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Jessie Duarte is living in a parallel universe if she b...

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Jessie Duarte is living in a parallel universe if she believes that the ANC is ‘the People’

By Karl Cloete
17 Feb 2021 11

Karl Cloete is the former Numsa Deputy General Secretary. He writes in his personal capacity. (Photo: Netwerk24)

Jesse Duarte’s idea that ‘our people, despite the ramblings of the few who testified at the commission, continue to put their hopes and trust in the ANC’ is so misplaced that one wonders in which South Africa she lives. The electoral decline of the ANC has been ongoing since 1999.

ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte penned an article published in Daily Maverick on 9 February 2021 headlined, “Testimony at Zondo Commission is an onslaught against the People”. This article has attracted many opinions.

Before getting into why Duarte’s tirade must be challenged, let us examine who “the People” are, against whom there is a purported onslaught. It would be useful to educate ourselves on the following facts before any one soul can speak on behalf of “the People”:

  • In 2019 the South African population stood at 58.78 million;
  • The registered voting population stood at 26.7 million in 2019;
  • The number of citizens who voted in the 2019 general election was 17.4 million; and
  • The ANC managed to garner about 10 million votes (57.7%, which is down from 69.6% obtained in the 2004 elections).

From these factual statistics, Duarte can surely not proclaim to speak on behalf of all South Africans nor can she claim to be representing the views of the working class and the poorest of the poor, who have suffered from the looting on the watch of the ANC government.

With all the factions prevailing in the ANC and its alliance partners, the ANC deputy secretary-general makes a fundamental mistake in daring to offer a legitimate claim against the Zondo Commission.

Why the Zondo Commission has much work to do

There can be no doubt that corruption is a worldwide phenomenon. Corruption in South Africa is not new — this evil thrived under the apartheid regime.

The public appeal and interest in the work of the Zondo Commission stem from the exhaustion South Africans have with how the ANC as a party and as government of the day allowed corruption, fraud and thievery to steam ahead unabated with very little consequence.

The post-1994 government has had corruption scandals around every corner with leading lights of the ANC always at the centre of the sleaze. We all remember the Arms Deal scandal, the 2010 World Cup scandal, the Travelgate scandal, to mention but a few.

What Zondo reveals, in no uncertain terms, is that it is not the poor who are stealing or who are beneficiaries of the thievery. It is people who earn a decent income from Parliament, Cabinet, the Presidency, provincial government, municipalities, state-owned enterprises and officials who are supposedly public servants who are stealing much-needed resources from the mouths of the poor.

There is no doubt that private sector corruption cannot be ignored because in class terms capitalism inherently breeds and reproduces corruption. Who can forget the bread-pricing collusion? Who can forget the massive influence of the Gupta family over state entities and resources? At some point there were allegations that the ANC deputy secretary-general, her son and her husband were beneficiaries of the Gupta largesse — or is it backhanded benevolence?

How our safety and security came to be auctioned off

The world of spying and intelligence gathering/dissemination has historically been a murky world globally. Before the adoption of the South African Constitution by the Constituent Assembly, the Reconstruction and Development Plan (RDP) had this to say about the role of our security services:

“5.6.1 The defence force, the police and intelligence services must be firmly under civilian control, in the first place through the relevant civilian ministry answerable to Parliament. These security forces must uphold the democratic Constitution, they must be non-partisan, and they must be bound by clear codes of conduct.

“5.6.2 The size, character and doctrines of the new defence force must be appropriate to a country engaged in a major programme of socioeconomic reconstruction and development. The rights of soldiers must be clearly defined and protected.

“5.6.3 The police service must be transformed, with special attention to representivity, and gender and human rights sensitivity. National standards and training must be combined with community-based structures to ensure answerability to the communities served.”

What the Zondo Commission has revealed, when it heard the testimonies of Sidney Mufumadi and the State Security Agency’s Acting Director-General Loyiso Jafta, was that the habit and the practice of stealing was endemic even within the ambit of those who must ensure the safety and security of South Africans. Different factions in the ANC came to be beneficiaries of the loot.

What has been suspected among some of us was the disturbing news that a judge and journalists benefited in monetary terms from slush funds in the National Intelligence Agency.

