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Mama Sisulu and Tata Mandela would have wondered what h...

Defend Truth


Mama Sisulu and Tata Mandela would have wondered what happened to the Jessie Duarte they nurtured


Mavuso Msimang is widely recognised as a leader of change in South Africa with varied experience in transforming institutions. He has been a member of the WWF South Africa Board since February 2011 and chairs the Social Ethics and Transformation Committee. He also sits on the Board’s Remuneration and Human Resources and Nomination Committees.

The ANC is facing a prolonged credibility crisis. The biggest risk to its continuation in government arises from the misguided notion by some of its leading members that their organisation is more important than the country, and therefore commands priority in terms of loyalty from its members.

On February 9, 2021 Jessie Duarte, the Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) of the African National Congress (ANC) wrote an article that was flagrantly disrespectful of the Commission on Inquiry into State Capture, popularly known as the Zondo Commission. Several people, including a former finance minister, have written suitable responses to Duarte piece published by the Daily Maverick.

My take on Duarte assault on the integrity of the Zondo Commission is motivated by several worrisome factors. It comes in the wake of a widely distributed letter in which Jacob Zuma, the immediate-past President of the ANC, and of the Republic of South Africa, defies a constitutional court ruling that he presents himself before the Zondo Commission, as required, and respond to allegations made by thirty-five odd individuals who implicate him in acts of corruption. The gravity of Zuma’s defiance has been likened to former USA President Donald Trump’s incitement of his lunatic followers to attack a Congress and Senate sitting on January 6, 2021 in Capitol Hill, Washington DC. Trump is presently facing an impeachment trial for that action.

In a development that shocked the political establishment, the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC), the highest decision-making organ of the organisation between its five-yearly conferences, informed the public through its spokesperson that it was reserving its comment on Zuma’s challenge to the South African constitution. Oblivious to the implications of Zuma’s affront, the NEC said it was going to deal with the matter during a meeting it had already scheduled for this weekend. The Top Six, the ANC’s senior-most officials, of which Duarte is a member, have apparently not appreciated the need to make a public pronouncement on the matter.

But wait, there has been a pronouncement. Ace Magashule, the irrepressible Secretary-General (SG) of the ANC, has let it be known that he saw absolutely nothing wrong with what Zuma did; after all the Constitution of South Africa is not sacrosanct! Chairman Gwede Mantashe gave Zuma’s statement no credit.

Now, if the stipulations of the ANC constitution, conference resolutions and the NEC’s own resolution on consequences for tarnishing the reputation of the organisation carried any weight, Magashule would by now be cooling his heels somewhere in the Free State while awaiting his trial, on Friday 19 February, on 21 charges of corruption and fraud. The crime is alleged to have been committed in the appointment of Blackhead Consultants for the “assessment and removal of asbestos roofs and/or housing.” The value of the heavily looted contract was put at R255-million. No asbestos is reported to have been removed from the houses of the intended project beneficiaries, poor people, as a result of this expenditure. (Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres causes chronic lung disease.)

The ANC is facing a prolonged credibility crisis. The biggest risk to its continuation in government arises from the misguided notion by some of its leading members that their organisation is more important than the country, and therefore commands priority in terms of loyalty from its members. People who think otherwise, said Zuma, “could be under … oppression forever”.

Hare-brained as this proposition may be, when Zuma, then President, made this astonishing claim, none of his colleagues corrected him.

In her column, Duarte contends that the Zondo Commission is constrained in its work by “narrow parameters of existing laws” because, as she puts it, what is mostly at issue at the commission hearings is ‘democratic centralism’… “One can only hope”, our democratic centralist prays, “that the Zondo Commission is not going to turn our democracy into more of a liberal concoction than it already is”.

Strange, this position, because the NEC recently gave its full backing to the work of the Zondo Commission. Did Duarte demur when this resolution was passed, one wonders? In this senior council of equals, it is assumed that no ‘democratic centralism’ restrictions exist.

So, the paramountcy of the ANC’s management philosophy supersedes the dictates of the country’s laws. In other words, Duarte is saying that the existing laws of the country fail to appreciate that positions taken by ANC members (when they appear before the Zondo commission, for instance) are informed by the necessity that they obey the rules dictated by the ANC’s ‘democratic centralism’ injunctions. Poor things, they are faced with the dilemma of being subjected to interrogation by legal people who have no appreciation of the binding tenets of ‘democratic centralism’.

My non-ANC friends dismiss this as gibberish.

Actually, Deputy Chief Justice Zondo, like any normal person, understands the hierarchical nature of decision making in organisations, public and private. He probably marvels that anybody would, except in certain dire emergencies or in exigencies of war – which we don’t have – agree to suspend their conscience in deference to inappropriate orders from superiors. Last week the honourable judge was treated to examples of both behaviours: a deputy minister who carried out an order in obeisance to ‘democratic centralism’ and kept her job, and a parliamentarian who obeyed the dictates of her conscience and lost her job.

