The stature and dignity of the IEC is in the balance
- Lebo Keswa
- 01 Nov 2015 11:41 (South Africa)
The overlooking of Terry Tselane for the post of chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was a strange development, to say the least. It is, however, not totally surprising, given the litany of strange appointments that President Jacob Zuma has made during his term of office. An institution like the IEC can ill afford the political machinations of the current administration. The country’s institutions have slowly been eroded by this administration, and as a result, public confidence in the government is waning daily.
Let us look closely at what has happened at the IEC. Ahead of the last general elections, its chairperson, advocate Pansy Tlakula, was disgraced and forced to leave office under a cloud of suspicion. After Tlakula was accused of an inappropriately close relationship with an ANC Member of Parliament, she went on a downward spiral trying to defend herself - without much success. She used tax-payers money to try to clear her name, until the courts rejected her claims. During this torrid time, commissioners of the IEC, including Tselane, took a firm stance: They would have none of Tlakula’s shenanigans. I have it on good authority that the ANC was worried about the situation, as they saw this as a war amongst its own. I also know, for a fact, that the commissioners were asked to close ranks around Tlakula to avoid collapsing an institution that the ANC, so far, seemed to have left alone to function independently.
It became clear that Tselane and his colleagues would have none of it. They distanced themselves from Tlakula, who hired outside help to see herself through the saga. Contrast this with the shame of the SABC board, who could hardly show their former chairperson, Ellen Tshabalala, the door after her qualifications fraud was exposed. The have, also, not had the courage to act against their Chief Operations Office, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, despite damning a report by the Public Protector, and numerous court orders. Both Tshabalala and Motsoeneng, are believed to be close to the President. It is, therefore, not hard to understand why the President would not appoint Tselane as an obvious successor. He is clearly not a pliable fellow.
If you take a closer look at how Tlakula met her demise, you may find that it was her alleged relationship with a senior party political person, Thaba Mufamadi, that compromised her. So why replace her with yet another person with established links to the leader of a political party? None of this makes any sense. Surely you want an institution such as the IEC to be above suspicion? Especially if you take into account how the last person in that post went down?
What was so wrong in appointing someone with as much experience as Tselane, to restore the credibility of this important institution? We are left with no doubt that the behaviour of Tselane and his fellow commissioners, by hanging out Tlakula to dry, was frowned upon by Number One, to the point where he was overlooked.
This explains why only opposition parties were in the electoral court baying for her blood. A similar scenario played itself out when a Chief Justice had to be chosen; with Justice Dikgang Moseneke seeimingly overlooked for not being sufficiently beholden to the powers that be.
Back to the IEC. We now have an IEC that cannot possibly fill the shoes of Brigalia Bam, who gave the body stature and dignity. Why Zuma thinks Vuma Mashinini will be any use for restoring the credibility of the IEC, especially after the Tlakula saga, boggles the mind. Mashinini has only been a Commissioner for six months and Tselane has been a Commissioner for eleven years, Deputy Chair for four years and Acting Chairperson for more than a year. How does our government work? Something does not add up here - I also want friends in high places.
Meanwhile good people everywhere, in parastatals and Chapter Nine institutions, live in fear of being removed from their lucrative board positions.
The saga also points to the helpless situation of the deployment committee of the ANC. The recent appointment of the relatively unknown Mosebenzi Zwane, to occupy the significant mining portfolio, despite a contrary recommendation by the deployment committee, sums up the problem.
It is difficult to argue against the narrative that there is a capture of decisions of the ANC. Tselane is a collateral damage in a huge proxy war that is going on under our noses. The boards of the country’s parastatals have recently been collapsing, and few people of integrity want to sign up to participate in chaos. One hopes that someone out there will snap up this talent so it does not go to waste in the ugly plan that is obviously being hatched to blunt the integrity of one of the only surviving institutions meant to safeguard our constantly threatened democracy.
The bottom line is, #CadreDeploymentMustFall. DM