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ANC’s Integrity Commission? What Integrity Commission?

ANC’s Integrity Commission? What Integrity Commission?
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)|ANC supporters with a flag. (Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)|Entrance of Phala Phala farm in Rhenosterkloof outside Bela Bela in Limpopo. Photo: Leon Sadiki|George Mashamba heading the ANC’s Integrity Commission..Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick circa 1956: A sign common in Johannesburg, South Africa, reading 'Caution Beware Of Natives'. (Photo by Ejor/Getty Images) | SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 16: South African President Thabo Mbeki, pauses at the African National Congress conference in Polokwane, Limpopo province, South Africa, on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2007. Mbeki will square off against Zuma in a vote to decide who leads the country's ruling African National Congress for the next five years. (Photo by Greg Marinovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As the ANC’s internal electoral machinery readies for the release of its branches’ final nomination lists, the party’s Integrity Commission is once again under the spotlight — because of the high levels of contestation in the party, the high level of perceived corruption and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala scandal.

The Integrity Commission clearly believes it is fulfilling its role and has angrily denied that it is “toothless”. There is no evidence to support its claim, and it may be that one of the biggest problems in the ANC, and perhaps in our politics, is the fact that this commission and the ANC’s entire anti-corruption machinery do not work

Perhaps it was never designed to work.

It is worth repeating that one of the biggest problems facing our politics is corruption, and that the machinery used by the governing party to deal with it is of crucial importance to our democracy.

On Friday, while the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) was meeting, the party’s Integrity Commission released a statement in which it said: 

“The Commission reiterates its rejection of the irresponsible referencing by some in the media including opinion makers and analysts to the Integrity Commission as ‘toothless’. The Commission remains steadfast and committed to carry [sic] out its mandate without fear or favour.”

It is clear that its members are angry at claims by several people (including this writer), that their body is not making an impact. An examination of the evidence does not support the commission’s claims.

This matters, because an Integrity Commission, presumably, should base its decisions on evidence. Its very reason to exist involves the sifting and evaluation of evidence. If it is prepared to make a public statement without evidence, that is bound to have certain consequences for how it is perceived.

It is difficult to think of any incident in the last 10 years in which the Integrity Commission has in fact had any political impact at all — in some cases, it has been completely ignored with no consequences for those involved.

The case of Zuma

Perhaps the most important case is that of former president Jacob Zuma.

In 2017, it emerged that a few months before, in 2016, the commission, chaired as it then was by Andrew Mlangeni, had told him to resign. He refused.

Nothing happened.

Reshuffle Chronicles: ANC Integrity Commission wants Zuma to resign

The commission and Mlangeni did not go public with these events, and it was only after Zuma’s removal of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister that they emerged. 

(When Daily Maverick broke this story, the ANC’s then spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, accused us of publishing fake news. We are still waiting for his apology. Ed)

Something similar appears to have happened with Deputy President David Mabuza. In 2019 he refused to take office, delaying Ramaphosa’s appointment of his entire Cabinet. This was because he wanted to be cleared by the commission before taking his oath of office. Then, he took office, giving the impression that the commission had cleared him.

It was only two years later that the commission told the ANC it had in fact not cleared him.

More recently, the chair of the commission, George Mashamba, was not able to explain why people against whom findings had been made by the Zondo Commission had not reported to him to explain themselves. 

Crucially, in that same interview, Mashamba appeared to downplay the importance of his own commission. And when it came to actual decisions, he explained that the Integrity Commission reports to the NEC, where: “we make our input, they decide what to do”.

All of this suggests that his commission does in fact have little to no real power.

But this may have been the original intention.

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Wishful thinking

Many ANC leaders have claimed that there was no need to set up this kind of integrity machinery in the first place and that people could “rely on the conscience” of those implicated in wrongdoing to step down.

Events have shown that this thinking was not based on reality. It was always the case that someone who ignored their conscience to break the law to their own benefit was unlikely to suddenly listen to their conscience on the issue of stepping aside.

And during this time, it appears that just one person who was implicated in wrongdoing actually did so, in the form of Enoch Godongwana (he resigned as a deputy minister after a company he chaired collapsed in 2012 — no finding was ever made against him). One other person, former ANC Northern Cape Chair John Block, resigned after being convicted of corruption by a court.

Just this alone, the almost complete absence of resignations, suggested then and suggests now that no one in the ANC is scared of the party’s own anti-corruption machinery.

While it is tempting to blame those in the Integrity Commission for this, it may be worth examining the situation in which they find themselves.

First, everything they do is subject to the NEC. Even if they feel strongly about an issue, as the commission clearly did about Zuma in 2016, it is unlikely the NEC would have backed them up. Certainly, when the issue of removing Zuma was discussed, the NEC simply refused to vote to remove him. 

Second, despite what the ANC and its leaders and spokespersons may say in public, there is clearly no true appetite to act against corruption. If there was, it would not have taken the formal lodging of charges against Mosebenzi Zwane for him to finally step aside. Malusi Gigaba and perhaps even Zweli Mkhize would have resigned from their positions on the NEC because of the findings against them. None of this has happened.

And then there is the issue of the people who are actually on the Integrity Commission itself.

When the idea was first adopted at the ANC’s Mangaung Conference, it was agreed that “elders” who were seen as politically neutral would be appointed. The idea was to find people who had no interest in the day-to-day political contestation in the ANC.

It may be impossible to objectively assess this, and your view may well depend on the stage of life in which you find yourself, but some may want to ask if selecting “elders” was the right choice. It may well depend on the individual committee members. But it could well be that someone like Ramaphosa (or Zuma) felt unthreatened by the members of the commission, even if they were dealing with matters of great political weight. 

It is very likely that going into the next election and beyond, the issue of corruption will continue to bedevil the ANC and SA politics. It is also obvious that to win the trust of voters the party needs to be seen to be acting against corruption.

Voters themselves will look for evidence the party is willing to act against those implicated in corruption. But for the commission to make the claim — without evidence, it appears  — that it is not “toothless” could draw attention to the fact that the opposite may well be true.

And that the commission, for various reasons, has virtually no power and virtually no impact. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Absolutely toothless, and if the electorate were to weigh the ANC on integrity alone, Stephen, the ANC would win hands down. That’s what needs to be addressed. Why does the electorate vote for lying, cheating, thieving, corrupt, assassinating, scumbags that are the dregs of the earth that keeps us in poverty? Because they can and there is no alternative.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    I think the header should be “what integrity” not “what integrity commission”. Integrity is a word that lost its meaning a while back…infact I’m beginning to wonder if the word actually exists in our other official languages or if it’s gone the way of Ubuntu!

  • Hermann Funk says:

    The Don of this mafia-like organisation has proven many times that he is not serious about fighting corruption. The commission is pure window dressing, but is fooling no one anymore. It is such a pity that opposition parties are too stupid or too badly led to be tools for renewal.

  • Peter Dexter says:

    I believe the ANC’s integrity commission is just “window dressing” and was never intended to function. If they were serious about integrity they would have included integrity standards similar to those contained in the FAIS Act which they created. They know how to design effective integrity regulations, but they must not apply to them.

  • virginia crawford says:

    ANC Integrity is an oxymoron.

  • John Counihan says:

    Ya, Stephen, as you say, “perhaps it was never designed to work”. It’s not in the interest of the power cliques in the ANC to solve corruption. It’s the essence of their power base. People are aghast at the newly elected KZN ANC RET faction provincial leadership marching up to Nkandla to pay homage to thief-in-chief JZ. “Surely they realise he is a crook?” people wail. But that’s the thing: precisely BECAUSE he is a crook is why they support him! They want him back at the helm so they too can share in the spoils of institutionalised corruption. So sad we have such a ragged opposition. It should be easy to expose the rotten ANC and offer an enticing alternative.

  • Alan Salmon says:

    The ANC does not give a hoot about corruption – they are in power and will remain in power, with the EFF as partners in crime if they lose their majority in the next election – done and dusted.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Pretty deft observation … and the rest of the ‘opposition’ including self appointed ‘superman’ Herman M …. choking on the dust !!

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Integrity …. just another ‘word’ in ANC lexicon (like Putin’s ‘special military operation’ !) to cover up its non-existence in the post Madiba era !

  • Stef Viljoen Viljoen says:

    I fully agree. I also agree the the commission is working as designed. I suspect it was created just to show that the party is doing something about the quality of its members – without actually doing anything.

  • Confucious Says says:

    Half right. Its just a(nother) comission!

  • Two Wrongs Aint No Right says:

    You should first have a reasonable level of integrity before you can have an integrity commission…

  • Pierre Steynberg says:

    South Africa desperately needs an Independent Commission Against Corruption with a threefold approach 1) Education 2) Prevention 3) Prosecution. Like in Hong Kong and New South Wales. It won’t happen. Our leaders are all conflicted. Perhaps we need to start talking about an amnesty in return for good governance. The pain this government have inflicted on the venerable is incalculable. Corruption is colour blind. Deathꓹ crimeꓹ depressing generational povertyꓹ moral and environmental degradation is the fruit of incompetence and corruption. We are heading towards catastrophic pollution.

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