difficult period. I think everybody knows that. We ourselves have accepted that we went to the political conference (in June 2017). The Secretary-General (Gwede Mantashe) read out the state of the current organisation. We all agreed and we took a determined decision to change things.

“My decision then was we’re not just going to change things; we’re going to change things now. We must change things.”

The vagueness continued, but then she showed both her ignorance and her mendacity.

“Nonetheless, I feel a deep sense of – I can’t describe it – I have been part of what has been going on and I take part of the blame; we all should take part of the blame of where the country is at and where the ANC is at right now.

“But I am determined that it is possible to change and I have been requested to put myself out there and to make change possible – not just possible; it is a must.

“I was wanting to explain to you what that ‘must’ stands for. We’ve now got to a point that it’s not what we should do or what, like, it’s something that has to be done.

“I was part of the faction that went to Polokwane in 2007 and we firmly believed that Zuma would offer us the solution that we needed because he was the last of the National Executive Council (NEC) of Oliver Tambo. He had the necessary understanding of the ANC and we thought we would be there to be of assistance to make sure that we would take the ANC out of the problem…? It was untenable for us that President Mbeki would go for a third term as it is unconstitutional in the ANC, so we had to stop it and our best bet was Zuma.”

Sisulu’s assertions aren’t borne out by the facts. Zuma was not “the last” of the NEC of Oliver Tambo.

If she was referring to the last NEC in exile (1991 to 1993), then in the lead-up to Polokwane, when Zuma took office, the NEC comprised (other than Zuma and Mbeki) Pallo Jordan and Zola Skweyiya. Both of them had served on Tambo’s last NEC in exile.

If, however, she was talking about the last NEC that Tambo sat on before his death in 1993, then people on the 1993 NEC who were also on the NEC immediately before Polokwane in 2007 were: Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, Kader Asmal, Jeremy Cronin, Ebrahim Ebrahim, Pallo Jordan, Ronnie Kasrils, Saki Macozoma, Winnie Mandela, Trevor Manuel, Thabo Mbeki, Popo Molefe, Valli Moosa, Mendi Msimang, Sydney Mufamadi, Aziz Pahad, Zola Skweyiya and Sisulu herself.

When the Polokwane conference started there were nine people who had been on the ANC’s NEC uninterruptedly since 1991 (the first post-exile NEC) – a total of 26 years.

So clearly Zuma was not the “last” of Tambo’s NEC, however she chose to define it.

As regards Mbeki’s push for a third term, Sisulu doesn’t know the content of the ANC’s constitution. There is no limit to the number of times a person can stand for the presidency of the ANC. The problem is that if the candidate has served two terms as president of the country, he would be unable to stand as the country’s president again. So if the ANC wins the 2019 election, there will be two centres of power in the party. That would be untenable for the ANC.

As at October 2017 Sisulu has been on the NEC for 24 years uninterruptedly and in Parliament for the same period uninterruptedly. Since 2001, she has held Cabinet portfolios for human settlements, public service and administration, defence and military veterans, housing, and intelligence – five ministries in less than 24 years.

Not once in all that time did she express public disagreement with a decision of the NEC or the ANC in Parliament that was immoral, illegal or repugnant.

Sisulu trained in intelligence work in the USSR. She subsequently worked as personal assistant to Zuma in 1990. She then became the ANC’s Head of Intelligence from 1990 to 1993.

She is a member of ANC “royalty” as a Sisulu, but her responses have been careless and certainly don’t reflect her attitude towards Zuma as being one of real dismay.

She is often referred to as being haughty and arrogant. The female leader she most resembles is Evita Peron. DM

Sara Gon is a Policy Fellow at the IRR, a think tank that promotes economic and political liberty. Follow the IRR on Twitter @IRR_SouthAfrica

Photo: Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu during the Social Protection, Community and Human Development Cluster media briefing, 2015. (Photo: DoC)

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