ANALYSIS

Forces of fightback against reform in the ANC are on the back foot

By Ferial Haffajee 17 April 2019

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule (Photo: Leila Dougan/Daily Maverick) / South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, 25 January 2019. (Photo: EPA-EFE/HARISH TYAGI) / Flames: Photo by Patrick Hendry/Unsplash

Former SARS boss Tom Moyane’s KO in his attempt to cross-examine Pravin Gordhan is further proof that forces of fightback are on the defensive.

The political fightback against reform by the agents of State Capture is real but it is now on the back foot. On Tuesday, former SARS commissioner Tom Moyane lost his bid to cross-examine Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, except on limited grounds.

With a reformist ANC, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, occupying the political high ground with only a wafer-thin majority, skirmishes from the powerful opposing faction have been regular and organised.

The arena for this fightback has moved and it has built a coalition of the wounded. The first battlefield was at SARS where powerful illicit economy godfathers are believed to have supported a fightback led by the EFF which opposed Moyane’s ousting.

The second was Transnet and Eskom; the third was Luthuli House where the divisions are most stark.

In each of these locations, the reformers have enjoyed small victories which suggest the narrative of fightback is over-exposed in public discussion.

Arena 1

Former South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane sits inside the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on December 11, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. The court in Pretoria dismissed Moyane’s application to have his axing as SARS commissioner overturned. (Photo by Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)

The third biggest political party in South Africa put up a battle against reform at SARS, first using Parliament to attack Treasury officials and SARS officials driving change at the revenue collector.

The party then sought to get the appointment of new SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter nixed by engaging a disinformation campaign against him and former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel who chaired the panel to interview candidates for the role and who put forward three names to Ramaphosa.

EFF president Julius Malema lives in a home rented to him by cigarette kingpin Adriano Mazzotti who is in trouble with SARS; the EFF national chairperson Dali Mpofu acts for former SARS commissioner Tom Moyane. The party has tried but largely failed to stop the reform at SARS as the symbolic raid on Mazzotti’s home revealed in February.

In addition, Kieswetter starts work on 1 May and the EFF disinformation campaign against him has not scored any traction.

Arena 2

Former Eskom executive Matshela Koko at the parliamentary inquiry into alleged corruption at the power utility on January 24, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. Koko, Eskom’s head of generation, denied being involved in corruption and implicated former colleagues. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Esa Alexander)

The second arena where the fightback was evident is at the state-owned companies, notably Eskom and Transnet.

Again, the EFF has been front and centre, using its enormous social media muscle to allege a clean-out of black executives by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan who has been charged with the reform of the companies. The party has allied, at least on social media, with the former acting CEO Matshela Koko to run a sophisticated campaign against the liberalisation of the electricity grid to include renewable sources of energy from independent power producers (IPPs).

They are joined in this by the lobby, the Coal Transporters Forum, the patron of which is Koko. That effort is failing because Ramaphosa’s presidential task team on Eskom looks set to include independent producers as a key part of the reform of the electricity utility.

A court bid in March saw the coal forum attempt to stop IPP contracts given the go-ahead by the National Electricity Regulator of SA (NERSA). Judgment has been reserved.

The forum and Koko have the support of powerful union boss Irvin Jim who is part of the campaign against the reform of Eskom because of worker fears that jobs may be lost.

At Transnet, an effort by the fightback campaign to rescind the axing of former CEO Siyabonga Gama and various other tainted executives failed as chairperson Popo Molefe quietly carries out a thorough-going clean-out of the rot there. Molefe is the only state-owned company executive who has managed to start lawsuits against the Mafias which sought to corrupt Transnet in the course of its purchase of 1,064 new locomotives.

Arena 3

Former president Jacob Zuma swimming with one of his daughters, possibly at his Nkandla homestead, on 31 March 2019. Photo from Twitter/PresJGZuma.

The most important arena for the fightback is the ANC headquarters at Luthuli House where a tenuous unity in its Top Six leadership team who run the day to day affairs of the party has been rocked on the election trail.

The party’s Secretary-General, Ace Magashule, has taken over from former President Jacob Zuma as the totemic figurehead of the fightback or what journalist Qaanitah Hunter uncovered as a plot in 2018. She broke the story of how Magashule was meeting with Zuma and leaders of the ANC Women’s League to plan and strategise on an organised fightback against the reform wing of the ANC.

That mission is now on the back foot as Magashule stares down the encyclopaedic account of his empire of corruption in the Free State chronicled by Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book Gangster State. The book’s revelations have put strongman Magashule on the back foot and his performances on the election trail in the Western Cape at the weekend reveal his weaknesses. With the spotlight on him, Magashule’s gift of R400 and a fridge inspection on a house visit have rained opprobrium on him where it would have gone unnoticed in the past. In addition, Magashule lost out on his position that the party’s electoral lists should stand and not be referred to the party’s Integrity Commission.

His attack on the DA as a white party did not have the populist viral effect he is used to; instead, the party’s veteran wing attacked him for being in violation of ANC principles. Zuma was back on the election trail this week, but he is a largely isolated figure quickly being consigned to the history books.

An image of him swimming in his Durban pool in the middle of the election campaign early in April came on the same day that the Sunday Times reported he had been marginalised in the campaign as the ANC election campaign organisers had insisted on One President, One Campaign. DM

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