ANC Watch

As Fortress Zuma crumbles, can the ANC survive?

Zuma on the way out?
Zuma leaving.jpg

The political fortress, cemented by patronage, that President Jacob Zuma has constructed around him, is fast crumbling and damage control by the African National Congress has become urgent if it is to save itself.

Last week did not only see at least two of his trusted deployees bite the dust and other come under increasing pressure, but a powerful party veteran, Sipho Pityana, has warned that unless Mr Zuma resigns voluntarily, he will mobilise the public against him.

At one of its series of countrywide so-called regional consultative conferences, apparently organised to avoid the growing calls for an early special national conference after the disappointing results of the August municipal elections, ex-president Kgalema Motlanthe warned the ANC that if it did not get its house in order, it faced being irrelevant and would eventually die.

In an apparent reference to the growing dissatisfaction with the leadership of Mr Zuma, he said: “When you are elected, you must understand that the platform of leadership that you have is not permanent.”

He also pointed out that it would not be the first time a glorious liberation movement lost its hegemony, as this was what happened to other African countries’ liberation parties after they had been in power for 20 years.

As a governing party, the ANC was in a position to influence lucrative contracts that should have gone to deserving people. This was not the case. Some leaders managed to arrange matters so that these contracts were given to their proxies.

“Once you do that, even if you get away with it, the reality is that this country will stagnate. And whatever we inherited, whether it’s infrastructure or whatever, will diminish,” Motlanthe said.

Sipho Pityana, an ANC stalwart, business leader and chairman of AngloGold Ashanti, also said that Moody’s decision to put four of our State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) on downgrade review is a direct result of Zuma’s atrocious leadership.

Indicating to which extent Mr Zuma is also losing support in the top leadership structures of the ANC, National Executive Committee (NEC) member Joel Netshitenzhe – when asked for reaction to the Pityana remarks – would not come out in his defence, saying he could not comment on whether he believed the president should continue to lead the organisation (ANC) and the country.

Speaking at a conference on “Seeking the Ethical Foundations of the South African Nation”, Netshitenzhe also said the mention of the word ‘ethics’ evokes all kinds of concepts that generate indignation.

“State capture, the Hawks, the South African Revenue Service, National Treasury, Nkandla and so on stand out in the current discourse.”

Zuma’s protective construct crumbles

Last week also saw some serious cracks developing in the protective walls Mr Zuma has created for himself and his network of patronage within state institutions:

  • Two of his deployees at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) which has been sitting for two years on a decision of reinstituting corruption charges against him – its NPA deputy head, Nomgcobo Jiba, and Commercial Crimes head, Lawrence Mrwebi – were suspended after the North Gauteng High court ruled that they should be struck off the Roll of Advocates;
  • At the police special unit for priority crime, or Hawks, its head and another Zuma ally who is leading the onslaught against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, general Berning Ntlemeza received a grilling from ANC members of parliament’s standing committee of public accounts for his handling of the Anti-Corruption Task Team;
  • At the South African Revenue Service (Sars), its chief officer of business and individual taxes, Jonas Makwakwa, was suspended after it became known that he received unexplained cash deposits and bank transfers totalling R1,2 million into his FNB account between 2010 and January this year. More tellingly, however, it also transpired that Sars commissioner, Zuma deployee and the man who triggered the Hawks investigation  against Minister Gordhan, Tom Moyane, has been sitting on a report on Makwakwa since May this year. The reaction of the Hawks is that they are not investigating because it is an “internal affair” of Sars; and
  • In the meantime, the outgoing Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, is set to deliver her final report on claims of state capture, which includes a probe into president Jacob Zuma’s relationship with the controversial Gupta family, before she leaves in mid-October.

And that is not where the nightmare week for Mr Zuma and the ANC ended. In one of his rare recent domestic appearances in between a string of travels abroad, when answering questions in parliament, he could not name the nine key points of his government’s flagship development plan, the National Development Plan.

At the same time it came to light that he embarrassed himself and the country with a number of inaccuracies during an interview with a Chinese television station.

In the meantime, the controversy surrounding the reappointment of another close ally of his, Dudu Myeni, as chairperson of South African Airways is raging on and his failure to deal with Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane after a false purported cabinet decision still hangs in the air.

Implications for the ANC

It is already clear that the odds are pretty low that the ANC governing alliance, about which we report elsewhere, will be able to survive the present crisis. Unless the party soon puts distance between itself and President Zuma, it will be hard pressed have a successful 2019 election campaign and survive at all.

In an article on The Conversation website, Mzukisi Qobo, associate professor at the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation of the University of Johannesburg, wrote last week: “It (the ANC) has now lost its moral and intellectual ground to define the future and claim the mantle of leadership. More than ever before, South African politics cries out for moral renewal and transformational leadership. Civil society and intellectuals have an opportunity to shape society differently, and to give birth to ideas that could frame a new social and political order.”

The article starts off with the following statement: “The governing African National Congress has reached its limits. It is incapable of reforming itself.”

Increasing numbers of South Africans concur with this sentiment and the ANC has a tough battle for survival on its hands.

by Piet Coetzer

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