The big shame is that all this happen in an ANC whose past leaders always stressed the primacy of ethics in governance. The apartheid government, Oliver Tambo said, must be replaced by “a democratic and ethical system of government.” (My emphasis.)

Duarte can hardly conceal her distrust of the objectivity of the Zondo Commission. She bemoans “the disappearance of inconvenient witnesses whose truth got too close to reality. . . Known knowledge (sic) is the real victim now”, she concludes.

Strange, this position, because the NEC recently gave its full backing to the work of the Zondo Commission. Did Duarte demur when this resolution was passed, one wonders? In this senior council of equals, it is assumed that no ‘democratic centralism’ restrictions exist.

She is also perturbed that “visits to the Gupta compound may, at times, have been innocent friends visiting each other, but now it has become an undressing of the state machinery”.

“Show me your friends,’ grandma Lambi Kumalo used to say when I was growing up, “and I will tell you who you are”.

The infamous Gupta compound, drivers and other witnesses who visited the place have testified, is where money bags ware carried to into the boots of waiting ministerial cars; it is where huge bribes are alleged to have been offered; also, where desirable cabinet posts were discussed.

Duarte invokes the memory of Mama Sisulu and Tata Mandela and wonders how they would have handled the multifarious conundrums that beset the ANC, mostly of its own making? The Guptas, erstwhile friends of then-President Zuma and SG Magashule, their families and a retinue of ANC subalterns, are certified criminals and fugitives from South African justice. When they fled it was not before they and their venal collaborators comprehensively ransacked many a respected state-owned enterprise.

How does Duarte believe Ma Sisulu and Mandela would have thought of this? How would they have viewed the landing of the Gupta family wedding plane at Waterkloof Air Base, a national key point? And to what extent would the parade of senior ANC members appearing before the Zondo Commission to answer allegations of Bosasa- and Gupta-related charges, traumatised them?

What would they think of an ANC Duarte felt obliged to characterise as becoming racist and tribalistic? An ANC whose leaders thought was above the constitution and more important than the country?

Maybe they would have also wondered whatever happened to the Jessie Duarte they nurtured? What did she think of the proliferation of scandals too many to list here, that were committed by her comrades that she has to-date not found time to condemn?

It’s not difficult to guess. DM


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All Comments 11

  • We must thank Jessie Duarte for that infamous article in the DM. It shows the world the true colours of the anc. People, now YOU can see what has been voted into power by YOU!

  • Remember that provocative question in that Jessie diatribe …”how did we get here?” . The answer is a very simple … by the kind of intellectual gigantism OR is it ethical delinquency displayed by a so-called leader in the ANC like Jessie ! Come to think about it … it is both most likely. It’s is not “hare-brained” … it is hair on the brains … instead of the scalp !

  • Thank you Mavuso, simply for writing this. It would have been nice if this (and off course Trevor Manuel’s) article could have appeared in newspapers like The Sowetan, Sunday World and City Press. To publish the article on a website with a predominate intellectual white and black readership shows he lack of understanding of what a democracy means. Her article was so far-fetched, laden by phrases and use of the English language of such a high quality that it is impossible for her to have written the article herself . The average South African would have to read the article several times to even try to understand it. Her attack on deputy justice Zondo is a disgrace, as is the action of Zuma supported by Magashule. The Zondo commission gives ordinary South Africans hope that eventually something will be done to recover the billions stolen, and that the guilty, which might include Duarte, will spend the rest of their disgusting lives behind bars where they can rot. Deputy justice is one person that South Africa can be immensely proud off

    • Dear Coen Gous, Jessie Duarte yesterday apologised for her piece in the Maverick, affirming her respect for Judge Zondo and what he is trying to do, and this was carried widely in the press. I find your remark that “it is impossible for her to have written the article herself” in extremely bad taste and offensive; are you saying that because she is black she could not possibly use “English language of such a high quality”?

  • I read her comments in context of the concerns she must have about the findings of the commission in relation to her very direct family and friends. In that light : no surprises

  • She is a typical party hack with no morals, integrity, ethics – just a devious, wicked, self-serving, lying, odious individual like her boss and his ilk. Nothing but thieves and parasites – heartless and Godless criminals who should be put away for life.

  • In today’s Sunday Times, she apologized to Zondo after her pathetic and hypocritical tirade and I quote “ may have been perceived as disrespectful”. The deceitful and odious duarte knew exactly what she was doing and meant every word. It is so easy to say sorry when it is not heartfelt and the damage done. You have zero credibility, duarte, you are a nobody outside the abominable and much-discredited structures of your obnoxious party and the same as those other odious and thieving characters of the Radical Economic Theft brigade.

  • Duarte is as crooked as it gets. She may even have received stolen taxpayer money from the crooked Regimens Capital. Perfectly qualified and knowingly chosen by the ANC for the Top 6.

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