South Africa


Everybody knows the deal is rotten: With Zondo almost over, it’s time for the ANC’s (re)action

Everybody knows the deal is rotten: With Zondo almost over, it’s time for the ANC’s (re)action
From left: Former Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Matshela Koko testifies at the Zondo Commission on May 19, 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images/Papi Morake) | Former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane addresses the media during the release of the 2016 health and safety statistics in the mining sector on January 19, 2017 in Randfontein, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Veli Nhlapo) | Zizi Kodwa during a media conference on May 29, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla) | President Cyril Ramaphosa poses for a photo during an interview on February 15, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Esa Alexander) | Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni briefs media on the outcomes of the Cabinet meeting, 27 May 2021. (Photo: Flickr / GCIS)

While the latest findings of the Zondo Commission will take some time to be fully appreciated or understood, it is already clear that the report is going to have a big impact on our politics. The nature, execution and scale of impact will give us an idea of what kind of party the ANC is likely to emerge after the dust has settled.

The ANC is now expected to respond to Zondo’s findings that the party “should be ashamed of itself” for what happened at Eskom; that its leader at the time, former president Jacob Zuma “would do anything the Guptas wanted him to do”; and that it essentially failed South Africa.

In some ways, this report will move the dial on our politics; it will obviously further entrench the view that many voters have, that the ANC at its core has a culture of corruption. 

It also poses questions in the shorter term, especially about the findings it has made about particular individuals. President Cyril Ramaphosa may soon have to make decisions about people in his Cabinet who were implicated, including Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa.

But the party itself also has to make decisions about whether someone like Mosebenzi Zwane can remain in his position as chair of Parliament’s portfolio committee on transport, despite the finding that “it can safely be concluded that Mr Zwane was a Gupta minister”. 

While there are many damning points in the latest tranche, one of the more damaging is about Eskom. Zondo writes: 

“South Africans thought that the ANC government was in control of Eskom, but it was not. It had relinquished control to the Guptas and those people the Guptas wanted. The ANC and the ANC government should be ashamed that this happened under their watch.”

In three sentences Zondo explains what went wrong, how it was the ANC who is responsible for this, and who was really in control. Together, these sentences remind us of the lasting damage caused by decades of State Capture.

People like Lynne Brown, Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko were not working for us. They were not even working for the ANC. They were working for the Guptas.

The Stage Four power outages that we, and our economy, suffered two weeks ago, are part of the consequences of that, regardless of Matshela Koko’s Twitter explosions.

In some ways, however, these findings might not necessarily change our politics that significantly. 

Shayne’s World: How R1.8bn in UIF cash vanished in Coast2Coast debt hole

While Zondo berates the ANC for its conduct, so cynical have voters become that this may just be cementing a view that has been widespread already.

The aftermath of the flooding in KwaZulu-Natal, and the apparent expectation that the ANC would literally steal any relief funds, shows that many already presume the ANC is guilty until proven innocent. That said, these findings do make it harder for the ANC to even try to ‘renew’ itself.

Certainly, one can imagine opposition parties quoting the Zondo report volumes endlessly during what will probably be key elections in 2024.

This could have further complicating effects. While some in the ANC will work hard to renew the party and prove it’s changed, others may feel that it is more in their interests to simply steal as much as they can while they can, before the party is soon going to be out of power.

Within this is a very curious dynamic.

Many politicians, and many in the ANC, regularly accuse big business, and corporations in general, of immorality fuelled by being interested only in profits.

But one company has been praised by Zondo for the way in which it has handled the corruption within it. The firm EOH, once it became apparent that some of its leadership had been involved in corruption, made major changes.

It fired the wrongdoers, contracted an independent firm to conduct its own investigation, gave that report to Zondo, and complied with requests to testify.

As Zondo noted, “There is no other company that has been of greater assistance to the commission in relation to investigations of historical wrongdoing within its ranks.”

It must now be asked, why can’t the ANC say the same?

Has it acted as EOH has done, removing those who are corrupt, making major changes and trying to work out what had actually happened?

For the moment, the answer is clearly a big fat “no”.

One of the people found by Zondo to have received money as “loan” from EOH is Kodwa himself.

He received R1-million in 2015 from EOH’s Jehan Mackay, just as Mackay was involved in trying to get deals with government departments.

Zondo finds that Ramaphosa should take action against Kodwa because he is the Deputy Minister for State Security while being presumably beholden to a private person.

Instead of accepting the findings, Kodwa disputes them. He says that he is repaying the money, that it was a loan and that he is not beholden to Mackay.

Kodwa did not spend the money on necessities for himself or anyone else. Rather, he bought a Jeep, and accepted luxury holidays from Mackay.

In December 2017, during the ANC’s Nasrec conference, he tweeted that he was voting for Ramaphosa, and not Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Earlier that year he had written a public letter to OR Tambo saying, “The challenge confronting the movement today is not a vicious apartheid state, but vultures within, who have no qualms about obliterating your legacy and sacrificing the values our glorious movement has embodied at the altar of greed and personality cults”.