What then is the nub of the criticism against Jessie Duarte’s unwelcome intervention?

All South Africans heard Jacob Zuma loudly and clearly when he established the Zondo Commission to investigate corruption. Zuma made an appeal to all South Africans to cooperate with the commission.

Besides going against his own advice, the ANC deputy secretary-general appears to be saying that the ANC and its leaders/members must not be subjected to the kind of scrutiny that we see at the commission.

We have yet to hear what Cyril Ramaphosa would say to the Zondo Commission, but what is already abundantly clear is that ANC factions are speaking through different sides of the mouth and in the process revealing the deep-seated factional politics that live inside the ANC.

Duarte’s article makes reference to visits to the Gupta compound in apologetic terms. Therein lies her “now hidden, now open” disclosure of her sloping towards the Saxonwold shebeen.

Her lecture about organisational form and decision-making is a downright joke because those structures entrusted with the execution of the highest decision-making structure in the ANC (the National Conference) cannot even agree on what was resolved with respect to the stepping aside of individuals who might be fingered in alleged wrongdoing or corruption.

There is a serious need to look at South Africa’s constituent representative system. It requires a national discussion and perhaps the dusting off of the Van Zyl Slabbert Report. What, however, cannot be tolerated is the hiding behind caucus positions to mask wrongdoing by public representatives.

Duarte’s idea that “our people, despite the ramblings of the few who testified at the commission, continue to put their hopes and trust in the ANC” is so misplaced that one wonders in which South Africa she lives. The electoral decline of the ANC has been ongoing since 1999. Unemployment, inequality, poverty and corruption have been on the rise since National Party and ANC rule.

There is no onslaught against the people

Duarte concludes her article by saying that there is “an onslaught against the people”. What we can declare without equivocation is that the stealing from the people is the actual onslaught.

I am certain that in this democratic engagement one has to express the wisdom and ethos of Voltaire, who said: “I might disagree with your opinion, but I am willing to give my life for your right to express it.”

All we ask, Jessie Duarte, is that you show respect for the South African Constitution and that you shed your factionalism and your defence of the indefensible. DM


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All Comments 11

  • great article – thanks Mr Cloete. I hope the unions can educate their members about voting according to their conscience rather than according to blind allegiance to a particular party.

  • So good to read an article from a trade union leader, even if it is “ex”, throwing a knock out punch that could have downed Mohammed Ali for the full count.

  • This is classic idiology – “.. private sector corruption cannot be ignored because in class terms capitalism inherently breeds and reproduces corruption”. No corruption should be ignored whether it is from the private sector or the public sector – our experience in this country actually shows that the public sector is the piece of society “inherently breeding & reproducing” corruption & that it is the politicians who protect that process over & over again. And by the way – I would add that corruption in the public sector includes just not doing the job society has assigned to each public servant. We absolutely know that “management” in many departments of state has entirely abbrogated its responibilites because nothing of value ever emerges from those departments. In the private sector it is largely fraud that is the issue not “corruption” as such.

  • Well written Sir and especially the points made about the use of “the people” (or more often “our people”) which we hear time and again to the point where these words are worn out. One is never really sure who these “people” are because the words have become conveniently used on both sides of the aisle and tossed out to create a facade of authority to speak on behalf of or representative of “all” when in fact no one is truly able to do that. CR could use the words if he ever found the courage to put country before party but no one else should actually.

  • “People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.”
    – Terry Pratchett

  • Well put. Thank you, Mr Cloete. Glad you mentioned the Van Zyl Slabbert Report, a massively important piece of work by some of the country’s top thinkers. It deserves more than a dusting off.

    • The biggest problem with the Van Zyl Slabbert Report is that it has been written by a white person, so it will be immediately discarded. Learning and applying something good from the white man is inconceivable for a black person in the ANC. In the time of Mandela the possibility to accept something from the white man was still possible, but not anymore.

      • Probably the least understood aspect of the Madiba leadership was his genuine respect for alternative ‘parties’ (not necessarily agreeing with them) … and in return, their respect for the ‘parliamentary’ process.

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