Defend Truth


Sedition is in the air as the RET faction tries to mobilise a rearguard action


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.

If we do not fix the political infighting in the ANC, if we allow the radical economic transformation faction to remove the president, if we do not address the plight of the destitute and the poorest of the poor, we face significant social upheaval in the coming months.

A spectre is haunting South Africa, the spectre of State Capture.

In my recent book, Two Minutes to Midnight – Will Ramaphosa’s ANC Survive? I make mention of the fact that immediately after the Nasrec ANC elective conference, there were calls from certain quarters for the resignation of then president Jacob Zuma. He did resign, on Valentine’s Day 2018, much to the relief of many, but it was not without incident.

I mention that Zuma and others in the ANC wanted to solicit the support of the military to counter a move that would see Zuma vacate the West Wing at the Union Buildings.

An article in City Press at the time by journalist Setumo Stone, “How Ramaphosa ‘dodged a coup’ – security bosses reveal all”, on 22 July 2018, confirms that “South Africa narrowly averted a mutiny by soldiers loyal to former president Jacob Zuma on the eve of his forced resignation in February. Highly placed sources within the security forces and ANC leadership told City Press that military intelligence picked up on talk of a revolt among soldiers who were former members of the ANC’s Umkhonto weSizwe.”

Sounds awfully familiar, does it not?

The article went further: “SA National Defence Force (SANDF) insiders said ANC elements who wanted to advance their factional interests were trying to use the military as a proxy in their political battles, but it would not succeed.”

And, “Zuma also enjoyed significant support in the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association, which comprises the ANC’s former liberation soldiers.”

Stone wrote that one Zuma lieutenant warned that Cyril Ramaphosa was again “meddling” in the affairs of “very powerful people in the security cluster through his appointment of a high-level review panel on the State Security Agency, which could spell similar trouble for him”. (No wonder we are now told of secret meetings of security personnel types, including individuals from the State Security Agency, which took place at the Mall of Africa and were secretly recorded.)

“Those guys will not be happy to have him suddenly saying he is re-vetting them and all those things, and they could bring down his government,” one person quoted by Stone said. Ramaphosa allies confirmed the military threat, adding that generals loyal to Zuma tried to push the agenda but were defied by the rank and file:

“ ‘Our Constitution saved us from that crisis,’ said a Luthuli House insider at the time. ‘The military, almost all generals, did not support the recall. When Zuma rose to power, he changed the entire army hierarchy and placed many loyal soldiers in it.’ ”

Stone concluded: “A member of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) said that ‘there had been talks’ about the army revolt. ‘At the time, there was also a lot of misinformation, but, yes, Zuma had wanted to fight through the army as commander-in-chief’.”

So, the question now is, are we seeing a repeat of this strategy unfolding?

We observe army rumblings and marches in KZN and retired General Maomela “Mojo” Motau calling for a conversation among SANDF personnel about the state of the ruling party. Does he not realise that even though he is now retired, he’s still bound by certain laws and protocols insofar as comments and statements of this nature go? Where is the military tribunal in this matter, because from where I’m sitting, this is sedition if not subversion at its best.

Then we have Kebby Maphatsoe and his band at MKVA who also want to discuss… what? Maphatsoe makes claims that the president has not implemented ANC conference resolutions and hence they feel aggrieved. The president has in fact been implementing conference resolutions, but this is a ploy to undermine the leadership of the ANC and the government.

In fact, this is tantamount to sedition and/or subversion. Asking MKVA members to take up arms against whom? Our government, elected by us, the majority. We must stop pussyfooting around these people and expel them from the organisation. We have expelled others for far less in the past. The unity talk from our president is not yielding the desired outcomes. What we require is decisive action against these acts of subversion and sedition.

Why, you may ask, do we suddenly have to deal with this nonsense again? Well, it’s because of the spectre of State Capture, my dear friends. We have been asking for the arrests of those responsible for hollowing out the state, undermining state institutions, stealing from the taxpayers and defrauding our public purse.

As for the recent arrests, great work. Now we can only hope for successful prosecutions to follow. We are behind you, carry on.

Another controversial matter is the very thin line between a bloodless coup and the “recall” of a sitting president of the republic. If you don’t agree with the president of the ANC (who happens to also be the president of the country), you simply call a meeting of like-minded people, you gather in a smoke-filled room on the outskirts of the Free State and decide that he must go. Now, as per the democratic practices inside the ruling party, this is for all intents and purposes allowed.

