THE AFTERMATH

South Africa’s public unrest in July was entirely of the ANC’s own making, says stalwart Mavuso Msimang

By Marianne Merten 4 August 2021

uMkonto We Sizwe veteran Mavuso Msimang poses for pictures during an interview on 05 April 2016 in Johannesburg. Msimang is amongst some of South Africa’s liberating heroes who are providing strong condemnation and opposition to the ANC. (Photo by Gallo Images / Rapport / Cornel Van Heerden)

Simmering ANC tensions left unresolved meant the Radical Economic Transformation group used the July contempt of court arrest of ex-president Jacob Zuma to launch protests to embarrass the government, says ANC stalwart Mavuso Msimang.

Marianne Merten

The public disorder and violence of July was entirely of the ANC’s own making, given the long-standing Radical Economic Transformation grouping whose adherents believed that once former president Jacob Zuma was arrested they should protest. 

“When the rupture happened, the spark was clearly lit by ANC people. Had we been able to manage this [tension], we would not have had the mayhem we have had. It is the ANC crisis spilling out in public.” 

And it was “quite clear the intention” was to embarrass the government as much as possible, and dent people’s confidence in it. “Because what they did was to paralyse the economy and shock the nation.” 

Msimang on Wednesday was in conversation with Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) Executive Director Ann Bernstein as part of the [email protected] series of webinars to mark the centre’s 25th anniversary. 

The forthright ANC stalwart and Umkhonto weSizwe veteran, who headed SANParks and SA Tourism and also did a stint as Home Affairs director-general, is one of the veterans and stalwarts who have been speaking out from at least 2016 when the #GuptaLeaks broke wide open State Capture and corruption during Zuma’s presidency.

More recently, Msimang didn’t mince his words when he offered an “unauthorised ANC apology” for July’s wide-scale destruction in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. 

On Wednesday, during a wide-ranging and frank conversation with Bernstein, Mavuso said that what was urgently needed was clarity on what happened during the July unrest. 

“We still don’t know who did what. That’s a matter that requires really urgent action. There is a need to find out exactly what happened.” 

Maybe South Africa is inquiry-fatigued, but information on those incidents and events remains obscure – never mind senior ministers and officials giving contradictory statements. 

“You can’t talk about counter-revolutionary. There is not revolutionary behaviour to counter,” said Mavuso, calling on action to deal with poverty and help the poor. 

And that included dealing with pervasive corruption which may be dismissed as petty, but greatly affected people’s lives. This corruption could range from having to pay a bribe to get medicines at a public no-fee hospital, to having to pay a so-called fee to obtain a driver’s licence. 

“Many people tell us the most corrupt institution is the police – and those are the people, who are meant to protect, and to whom people must report crimes. It is bad,” said Msimang, who is chairperson of Corruption Watch. 

Since its establishment in 2012, the anti-corruption and public interest advocacy group has received 2,300 corruption reports from ordinary people. This year 200 such reports have already been submitted. 

“[Corruption] is pervasive and it demoralises the people and they lose trust and confidence in government.” 

But the private sector needed to shoulder responsibility for its role in the corruption. 

The government should have taken a very strong stand against those organisations that were “actively using public sector people to loot the state” and someone should look into why banks seemed not to be aware of the “money externalisation by the Guptas, for such a long time”. 

It was important to investigate what had happened, said Msimang.

“There would be no corruption in the public sector if it wasn’t for the private sector, they are the ones who have the resources. That they are complicit is beyond doubt.”

Meanwhile, South Africa continued to live in the shadow of the nine “devastated”, rather than wasted, years. “These were years of devastation when there was a hollowing-out of state-owned organisations, criminal justice organisations, of departments, of municipalities, of Parliament. Even the ANC.” 

Senior ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) members caught out in corruption still have to face consequences, like going to prison. That perhaps was one of the lingering consequences of the hollowing-out of the state, even if steps have been taken to reverse this by, for example, the appointments at the helm of the prosecution authority, tax collector and the Special Investigating Unit. 

The NEC was aware of the Gupta corruption – “It was just too obvious,” said Msimang – and could have made interventions as it was empowered to do as the highest decision-making body between the national elective conferences every five years. 

“There was always a group of people who fought and fought hard for right decisions to be made. They ended up losing their jobs, and they didn’t care.” 

But this group was a minority. 

“Zuma was feared, I don’t know, almost like a demigod.” 

In the politics of the stomach, you do not want to upset your boss, because he can fire you. People thought it was too perilous to speak out perhaps because of a lack of other employment prospects. And people became corruptible. 

“If you point the finger at me, you know five people will point fingers at you. That really ruined the organisation.” 

But Msimang remains ANC, through and through. 

