Sagacity central
21 August 2017 23:37 (South Africa)
Opinionista Brij Maharaj

Cracks in the edifice widen

  • Brij Maharaj
    Brij-Maharaj.jpg
    Brij Maharaj

    Brij Maharaj is a professor of geography at UKZN who believes (perhaps naively!) that a fair, just, non-racial and non-sexist society is still possible in South Africa.

A growing chorus of voices have been raised condemning corruption within government and state capture. But are they anywhere near enough to stave off the likely implosion of the ANC?

Debates about state capture have dominated political analysis for almost a year. Serious allegations and evidence of state capture were presented in three influential reports: State of Capture by outgoing Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela; Unburdening Panel by the SACC; and the account, Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is being stolen. The allegations and evidence in these reports have been significantly buttressed by the #GuptaLeaks emails of the Guptas, their associates and cronies in Parliament and SOEs. According to technology analyst firm, DCIG, “Email [is]–Not Just Communication But a Legal Document of Record”.

Until recently, those implicated (directly and indirectly) appeared to be smugly insulated from any fallout, and rhetorically contended that white monopoly capital was the real enemy of South Africans, and that the Guptas were merely balancing the equation, or levelling the playing field – a Bell Pottinger “narrative that grabs the attention of the grassroots population who must identify with it, connect with it and feel united by it”.

Cracks in the edifice emerged as the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) in the UK launched an investigation into the role of Bell Pottinger in stoking racial hatred, forced the controversial company to issue a grovelling apology to South Africans, and it also cancelled its contract with the Gupta-linked Oakbay firm.

In a related matter of a lapse in public accountability, the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors announced an investigation into why auditing firm KPMG (ostensibly a leader in money-laundering prevention) failed to question the irregular financial flows and categorisation of the multimillion-rand wedding costs of the Guptas’ niece as normal business expenditure.

As the fallout continued, Sygnia, a financial technology firm, decided to terminate its contract with KPMG because: “Examples need to be made of companies implicated in plunder. People are motivated by fear and greed. And if the bottom line of a company is affected, they will think twice about their actions”. KPMG also billed SARS R23-million for the controversial “rogue unit” investigation. (KPMG directors may want to read about the Enron fiasco and the demise of the auditing firm Arthur Anderson.)

On the political front, the cracks also widened. Perhaps anticipating that being a friend or foe of the Guptas is likely to be one of the key factors influencing the outcome of the ANC’s leadership race, presidential hopefuls have publicly declared their allegiance.

Mathews Phosa has called for the removal of all ANC leaders with ties to the Gupta family: “I think we should sweep out the current leadership together with their Saxonwold puppetmasters and elect new and honourable leaders with no ties to those who want to sell South Africa to the highest bidder.”

Cyril Ramaphosa indicated that he would “not keep quiet on the Guptas and state capture”, and argued that the perception that important government decisions “are being taken elsewhere, threaten the integrity of the state, undermine our economic progress, and diminish our ability to change the lives of our people.”

Lindiwe Sisulu contended: “The ANC is not for sale … We have to save the ANC; saving the ANC is to save South Africa. Saving South Africa is saving all of us. Our lives and destiny are in the hands of the ANC … Today I can say with confidence, I am ready to fight so that we can retake those values that once were ours… integrity, honour and respect.”

After dithering for months, on 29 May 2017, staunch Zuma ally Speaker Baleka Mbete said: “I believe it is desirable to have a commission of inquiry into all areas of state capture broadly‚ so that we can settle our minds and get on with our lives … We will all sleep well once we know that we are having some people paying attention to this monster.”

There is no public record of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s views on state capture and the Guptas, which suggests that in the court of public opinion she may well be starting the race with a handicap.

Gwede Mantashe conceded that many of those cited in the emails “as Gupta beneficiaries are leaders of the ANC, so we are paying the price for that”. However, he bizarrely argued that the status of the Gupta family was being exaggerated, and they were receiving “unearned importance”. Speaking ahead of the NEC Lekgotla of the ANC at the weekend, Mantashe stressed that if there was evidence of criminality, the relevant state institutions must intervene: “Police must arrest someone who is accused of a criminal activity, the justice system must kick in … The ANC is not a law enforcement organisation. We raise the issues, throw them to government and deployees of the ANC and say ‘look into these issues’.”

However, Mantashe cannot plead ignorance about the paralysis in investigations as the leadership of these institutions were precisely deployed to protect, and do the bidding of, the master. Predictably, there has been a public outcry about the silence and invisibility of NPA head, Shaun Abrahams, who so vigilantly pursued the spurious charges against Pravin Gordhan.

On another front, Dr Makhosi Khosa continued with her vocal public criticism of the leadership crisis in her beloved ANC, and her support for the secret ballot and vote of no confidence in President Zuma (which some of her party colleagues only articulate privately, for fear of losing privileges of power and patronage, especially falling out of favour with those who make decisions about their future deployment in the organisational hierarchy). Khosa was clear about her priorities, stating that she loves the ANC but “worships” her country, and lamented the hijacking of the ANC’s mission by the “rise of kleptocracy, greed, corruption, cronyism, patronage, intolerance, violence and betrayal by those meant to liberate and unite us”. Khosa has paid a high personal price. In addition to facing ANC disciplinary action, she and her family have received death threats.

Khosa was supported by another non-conformist ANC MP, Mondli Gungubele, who argued that condemning Makhosi “is like shooting at an alarm system, not the operation which has led to the alarm. The big problem is not Makhosi … The problem is the disrepute which we have allowed our organisation to be in by indecisively attending to aspects especially important to running the country”.

Regardless of whether there is a public or secret ballot, there is no doubt that President Zuma will not be ousted by the vote of no confidence in Parliament on 8 August 2017. The bigger question is whether the ANC will survive. Blind loyalty and a culture of silence appears to be a prerequisite for entering the inner sanctums of the ANC. Tragically, this will also be responsible for the implosion of one of Africa’s oldest liberation movements. DM

Brij Maharaj is a geography professor at UKZN. He writes in his personal capacity.

  • Brij Maharaj
    Brij-Maharaj.jpg
    Brij Maharaj

    Brij Maharaj is a professor of geography at UKZN who believes (perhaps naively!) that a fair, just, non-racial and non-sexist society is still possible in South Africa.

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