You then go around garnering support inside the structures of the ANC for your position and this you do with all the necessary tools at your disposal. Patronage, buying votes and support, threatening and, in some cases, killing if needs be. Right, you have the necessary support and hopefully the numbers too and now you go to an ANC conference and put forward a motion of no confidence in the president. You cite things like he is not providing the requisite leadership, the economy is failing and the poor are at the receiving end, and he is not implementing the resolutions of the organisation.

The NEC must thus be tasked with discussing this matter in earnest and taking the necessary decisions since it is the highest constitutional decision-making body between conferences. And the decision must be to recall.

Now, when you do not have a conference in sight, where you can execute such a plan, then you must create a crisis that would precipitate such. So, you attempt to create such a crisis through the military and MKVA. This plan won’t work, I’m afraid. But the fightback (RET) faction will not stop there. Since they are being arrested left, right and centre now, they will opt for two approaches simultaneously:

  1. The legal route, which, as we have seen with Zuma, can be a drawn-out process but hey, that’s democracy and the wheel of justice. I’m more worried about the second strategy.
  2. The political strategy, which is to remove CR or to create such a political furore as to deflect attention from these arrests. Parliament gets used to stall matters, there are emergency NEC and National Working Committee meetings and the Disciplinary Committee and the Integrity Commission are called upon.

These people have much to lose and so we may also see an increase in political violence and killings. The safety of our president is paramount, and we can only hope that his protective services do their job expeditiously.

We would do better to concentrate on the political dilemma facing the ANC and our country because this is what will scupper our recovery more than anything else. If we do not end the political infighting in the ANC, if we allow the RET faction to remove the president, if we do not address the very real plight of the destitute and the poorest of the poor, we face significant social upheaval in the coming months which may very well lead to South Africa finally collapsing. It would mean that whereas most African countries took roughly 20 years to implode after colonialism, we would have done so in 26 years.

If we fail, we must ready ourselves for a return to kleptocracy – a government whose corrupt leaders use political power to appropriate the wealth of their nation, typically by embezzling or misappropriating state funds at the expense of the wider population. Some would argue we are already there – but we are beginning to put a stop to it.

As to the capacity of the state, currently there is not the requisite leadership in the Presidency to direct and guide all ministries of government. We had some semblance of this under Mandela and Mbeki, but now we have lost this ability. Why?

It’s time for that Cabinet reshuffle, Mr President, and time to also tackle the elephant in the room – Cosatu and in particular the public sector unions. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is right: we must enforce the decreasing of the public sector wage bill.

And as I have said repeatedly, we must have a mobilised civil society that gives support to our president. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Rudd van Deventer says:

    As a voting citizen who is not an ANC member I find this horrifying. Are we expecting too much of the ANC to self correct?
    Maybe it is time for an implosion, or is that too great a risk Oscar?

  • Hermann Funk says:

    This country will only be a true democracy if either the ANC transforms and becomes a democratic organisation, or the party disappears altogether.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Which ‘we’ is we? Powerless public? Unions? Who? You seem to think WE have power and methinks you’re misguided. The ANC is a law to itself and there is little to scope to interfere with its internal strife. But agreed time to shuffle the deck in the cab some. (actually a lot, in effect).

  • Andrew Treu says:

    With regard to retired General Motau, he would only have been bound by the Military Disciplinary Code for three months after his exit, and he would have signed a document pledging not to divulge any sensitive military information. Nonetheless, it might be something for the Military Ombud to consider. The MKVA under Maphatsoe lacks all credibility and poses no military threat. When it appears in public, most of their youthful ‘members’ are clearly not veterans – the youngest genuine veteran would be around 45 now. The genuine veterans have split away from Maphatsoe’s rag-tag lot and resort under the MKNC led by retired General Nyanda. The present Chief SANDF, General Shoke, would not tolerate any of his present serving generals talking sedition or a coup.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    One cannot vote for a certain faction of the ANC. Peter Bruce tried that to the detriment of South Africa with his “vote for Ramaphosa” call. For a faction to sort out the mess in the ANC they have to do it themselves internally. The way to get rid of Zuma’s faction, whatever name you give it, is to get rid of the entire ANC in the next elections. The ANC is a has-been party, a backward-looking failure and drain on the people of South Africa. The poor are taking the most strain from the ANC, it is up to them to vote against the ANC and for a democratic liberal party.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    Sounds a lot like Trump has been taking lessons from the RET faction for his re-election bid ! Well, at least we as a country can claim to have provided world class leadership in that respect !

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