Even before then, in an interview as the ANC’s spokesperson on 702’s Midday Report, six years ago this week, he refused to say that he was proud of Zuma’s leadership.

And yet, through all of this, he was aware that he had spent a million rand of someone else’s money. And, until the Zondo Commission heard testimony on the issue, had not started paying it back.

Not surprisingly, Kodwa is far from the only person involved in this.

Zondo also has strong words for Zwane, and has recommended that he be investigated and possibly prosecuted for his role in facilitating projects for the Guptas.

Despite this, there is no indication yet that Zwane will resign from his position in Parliament.

This shows the problems that the ANC may have in dealing with the report. 

If Zwane does not step down (and perhaps claims that he is “innocent until proven guilty”) it will solidify the inevitable perception among many people that the ANC is in fact guilty until proven innocent.

But it is likely that he will not be the ANC’s highest-profile problem.

Rather, it will be how Ramaphosa handles the findings which now relate to three people he himself appointed to important positions.

Mantashe has previously been found by Zondo to have benefitted improperly from upgrades to his properties from the company Bosasa. He has indicated that he will challenge that finding in court. As ANC national chairman, and someone who appeared to support Ramaphosa’s agenda, his decision will be of great significance.

Current Communications Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has also had findings against her relating to her time as a board member of Denel.

Kodwa has already indicated that he will challenge these findings.

All of this may well make it difficult for Ramaphosa to act against them in the way he would like to. At the heart of the issue is a simple question: can the ANC really renew itself if no action is taken against all these people? 

This gets to the real power of Zondo’s findings. Everyone saw the hearings, the testimony, the questions and the answers. It was an open process. This makes it difficult to argue with the judge who has now spent a big chunk of his life investigating the depth of the corrupt abyss.

From one side, 2024 is looming. But can the ANC really go through the process in which the great majority of its leadership has to leave in order to save itself and its legacy? That is the real “to be or not to be” question in front of them. How much pain can one organisation go through – especially the one that caused so much pain already to entire South Africa? DM

[hearken id=”daily-maverick/9419″]


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Craig B says:

    With this much corruption and 5 trillion national debt I can’t see how they can recover it. Imagine the accounting mess across government with all the corruption. They will have no clue what is happening which I suppose is the point. This makes the end of apartheid crisis look benign.

  • Joe Soap says:

    The idea of innocent until proven guilty is now stale, with regard to the ANC anyway. The ANC is proven to be guilty. The debate is closed. The ANC is a crime syndicate and not a political party. One becomes a member to loot and not serve the country. When Cyril stands up and talks, you are listing to a member of a crime syndicate. When Gwede stands up and talks, you are listening to a member of a crime syndicate. When Ace stands up and talks, you are listening to a member of a crime syndicate and someone charged with corruption. We need to stop listening to members of a crime syndicate. They have nothing to say to society.

    • Dennis Bailey says:

      actually, it’s what ANC is not saying that’s the problem. They are not saying what they will do clearly and believably enough to trust the ANC. But would the electorate reelect them? For sure!

      • Malcolm Mitchell says:

        Yes, unfortunately the electorate in SA has for decades , both during NP and ANC times voted with their hearts and not their heads and also believed false news and false politicians.

    • Simon D says:

      100%. If SARS can literally go against the constitution and treat your tax as GUILTY until proven innocent (even if their stuff up) then why cant we hold ministers in the same position. In fact it should go further, when PROVEN guilty, they should automatically be charged with treason as well as the crime (fraud, theft, etc) they are being charged with. All public office crimes are a treason and need to carry that penalty as well.

      Sadly Cyril is 100% clueless coward. He just doesn’t get that whether he plays his idiotic diplomacy game or actually grows a backbone and takes hard decisions, the outcome is likely the same, but at least with a backbone and hard decisions it could just *maybe* end better for him, the ANC and the country.

      Every day it’s just more disheartening to see how South Africans are being led by such poor leadership and thieves.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Unbelievable that Zwane still has a high paid job when he has been implicated in Free State and Minerals Department fraud.

  • Johan Buys says:

    To be fair, there are many decent honest ANC members, even among the deployed.

    But if this is to be proven correct, those people now need to get off their backsides, become active in their ANC branches or just join and vote such that delegates to the conference will be decent honest people. At present the biggest Capture problem is that the ANC branch system of only 1.2million is captured! 1.2 million people stuffed up SA for 55 million people

    • Craig B says:

      I’m past believing this. They haven’t stood up ever before and I doubt they will. Even the honest guys do cover ups, the President being an example

  • Craig Cauvin says:

    Adv. Shamila Bathohi – Over to you…

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    For CR to ‘replace’ all the many (very few remaining) implicated and corrupt cadres in his ranks, he would have to look beyond his ‘cadres’ …which would be tantamount to committing suicide. However the alternative as can be seen in India where another wholly inept ‘congress’ lost its way, and has now been replaced by a authoritarian Hindutva fanatic ! The choices are not appealing or without significant consequences.


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider