Defend Truth

STATE FAILURE OP-ED

Drive the crooks and incompetents out of government

Drive the crooks and incompetents out of government
A mural of a child holding a bulb by artist Mr Ekse, Orlando West, Soweto. Most parts of the township are affected by rolling blackouts of stage 6 loadshedding. Photo:Felix Dlangamandla

The ruling ANC cannot be tasked with rebuilding what it has itself broken in recent years. It is now too involved in the dysfunctionality of the current state of South Africa, with the Eskom crisis a case in point.

Like many members of the South African public, I observe South African politics and state functioning or malfunctioning or failure to function with increasing alarm.

There is a sense that the problems that beset South Africa with collapsing of infrastructure and state machinery in a range of respects will not be remedied.

With much fanfare, we have read of announcements and statements and promises of new institutions and new ministries and the onset of a fresh state of disaster with no sense that there is a plan in place to actually tackle the problems on hand.

At the centre of public consciousness of what is going wrong at the moment is the question of load shedding (although many other critical issues could be named, which affect private individuals, families and businesses). Those without resources are suffering the full brunt of the withdrawal of electricity from their homes, from small businesses and the failure of resources needed for their safety, for example, lighting in poorer areas, making it easier for criminals to function.

But load shedding and water outages are also affecting the wealthy and big businesses, of course, with profits cut through spending on generators and diesel and other ways of mitigating the shortcomings of state-managed resources. Their private lives have also been affected by a range of insecurities engendered by unreliable state services.

Unfortunately, those who are analysing and commenting on public problems generally remain focused on the ANC and the ANC’s definition of what the key issues and problems are. 

That is why we have this endless focus on the reshuffling of Cabinet as if that is likely to lead to remedying the problems of South Africa. 

It does, however, tell us something about the paralysis of the ANC- led government that the president of the country has taken months to change his Cabinet (it has now been announced that he will announce his new executive this evening at 7pm), to remove people from his Cabinet after some months of the matter being aired and it being obvious that there will have to be replacements for certain vacancies at least.  

The secretary-general of the ANC – once a prestigious and central position – is now a person who is empty of ideas, who is nothing more than a windbag.

The present Cabinet remains populated by underperformers, incompetents and people against whose names there are question marks regarding their observance of legality and alleged involvement in criminality. 

There is no sign that Ramaphosa is worried about this. He’s been relaxed in accommodating non-performers and those against whom there have been allegations of wrongdoing, from the Zuma era and from his own camp into the highest offices of the land, enjoying lots of perks. (It is reported in the Sunday Times that ministers and deputy ministers employ support staff costing taxpayers more than R2-billion over five years, in some cases exceeding the number of staff allowed according to the ministerial handbook. This is allegedly more spending on support staff than under former president Jacob Zuma. 

And their failure to perform and that they may in some cases be implicated criminally has not moved Ramaphosa from the appearance of inertia, his signifying that he is unworried by what is happening around him, that he has no energy.


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I do not want to personalise but clearly the man – if you are generous, at the very least – has not got the energy to tackle the problems that swirl around him, that he’s charged with addressing as president of the country.  And if some find this funny, the joke, if it’s a joke, is on us the people of South Africa who pay the salary of the President and all those around him. 

And this joke has continued for too long. And we need to have a plan that is not simply based on voting, because we can see in the metros how, even cases where the ANC is not in the majority, they are in chaos, where the minority parties led by the DA (except for the Western Cape) are unable to ensure stability. And in some cases, not all are above giving way to greed and irregularity in their case as well. 

New movement needed

It is time that stakeholders in the country come forward as independent actors, who have an interest in the well-being of this country, whether as faith-based and other public organisations, to condemn the criminality, illegality, foul play and the violence that besets South Africa. 

They need to be part of a broad-based movement to sweep the incompetents and crooks out of power and replace them with a patriotic front or movement. It is needed either to rule the country or augment the power of government by exerting power in a manner that ensures that the interests of the people of South Africa are served.

In the past, when I’ve called for something beyond the vote, I’ve said that the ANC and DA can be part of this, and I believe the DA can play a part. And certainly they can participate. But it seems clear that the ANC at the very least is so involved in the dysfunctionality of the current state, in its criminality, that it cannot generally be part or a significant part of rebuilding what it has itself broken. 

After outgoing former CEO of Eskom André de Ruyter, gave a long interview on eNCA with Annika Larsen he has come in for a lot of flak from the ANC, from the new secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula.

anc mbalula

ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula addresses the party’s January 8th celebration held at Mpumalanga Stadium, Hammarsdale at eThekwenini Municipality, 5 February 2023. (Photo: Facebook / Fikile Mbalula)

That this is led by Mbalula tells us something about how the ANC has degenerated as an organisation, that such a person occupies the same position as Walter Sisulu did in the 1950s. The secretary-general of the ANC – once a prestigious and central position – is now a person who is empty of ideas, who is nothing more than a windbag. 

He has no credibility whatsoever in assailing the arguments that were advanced or the evidence that was presented by De Ruyter. His laying or purporting to lay charges or instructing lawyers to send letters to De Ruyter will not convince any person who reads about Eskom that what De Ruyter said has no basis. 

Let us not put this all on the shoulders of De Ruyter. That is completely dishonest.

