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Arthur Fraser, and the cheap and easy political victory...

Defend Truth


Fraser’s edge – The cheap and easy political victory of invoking ANC’s step-aside rule against Ramaphosa


Heinrich Böhmke is an investigator, trainer and consultant. He edited the African #PanamaPapers reports.

It is cheaper and quicker to implicate a rival in a crime and then invoke the step-aside rule than buying votes at an ANC conference. This disorganises rival slates and diverts energies into legal defence.

Parliament on 9 June 2022 saw opposition parties lambast President Cyril Ramaphosa for alleged wrongdoing connected to the disappearance of $4-million in cash concealed in furniture on his Phala Phala game farm.

What mainly motivates the excitement is the prospect that this issue may unseat the man supposed to lead his party into the 2024 general election. Because the ANC step-aside rule provides that a member who is a suspect in a criminal investigation must step aside from official duties. Ace Magashule’s removal from Luthuli House and Zweli Mkhize’s exit from Cabinet are two examples of this rule in action.

At first glance, the step-aside rule functions to save the face of the ANC when leaders are accused of private misdeeds. The governing party, after all, trades in trust and reputation. The ANC, now a 50% party, can ill afford further drops in popularity lest it lose access to power and public finances. This is an existential threat everyone understands. Because once the organisation is unable to dispense state largesse to its layers of cadres, the party collapses within the next car-instalment period.

But this is not the true reason for the step-aside rule. Instead, it exists because the ANC can no longer impose discipline within its ranks based on standards of political conduct. Gone are the days when merely bringing the ANC into disrepute could see a leader removed. The only removable comrade these days is an indicted one. The Eye of the Needle is now the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977. No matter the number of bleeding moral wounds an ANC leader takes these days, “tis but a scratch” and they yield to no one but a court registrar.

The collapse of party discipline is obvious if one looks at the behaviour of Lindiwe Sisulu, a Cabinet minister, who this year roundly accused President Ramaphosa of lying. Or Tony Yengeni and the mayor of Ekurhuleni who regularly release thermobaric insults at other party leaders. The RET faction is also sinned against, mind you. They must stomach that most deployees openly deride them and ignore the populist positions they painstakingly win at ANC conferences.

Try to imagine Presidents Nelson Mandela or Thabo Mbeki tolerating the “reactionary” or “infantile” behaviour we see in today’s National Executive Committee. It is not possible, is it? There’d be a purge before you could count to Quatro. In 2022, however, ill-discipline must be tolerated. None of the ANC factions are strong enough to impose internal ANC reprimands.

This throws a smouldering briquette into the laps of the police and NPA. Cops and prosecutors must now, under the stand-aside rule, effectively determine the eligibility of contenders for leadership in the governing party. For it is cheaper and quicker to implicate a rival in a crime than buying votes at an ANC conference. This disorganises rival slates and diverts energies into legal defence.

The allegations that surface usually surround money, given our politicians’ predilection for hypersonic self-enrichment. The evidence presented to the NPA and the public must however be curated to implicate only one’s opponents and not the whole enterprise of ruling party incumbency. A delicate dance.

The authorities will ultimately decide whether the allegations against Magashule, Mkhize and now Ramaphosa go any further. But the scandalous asbestos price inflation was well known for years. Digital Vibes’ beneficial owner, Tahera Mather, suspiciously circled Mkhize in the KZN tender cesspool for over a decade.

On its face, ANC apparatchiks knew about the inexplicably unbanked “$4-million” at the president’s game farm two years ago. Cash is stashed in boots, rubbish bags, safes, furniture. These are all open crypts for those in the know within the party. No more so than ex-spy boss, Arthur Fraser, whose lawyer told the Zondo Commission in 2020 that he held the true State Capture secrets of presidents and parliamentarians.

This brings us back to the ANC, which has effectively ceded party discipline to decision-makers within law enforcement. In all the analysis of NPA torpor in getting State Capture cases up and running, the focus has been on leadership, lack of resources and prosecutor competence.

What is not considered is whether decision-makers are (still) made sensitive to the political ramifications of their actions. Or, put differently, how a case will affect ANC unity, which is really another way of saying ANC omertà. It does beggar belief that, in June 2022, we only have three “seminal cases” in court and none of them properly started yet. Had more cases been in full swing, the ANC would have split by now.

It bears remembering that Fraser has himself been spectacularly implicated in wrongdoing in testimony before the State Capture Commission. The last instalment of Judge Raymond Zondo’s magnum opus is expected to make adverse findings against the spymaster.

How differently would Fraser’s clever gambit against the president have appeared if the police and NPA had run criminal matters in parallel with the Zondo Commission and not in series? This is not to say that allegations aired at Zondo are true. It is to argue that in many other jurisdictions, the material before Judge Zondo in 2019 was already enough to support vigorous investigations and indictments.

It’s a problem, again of timing, as old as Polokwane. When exactly does the state charge an obviously chargeable man who runs (or palpably wants to run) the state? And thus how much is NPA decision-making affected, even indirectly, by the ANC’s stand-aside rule?

Fraser, the spy, and Ramaphosa, the negotiator, both understand the advantage of striking first. Moving from subtle positional skirmishes to a bold war of manoeuvre. They have both seen the step-aside rule take Zuma allies and proxies out of contention. All Fraser (and the RET faction) needs now is a criminal investigation into the president, no matter how minor the forex infringement.

No surprises here. Fraser warned everyone in 2020 that he held the secrets of presidents and parliamentarians. The Zondo report on his tenure at the SSA is about to be published, perhaps damningly. By Ramaphosa’s grace (and affidavit), Fraser held high office all this time after his removal from SSA. In the security cluster, nogal.

Funny thing is, in terms of a strict application of ANC disciplinary policy, Fraser’s stepping aside seems further off than that of his president. This situation is a function of how the police and NPA have, in applying justice so slowly, miscarried the enforcement of ANC discipline.

That’s not their job, you say? True, but then let advocate Shamila Batohi and her team, if they are not already doing so, scorn all memos and signals from ministers and act accordingly in the days to come. DM



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  • A scoundrel becomes patriotic?No ways,Fraser sat for 2 years on this, (his insurance policy).Everybody is running around giving credibility to Arthur Fraser(he has none) who is implicated in State Capture.Just before 4th report of Zondo Commission he reveals knowledge of this break in.The facts speaks for itself.Making a case with an agenda(which there is) makes his claims dubious.President Ramaphosa has not been found guilty of anything yet he was actually out of the country,where did Fraser get his footage.Is it not a crime to not report this info only 2 years after the fact.

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