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An ANC Implosion – the ‘Comrade’s Dilemma’


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

When the Presidency can only take the nation into their confidence at 20 minutes after midnight, it speaks volumes to the perilous state of affairs in the highest office in the land.

As we have traversed this often bumpy road with President Jacob Zuma since 2009, it has often struck me how we (Daily Maverick readers, educated folk, clever blacks, readers in employment…take your pick) have treated him as an uneducated, stupid, rural herd boy.  We have bullied him. We have used our superior strength or influence to intimidate him. Typically this has been to force him to do things our way.  I can only imagine that he must be supremely pissed off.  Expecting him not to speak at a state funeral, attended by veterans, MK and the “ANC of yesteryear” types must have been difficult for him to stomach.

“They say they defend the constitution. But the very constitution they claim to uphold gives me the powers to appoint or disappoint Cabinet Ministers”, I hear Zuma cry.  “Why then do you want to dictate to me, about who can or cannot be the Minister of Finance?  This is plain insolence, conspiracy, heresy, mutiny.”

We have forced Zuma into a dangerous corner. He is no doubt volatile and difficult to reason with.  We continue to question his authority, enshrined in our Constitution, and then continue to bully him with doomsday threats of imminent economic collapse.  Everyone, including the President, is quite aware that the “Nenegate” scandal resulted in massive financial losses. The market has not only adjusted since then but has now made provisions for any such eventuality in the future. The damage this time around will not in any way equate with the previous situation. 

I must confess, the manner in which Bell Pottinger (UK public relations company) has managed this cabinet reshuffle matter has been very good. For months now they have prepared us for its eventuality.  Week in and week out there have been speculations: It’s definitely going to happen today. Oh no tomorrow. No, this coming Sunday!  This time around, the market has been given ample time to get use to the idea of the finance minister being removed. They have had the time to ready their armoury.  So I hope we do not experience the kind of losses we saw after our “most qualified”, “one hit wonder” Minister Des van Rooyen.

We have been obsessed with the idea that Zuma is only interested in looting and self-enrichment.  We see Zuma as someone who has a single big idea: self-enrichment for himself, his cronies and the Gupta’s. That is the Zuma vision to which he ensures alignment, as agreed to by his kitchen cabinet in Saxonwold.  Enacting this vision requires ensuring that they have all their people in the right positions throughout the state: The entire Justice & Security cluster, Hawks, NPA, SIU, Sassa, SARS and now the Finance Ministry.  The manner in which they march collectively towards this vision is the upcoming policy conference and indeed the elective conference in December.  Hence, the absolute need for the cabinet reshuffle, no compromise.

Is it true that he has a single minded vision? I think not. We continue this assumption at our peril. If we continue to undermine and dismiss him as “onnosel”, it will be at great cost to our country.  The struggle we are waging is not about an individual. It is about the collective leadership (ANC NEC) and how they are severely damaging the ANC’s once illustrious moral authority, in the financial and legal paths that they are choosing to follow. This is not about personalities, this is ideological. It is about the kind of South Africa we want for all who live in it, black and white, rich and poor.

At least some within the ANC recognise this threat and object to the chosen path. The threat and demands being placed on the table by some ANC officials as Zuma appointed Malusi Gigaba as Finance Minister, was that:

  • Other underperforming ministers must also be fired, such as, Bathabile Dlamini, Msebenzi Zwane, Faith Muthambi, Nomvula Mokonyane and Des van Rooyen;
  • The deputy president and some ministers and deputy ministers will resign en masse but stay on as MP’s;
  • The next motion of no confidence might come from the ANC benches in Parliament; and
  • Mass resignations at the national Treasury by key personnel and staff members.

A few years ago I contended that regardless of the various political manoeuvres in our country, as long as SARS and Treasury are not affected we will be fine.  This is now no longer the case, each of these institutions has directly been engulfed by the political spectre, thanks to the Zuma administration and the current ANC leadership.

Getting rid of the two senior leaders of Treasury according to Stuart Theobald, with whom I agree, would mean that:

  • The current threat to Zuma  posed by Treasury can be cut off, including litigation directed at the Gupta’s currently underway;
  • The Treasury investigations into past procurement deals by parastatals like Eskom and Transnet could fall away;
  • The constraints on state owned enterprises can be loosened, to ensure procurement deals can more easily be entered into, with Treasury guarantees enabling them to raise more debt;
  • The bending of the procurement legislation to ensure certain outcomes such as renewing the social grants tender with Cash Paymaster Services;
  • Treasury will no longer object to the Gupta’s forming a joint venture with Denel to sell arms in Asia and last but certainly not least;
  • The all-important prize of the nuclear procurement project will be finalised unabated.

Getting control over the Treasury it must be said will also give Zuma access to the unlimited funds of the PIC and more importantly control over the FIC – the very institution that keeps track of the illicit flow of money, such as the speculated billions that have left the country towards the Middle-Eastern banks.  In short, the financial services landscape will have changed forever. 