I’m not thereby saying that everything that De Ruyter said in his interview was appropriate or that it was an accurate allegation against the ANC and its leaders.

But enough is known about the involvement of ANC individuals who are leaders, in wrongdoing, to have such allegations by De Ruyter bear considerable credibility. We have seen lots of evidence to the Zondo Commission into State Capture regarding many people who have not yet been charged. We know that investigations by the police and prosecutions by the NPA have not yielded adequate results so far, and a lot of people remain free, who may well have prima facie cases against them.

They have not been brought to court, in many cases. So even though De Ruyter may have reported these matters in a limited way, or not gone through all the processes necessary while he was head of Eskom, what he said seemed to me to be cogent. And as far as I can see, most of the public seemed to believe him. 

There are some things that he said about ANC discourse that were unnecessary and uncalled for, but the centre of his discussion related to crimes repeatedly committed with impunity. 

And we have investigations reported in Daily Maverick showing what was known before, that inferior coal is being supplied to Eskom, through criminal acts. 

Read in Daily Maverick: 

Introducing the four crime cartels that have brought Eskom and South Africa to their knees

Filthy seam of sabotage – how thieving cartels are plunging South Africa into darkness

This is not because that was the coal initially provided, but somewhere on the way to Eskom the contents of trucks carrying coal are tampered with and replaced by impure coal. This may be coal mixed with rocks and other substances that can and has caused damage to the power stations. 

This has been known for some time, the places have been identified where the coal is offloaded and then reloaded with inferior coal, in a mixed form. So, it’s not something that De Ruyter raised publicly which has been completely unknown. It has been known and reported. (See the article here by Mariane Mereten). 

If this information is known to De Ruyter and it is also known to the media, it is also obviously known to the ANC leadership and government leadership, but they’ve done little about it. And instead of taking responsibility, they are blaming De Ruyter. 

New alliance

Since the ANC will not take responsibility or the ANC government will not take responsibility, it strengthens the case for a new patriotic alliance of forces. Such a new configuration of forces may draw on the religious sector,  people from business, professional people, those who are in non-profit organisations, like Gift of the Givers. There are others, including popular organisations, professional organisations, educators and health professionals. 

We need to create a situation where the country is able to realise its potential, where it is not suffering extensive load shedding when it has the capacity to provide more power to people than is currently provided, because criminality flourishes. 

Let us not put this all on the shoulders of De Ruyter. That is completely dishonest. Those who are not in government, using whatever power they have, need to take steps to decisively influence the situation, and recover democratic life and institutions. DM

This article first appeared on Creamer Media’s website: polity.org.za

Raymond Suttner is an Emeritus Professor at the University of South Africa and a Research Associate in the English Department at University of the Witwatersrand. He served lengthy periods in prison and house arrest for underground and public anti-apartheid activities of the ANC,SACP and UDF. His writings cover contemporary politics, history, and social questions, especially issues relating to identities, violence, gender and sexualities. His Twitter handle is @raymondsuttner.

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  • Thinker and Doer says:

    Thank you very much, Mr Suttner, very well put. Civil society pressure is really the only possible hope that the country has in hopefully turning the corner in this dire crisis at this critical juncture. Every day new examples of the looting and criminality are coming to light, and the ANC and government are clearly not interested in tackling the corruption and criminality. They hope that by giving absolutely minimal appearances of doing something, while in fact not doing much of any substance at all, they can keep things going largely as usual, and scrape by at the next elections. They must know that we see exactly what they are up to, the Emperor has no clothes, and this will not be permitted to continue a minute longer.

  • Mike Waghorn says:

    I would like us all to consider an alternative to attempting to ‘persuade’ government to do the right thing. All previous attempts have failed. Rather, let’s consider why we need government and municipalities at all. Consider this, most of us pay for private medical services, private security, private education, private electricity, private refuse removal, private transportation, privat road repairs and creation of infrastructure, private pointsmen guiding traffic etc etc etc. Why then do we even need governments and municipalities? Let’s lose the notion that these ‘institutions’ need to be pressured into providing these services and rather consider creating a society that is not forced to pay for government ineptitude but is allowed to choose to pay for and receive private solutions. That is to say, if you pay for these services to be provided by the private sector, you can automatically deduct these costs from any tax liability. If we push for these reforms and succeed, government and municipalities will be forced to compete or go out of business. The expansion that would result would reduce the unemployment rate significantly. To repeat the same actions expecting a different result, is the very definition of insanity. So let’s adopt a different approach.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    Your article acknowledges that where the DA have the votes to give it a majority, the result is good governance. The DA can not be expected to deliver good governance where the electorate vote for a ragbag of individuals who supposedly are members of fringe parties masquerading as representing the public but are open to bribery hidden in secret ballots.
    What is required is not for some mythical tsunami of citizens to appear but for each and every member of the electorate to participate in the 2024 elections and give a political party with a track record of good governance the opportunity to govern with an overall majority.

  • David Walker says:

    I quote: ‘They need to be part of a broad-based movement to sweep the incompetents and crooks out of power and replace them with a patriotic front or movement.’ This used to be called a revolution? Is that what you are calling for? Why did we fight for a constitutional democracy where we vote in our government in a lawful manner? You sound like Donald Trump or Julius Malema at their worst.

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