Opinionista Oscar Van Heerden 24 January 2018

The day of reckoning has begun – let the renewal commence

The day of reckoning has indeed begun, and the three-pronged approach by Cyril Ramaphosa must certainly be supported.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s three-pronged approach comprises:

  • A Political Path (remove the rot in the Executive/Cabinet including Zuma and ready the ANC for 2019 elections);
  • A Legal Path (root out all corruption and State Capture culprits and restore confidence in our legal institutions), and finally,
  • A Spring Cleaning Path (clean the ANC house and Constitution).

Be afraid, be very afraid; it is most satisfying to see that, slowly but surely, those responsible for mass looting, State Capture, and dubiously enriching daughters, sons, wives or partners will all face the music in the coming months. Our very own “Operation Carwash”, like in Brazil. Perhaps now is the time, President Cyril, to introduce an amnesty period to all these culprits; after all, inasmuch as we all want to see justice prevail, it’s by and large the money we taxpayers want to see being returned to State coffers.

Come forward now and maybe you will avoid jail time” must be the motto henceforth.

Continue thinking you are smarter than the rest and you will forfeit any bargaining you think you might have and you will be told to go directly to jail, do not pass Go and do not collect R200.

On a slightly deeper level, we must ask ourselves how we as a country got to this very point. What we did wrong and how to prevent it in future.

That a leadership collective could bring us to this point of sheer collapse is rather worrisome. And let me state it upfront: anyone harbouring silly racist ideas that it’s because of the black man being in charge of the economy and country, you’d better think again because the corruption and mismanagement that existed and was allowed to flourish under the apartheid government equally leaves much to be desired. Not that two wrongs make a right.

Perhaps the analysis suggests that we are generally a corrupt people or society? That the general collusion we see within the private sector is none other than a continuation of such practices as observed in the past. That regardless of the numerous regulatory frameworks, ministerial handbook, Public Finance Management Act and so on, money is just an evil we never thought we would have to contend with and yet, in an unequal society such as ours, what did we expect? I guess we can’t always think of every possible scenario but suffice to say, it is now rather apparent that money and wealth creation is the single most dangerous matter we are facing while attempting to build an ethical and morally upstanding society. As former President Thabo Mbeki reminded us all, in delivering the Nelson Mandela Annual lecture many years ago:

Thus, every day, and during every hour of our time beyond sleep, the demons embedded in our society, that stalk us at every minute, seem always to beckon each one of us towards a realisable dream and nightmare. With every passing second, they advise, with rhythmic and hypnotic regularity – get rich! Get rich! Get rich! And thus has it come about that many of us accept that our common natural instinct to escape from poverty is but the other side of the same coin on whose reverse side are written the words – at all costs, get rich!”

And so the first prong, to politically begin to self-correct, is going to be an arduous task but a task we nevertheless will have to endure. It is clear to me that inasmuch as we obviously combat racism in this country because of our past, so too do we have many other ills to confront. Some of these are entitlement, economic redress, and white privilege, to mention but a few. Politically, the unity talk in the ANC was a necessary practice and kudos to the ANC president for managing it so well over the last few weeks, visiting KZN, the Zulu king and paying tribute to all former ANC presidents hailing from that part of the world.

Zuma’s departure is imminent, that much we know, and the eventual Cabinet reshuffle is just a matter of time. I suspect Zuma will not be addressing the nation in February at the opening of Parliament either. If the Eskom intervention is anything to go by, it is clear that the new broom will sweep clean in all other public enterprises. It was important for the ANC president to depart to Davos with a clear message that one President Zuma is leaving and that drastic and considered action will take place, such as the action at Eskom.

As for the prong that speaks to the enforcement of the law, we are going to see fireworks in the coming months. Zuma might still have the option of spending state resources to legally challenge this and that court ruling, but once he returns to Nkandla, such luxuries will fall away. The considerable resources of the NPA, Assets Forfeiture Unit, Hawks and SARS will be brought to bear to fight this scourge and to ensure that all guilty parties be brought to book without fear or favour. This will of course start with the removal of incompetent and unwanted heads of these very institutions.

If you thought “unity talk” in the ANC was going to extend to this legal phase, you’d better think again. This is where Cyril is going to allow the law to take its course because we can never again allow anyone to think he or she can get away with stealing from our people.

Having said that, though, I do think we should prepare ourselves for a scenario in which President Zuma will not serve any jail time in Mzansi.

In my considered opinion, I don’t think the ANC is going to allow one of its former presidents and a former head of state to spend one minute incarcerated.

Those that argue that the ANC cannot make such deals are technically correct, for indeed such deals would be illegal, but this is what I call a non-starter argument because inasmuch as it is illegal in terms of the letter of the law, we all know that the levers of political and state power can and will be brought to bear on these matters by the governing party. In other words, yes, it’s illegal technically for the ANC NEC to discuss removing a sitting president, but the execution of such will take on a legal form in the form of a voluntary resignation by the president, which is allowed constitutionally.

So, too, is it illegal to talk of deals to avoid prison time for Zuma, but you and I know that the option to strike deals with the prosecution authority is permitted, that if you plead guilty to certain charges, our courts will take these favourably into account, and that after sentencing, a presidential pardon can also still be in the offing. Which again is a constitutional prerogative of the state president and the state president him or herself alone. So this is why I say it can and certainly will most probably be done. I think we should all get used to the idea of Zuma playing golf while being a member of the ANC veterans’ league – as he has indicated, he cannot wait to join them.

As for the strategy and final prong, that of cleaning the internal ANC house, this is going to be easier said than done. Politics as a vocation, Through the Eye of the Needle, financial sustainability, electoral reform, quality versus quantity membership, membership systems and so much more. Becoming a modern political party and shedding the old identity of a liberation movement is what is required, but how to do all this and where is the capacity going to come from?

Politics as a vocation; what seems to be the problem with this one, why is it that some in the broader alliance feel that this is a major problem? An engagement is indeed required; I suspect urgently.

Through the Eye of the Needle, how can the ANC ensure that they recruit the right calibre of persons, with the right moral standing and the right principles to serve the people?

And so one can write a mini thesis on each and every one of these critical points mentioned but alas, time does not permit.

This journey Cyril and his collective leadership have embarked upon is not going to be easy and it’s certainly not going to be quick either, but every journey starts with the first step and I think you will all agree it’s a step in the right direction.

The day of reckoning is here, let us all embrace it and lend our support to the brave men and women who will be lumped with this arduous task under the capable leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa and his collective. DM

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