“I would not still be in the ANC if I did not think it wasn’t redeemable,” he told Bernstein, but acknowledged it would be a steep mountain to climb. 

Even if people decided the ANC should sit in the opposition benches, it was worth saving as the organisation carried so much history, founded as it was by ordinary people.

But right now would be a good time for ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa to take the steps needed to clean up what he can within the governing party, if not in the government. 

“The unity the president so desires… it’s not going to be forged with people who are thugs, or thieves, or people who are involved in corruption,” said Msimang. DM

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All Comments 16

  • An informative article.
    Zuma is nothing but a dictator…. Another Idi Amin in the making.

    Let’s hope Cyril has what it takes to rid government and the ANC of the thugs and the corrupt that hold this beautiful country to ransom.

    • You may as well stop hoping. cr is also one of ‘them’. He just hasn’t been caught red-handed and been exposed yet. If this wasn’t true, he would have gotten rid of the rubbish in his cabinet by now.

      • “Politics is the art of the possible” – words that I believe are attributed to Harold Wilson. CR has never had the backing within the ANC to get rid of the rubbish. His only viable option is to appoint competent people from among the MPs of the opposition parties but this would not endear him to his enemies within the ANC.

  • “providing strong condemnation and opposition to the ANC” says the subscript to the photo.
    “But Msimang remains ANC, through and through”
    Hollow words from a hollow has-been.

    • Exactly. How can anyone be “ANC through and through” and profess to be opposed to it at the same time? Pick your choice … either for or against.

  • Time, Cyril, time. You have the whole country on your side. Even a Govt of national unity could achieve more than an ANC-led gov’t.

    • I agree with your sentiments, a govt. of national unity could achieve more. It will never happen. The concept is anathema to the ANC, it would be an impediment to their monopoly on corruption & looting.

      The ANC has proven beyond any doubt that they don’t care about SA & its people. It’s all about the self-enrichment of the cadres, their families & cronies, under the guise of “party unity”.

      • No political party of any standing would want to tarnish their reputation by entering a GOV of Nat Unity –other than the Good Party..they are already part of the Cabinet. Possibly the EFF. Neither adds any quality.

  • Little by little, inch by inch, they (the ANC) are dragging us back into despotism. The veil of illusion that is our democracy is getting thinner each day.

    I do not share Msimang’s confidence that the ANC is redeemable. I was surprised back in 2016 that CR didn’t immediately jump ship. I also disagree to a certain extent as to the causes of this dirty, rotting quagmire that the ANC has forced the people of South Africa into. Yes, corruption is one cause, but what causes corruption? What above all has facilitated it? I would say it is nothing less than the ANC policy of cadre deployment. I’m not hearing anything from any of the “struggle stalwarts” nor the media about that particular little detail, and so I can only conclude that pieces like this and his previous ‘apology’ are nothing but a smokescreen to hide their intention to carry on as before.

    Mr Msimang, as long as you wear the colours of corruption (black, green and yellow), I do not trust you.

    • If you read the News24 report on his remarks yesterday he says exactly that, that cadre deployment was a disaster. I respect Msimang way more than just about any other ANC member and according to this, he refers to the ANC sitting in the opposition benches. As Kgalema Motlanthe has said, being in opposition is the only way to save the ANC. I understand why people would want to save the ANC…one cannot deny it’s remarkable history, even though the way it is at present has brought our beautiful country to its knees.

  • Phew, I need a holiday from DM. I find the saddest thing to be the readers comments as they simply reflect the hopelessness that so many of us feel and the lack of faith in any politician to correct the situation and get on with what they should be doing which is creating a fairer society and an environment where economic growth can be achieved and jobs created.

    • True, I feel the same way. I suppose that the comments here are an outlet & a way for many of us to share our frustrations about the direction that SA’s headed in & with no assertive action from Cyril, who’s frozen in a state of paralysis.

  • The ANC seem not to have learnt the lessons of another National Congress with a much longer history … that of India ! BUT what has ‘replaced’ the incompetence of that congress, seems even worse ! A mixture of religious fervour coupled with sectarian zeal disguised as democracy, with a special contempt for critical media and journalists. Beware of what we ask for as an alternative … not always palatable or good !

  • Having served on the KZN tourism board of which Mavuso Msimang was CEO at the time, I can vouch for the fact that at his instance, we reported the gross misconduct of the chairman to then MEC Public Enterprises, JG Zuma no less.Needless to say, no action was taken but MM resigned to become CEO of Sanparks, a position he filled with more than a little distinction. He went on to be DG of Home Affairs, a position that very few of us would contemplate taking on. Once again by all accounts, he did a sterling job. You can take it from me, this is a man of integrity, honesty and incredible determination. We should all rally behind the cause that he serves now with as much enthusiasm and effort that we can muster.

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