We must stop obsessing about who will be the next Finance Minister or the next President. Although leadership is critical, right now, our crown jewels, our public purse is under threat. We must concern ourselves with the future of our country.  This has nothing really to do with PG or Zuma but everything to do with the future of our beloved nation.

Obsessing about individuals at the expense of critically important issues will take us nowhere. Instead we must begin to concentrate on the critical matters brought to the fore such as our triple challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty as well as other challenges like xenophobia, racism and the unrelenting abuse of our women and children.

In wanting to understand the events of the past few hours, I remembered Clem Sunter’s book “The Fox Trilogy” stating that, “Foxes believe that the future is unpredictable and many elements are beyond the control of the individual or the organisation thinking about the future.  The key is therefore to prepare yourself for anything the future can throw at you, be it a shift in economics or markets, a breakthrough in technology, a political revolution or a natural calamity.  In other words, you have to road-test the vision and strategy against a range of scenarios.  This will ensure that you know in advance what adaptations you have to make if any of the possible futures that you entertain emerge as reality”.  Perhaps Zuma operates or thinks like a fox.

It is going to take more than a few tweets, Facebook shares and turning up to one of our revered icon’s funerals to redirect the current trajectory. The battle lines are clear. Which side are you on? And what are you doing about it? 

Many are asking the questions: Why have the Deputy President and other Cabinet Ministers not resigned already?  Why are certain NEC members still part of this leadership for which history will judge them harshly?  Why our elected officials are still not voting with their conscience in Parliament? And finally, why some of us progressive cadres are quiet throughout this saga because of job security?

These actions are, what many would argue, what Comrades on the inside of the Executive, Parliament and the ANC NEC must do to demonstrate their frustration, anger and irritation with the current outcomes of this Zuma administration.  I too was of this opinion, until I reflected on what the aftermath would be if this was done.

I can only but imagine what these cadres must be going through, having dedicated their lives to not only the anti-apartheid Struggle but a political home through which to execute such a struggle. Many died for this organisation – in exile and here at home – endured imprisonment, detention, torture and so much more. 

It’s like a marriage of many, many years and its now on the rocks.  Divorce and or separation is never an easy thing.  You have to think of the children, the concomitant headaches of the splitting of the assets, finances and so on.  The psychological trauma associated with such matters and most importantly the question of how does one still keep the family together for the sake of the children, even though the parents/adults relationship have irretrievably broken down. 

These Ministers won’t have challenges with pensions and finding jobs after the fact but that is not what is at stake here.     

Firstly, if indeed an offensive is mustered through the parliamentary processes, either by invoking section 102 or 89 of the Constitution, which deals with the removal of a sitting President, we will be needing those Comrades now out in the cold since they remain members of parliament, and numbers are what matters there.  Secondly, if indeed parliament should succeed in removing  Zuma, we will be needing the Deputy President to be in place to take over the mantle as per the constitutional provisions.  This is a very difficult matter and such a vote from certain ANC parliamentarians can and certainly will mean the end of the majority party in the National Assembly since the minority will now have to side with the opposition parties in order to ensure that post-facto processes see the light of day.  It’s not as if they can just simply vote together with their other ANC compatriots on the next important matter, whatever that might be.  Let’s just say, on the matter of the withdrawal from the ICC.

Also, these comrades have to weight up remaining in their respective ANC positions, NEC, NWC and the various sub-committees so as to ensure that they can positively influence the outcomes of policy choices as they move towards the June/July policy conference.

This upcoming ANC policy conference is critical.  It is expected to contend with all matters that have found expression in our courts over the last few years.  This includes issues relating to the withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Act, the Governments interaction with Chapter 9 institutions (due to the lesson learned with regards the previous Public Protector), the protection of Information legislation to mention but a few.  But this ANC leadership and South African government feels under threat. Its policy’ conference will take on a nasty streak, I suppose.

I hear some argue that the battle for the soul of the ANC is lost.  The ANC of Mandela and Kathrada is lost forever. 

It might be the wish of many to see this as the end of the ANC but who will manage the country through our many challenges mentioned above.  The DA can hardly deal with racists from within their own party, let alone in the country.  A general disdain towards the majority of the citizens of Mzansi is widespread in the DA. They also do not possess the necessary human resource capacity to govern the country.  The EFF with their 20 parliamentarians, chaotic politics and ridiculous demands on land is hardly ready to govern.  I won’t mention the likes of COPE, UDM, ACDP, FF and so many parties consisting of nothing more than 1 or 2 members of parliament.

Those that argue that the time is right for another COPE moment, meaning a breakaway from this Zuma ANC, don’t ask the question, why some Comrades should simply give up on their political home, their organisation, their loved ones…what makes Zuma and the Premier league think that this is their ANC now?

So, politics is unfortunately never black & white, it is never just binary.  As Max de Preez indicated to mostly white citizens not so long ago, that as they demand Zuma’s head, it would be folly not to note that he has not threatened their wealth and ill-gotten riches.

I know most people are angry, including the ANC types like Gwede Mantashe, but irrational and emotional action is perhaps not the best way forward.

Back to the drawing board Comrades. DM


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