After Zondo findings, what will ANC do about ‘Gupta Minister’ Mosebenzi Zwane?
With the ANC claiming to be undergoing a process of ‘renewal', and with the possibility of a national-stage loss in 2024, it now appears that the party is about to face a major test in front of voters. With the Zondo Commission making clear findings about Mosebenzi Zwane, it is still not clear that the party is, in the real world, going to act against him.
While it is relying on internal processes and a “task team” to guide the party on how to handle the Zondo findings, it is uncertain that voters have the patience to wait for this process. In short, what happens to Mosebenzi Zwane could soon indicate whether the ANC is serious about its “renewal” or not.
Astonishingly, even top leaders in the party cannot yet even hint at what they want, or think is going to happen.
Zwane is the Chair of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport. He is expected to chair meetings in Parliament aimed at holding Ministers to account.
That is despite Chief Justice Raymond Zondo stating, “…Zwane had cooperated with the Guptas while serving as MEC in the Free State provincial government, where his departments had performed very poorly, and he was brought specially into the National Assembly so that President Zuma could appoint him as minister of mineral resources.”
He also says, “…there can be no explanation why President Zuma overlooked so many able and competent ANC MPs and brought Mr Zwane from outside parliament so that he could appoint him to the position of minister of mineral resources… In the light of the above, it can safely be concluded that Mr Zwane was a Gupta minister in the sense that he must have been appointed at their instance or request or with their blessing.”
It is important to note this is not a political opinion, it is a finding by the now Chief Justice of South Africa.
Zondo also recommends that Zwane be investigated with a view to prosecution for fraud.
Despite those findings there has been no public call by anyone within the ANC for him to step aside or resign.
And at least one senior leader, who may well contest for the position of Deputy President of the ANC, has refused to answer direct questions about Zwane.
Speaking on SAfm last week, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola was asked directly whether he believes Zwane can remain in his position. Lamola refused to respond, saying:
“It’s a vital question, but at this stage, you have invited me to speak here as the Minister of Justice in response to the recommendations of the report.”
When he was pressed on the issue he said, “I’m not abdicating my responsibility, it is only fair that this question is directed to the ANC and that it is the ANC that deals with such matters. And at this stage, it has not been considered.”
The process Lamola is referring to is a task team set up by the ANC to “guide” it in its response to the Zondo findings. The team consists of Lamola himself, former Minister Jeff Radebe, former ANC policy chief Joel Netshitenzhe and former Gauteng Speaker Lindiwe Maseko.
It is understood that this team will make recommendations to the NEC, which will then take final decisions on those implicated.
While all of this may explain the situation in the ANC and its internal process, it is not certain how much voters will care about its internal processes.
Two truths stand out here: Zwane was a Gupta Minister, and only the ANC can remove him from his position.
This is a strong indication of the problems facing the party. For those who defend Zwane, there is the technical position that he has, so far, not been charged criminally by the NPA.
While this is technically correct under the current interpretation of the ANC’s step-aside rule, it also ignores what ANC delegates actually voted on at Nasrec five years ago.
At that conference, delegates said that they “…demand that every cadre accused of, or reported to be involved in, corrupt practices accounts to the Integrity Committee immediately or faces DC processes”, and that they must “…summarily suspend people who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down, while they face disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial procedures”.
In many ways, this resolution goes much further than the NEC’s step-aside rule. And, technically, it has more power. It is the resolution of a conference, which is above the NEC in terms of ANC structures.
Despite that, the party has so far only implemented its NEC resolution, which requires someone to be charged before stepping aside.
All of this gets to the heart of the ANC’s real longer-term problem, which is that delegates at conferences can vote to pass a resolution demanding people accused of corruption step down, and also vote someone like Ace Magashule into an important position.
For the next few weeks, it is likely that the ANC will concentrate on its internal processes. At some point, when officials feel the time is right, the task team will report to the NEC and, presumably, provide its guidance on how the ANC should respond to Zondo’s reports. It is there that some recommendations may or may not be made about Zwane.
At the same time, the ANC is trying to tell voters it is going through a process of renewal. It also claims to have heard their anger at corruption within its ranks, and is about to change its ways.
But voters may feel entitled to ask where the evidence is? What is the difference between how the ANC is dealing with Zwane, and how it dealt with similar situations during the State Capture era? An era it now claims to condemn.
How many times has the ANC claimed that it is dealing with corrupt people, or that people should trust its own processes?
In 2016 it promised that then secretary-general Gwede Mantashe would investigate the claims, accepted by Zondo, that Mcebisi Jonas had been offered a massive bribe by the Guptas. Nothing came of the investigation.
And how many times have voters been left disappointed?
Currently, despite the party’s claims that it can deal with those who are corrupt within its ranks, former Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize is campaigning for a senior position. Despite the particularly strong evidence against him from the Digital Vibes scandal, that he enabled people to steal money during a pandemic.
This is a party that allows a man convicted of hitting a woman, Mduduzi Manana, to be elected to its national executive committee.
It also elected a proven liar, Malusi Gigaba, to the same body.
It seems impossible to imagine a corporate in the private sector appointing a corruption accused, a liar and a man convicted of gender-based violence to its board?
And yet the ANC appears to have no problem with this.
This suggests that despite the fact the ANC is in danger of losing power in national government in just two years’ time, it believes its internal process, and power balance, are more important. That protecting Zwane, allowing him to remain in his position for internal party reasons, is more important than keeping a promise to voters.
It may also be important to mention one other aspect of this.
Nothing stops Zwane from simply resigning. It would be an indication that he both accepts the Zondo findings, and that he understands he should act in the interests of his own party.
He has not done so, which surely proves that he feels absolutely no shame at what he has done.
For voters, the absence of shame, both from Zwane and from the party that keeps him in his position, may well be the strongest message to come from this. And it is a message that may well cost the ANC dearly. DM