ANC Watch Opinion

ANC hara-kiri by procrastination leaves SA in mortal danger

Zuma presidency now a national crisis
Zuma.jpg

 Regarding both Guptagate and Nkandlagate, the ANC had opportunities many months ago to deal with the problems. Continued failure to do so leaves South Africa in mortal danger.

The final chapter in the Nkandla drama surrounding ANC leader and president of the country, Mr Jacob Zuma, is still to unfold. In the meantime, after he in December fired the then Minister of Finance, Nhlanhla Nene, a storm has erupted over ‘state capture’ by a business empire with close links to him.

On both counts the ANC is clearly in a corner. But over the weekend the ruling party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) again chose to kick for touch and failed to take decisive action.

Judged by Mr Zuma and the ANC’s past reactions, one can now expect a campaign of blame shifting by discrediting others. This is at least partly driven by the security establishment, apparently totally captured by the Zuma faction in a deeply divided governing alliance.

(Also read: Gossip or truth – the ANC looks doomed to break up)

In fact, the discrediting kicked off in the Gupta family-controlled media with reports about an “anti-Zuma plot”.

How treacherous the situation has become for even the Gupta family with their close ties with the president, was clear in a statement after the NEC meeting by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

In the statement “the NEC expressed its utmost disgust at the arrogance, disrespect and reckless journalism displayed by the New Age Newspaper, … ANN7 News Channel (both belonging to the Guptas) … and representatives of the Gupta family. They have characterized the ANC as a group of factions for and against President Zuma.”

It was clear that the Guptas themselves have now become a target in what seems to be a bridging compromise between the pro- and anti-Zuma factions as the NEC battles to keep the party together.

The party apparently also hoped to buy some time and create some deflection by mandating party officials and the national working committee (NWC) to gather all pertinent information about the allegations (about so-called ‘state capture’ by the Guptas) to enable the ANC “to take appropriate action on this matter”.

Putting SA in danger

While the ANC and its governing alliance have landed themselves in a life-or-death battle for survival, South Africa, on the economic, political and social stability fronts, is in mortal danger of things coming apart.

The grading agency Moody’s is in the country in the midst of the present drama, with its threat to political stability, to consider a possible credit downgrade. And last week the Reserve Bank had to raise the repo rate, heaping more pressure on consumers.

On the social stability front  the recent riots in Limpopo over food going bad in fridges, after electricity cuts, and a shooting incident in Katlehong over a pack of rotten chicken, tell the story of immense frustration among the millions of poor people.

There are regular reports of clashes between protesters and the police, and even private security personnel. The danger of widespread uprisings looms large and there are increasing signs that widespread xenophobia can make a reappearance in especially informal settlements plagued by endemic poverty.

It comes in the face of a time of high political contestation in the nationwide municipal election later this year.

At the same time public confidence in the man in the middle of the drama, President Zuma, has fallen to an all-time low.

Even before the ‘9-12’ experience of his firing of Minister Nene, a survey by Afrobarometer, released in November last year, has found that public distrust of the president has risen to 66%.

ANC had it chances

In the case of Nkandla, Mr Zuma had an opportunity, as far back as October 2014 to get shot of the issue of the Public Protector’s report on the upgrades to his private home. A group of KwaZulu-Natal businessmen offered to pay part of the cost involved on his behalf.

Instead, Mr Zuma and the ANC’s parliamentary caucus at his instigation, decided to deny that he is obliged to pay anything. Then, in January of this year, he was forced to make an about-face, by the Constitutional Court in a case brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EEF),

This left the ANC caucus in parliament and some members of his own cabinet with egg on their faces. The final court judgement might still leave him open to impeachment procedures.

In the case of Guptagate, the Guptas sprang to public prominence in early 2013 when an aircraft belonging to them controversially landed at Air Force Base Waterkloof.

They were widely reported to have used their close links with President Zuma and his family to secure the use of Waterkloof, and a political storm followed.

The ANC had an opportunity to deal with this matter in June of that year. A member of the Saxonwold branch of the party, of which at least two of the Gupta brothers are also members, laid an internal disciplinary charge against them for allegedly bringing the party into disrepute.

By September it was reported that the charges had been withdrawn to avoid further embarrassment and division within the party ahead of the general election, scheduled for early 2014.

Interestingly enough, the chairman of the disciplinary committee at the time was advocate Dali Mpofu, a member of the ANC since 1980. He was at the time, and still is, the chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Forum.

He, however, in November 2013, announced that he was joining the then recently established EFF. At the time he said that “... internal paralysis (of the ANC) is such that it’s a question of time before (the ANC) renders itself irrelevant to the broader revolution”.

The latest deluge of ANC members of high standing revealing examples of the Guptas’ apparent ‘state capture’ under the Zuma administration is widely believed to have been triggered by a Facebook (FB) post by former ANC member of parliament and chairperson of its parliamentary caucus, Vytjie Mentor.

In a 14 March FB post she claimed the Guptas had offered her the position as minister of public enterprises and that President Zuma was in an adjacent room when it happened.

Since, she also revealed that at the time she informed high-ranking government figures, including a minister, about what has happened. The ANC, however, did nothing about the matter.

But they should have gotten the message that the issue was about to explode more than a month before the March FB post when on 5 February Mentor posted an “open letter to Dali Mpofu and Julius Malema of the EFF” on FB.

She started her letter with: “I write to thank you for raising the issue of the Guptas so sharply who have been plundering our resources and corrupting our leaders since they arrived in this country from India.”

Conclusion

Blaming the media, as they did again over the weekend, that it “characterized the ANC as a group of factions for and against President Zuma,” will not do.

Even President Zuma himself in October last year admitted that factionalism had eroded the public's confidence in the ruling party.

The affliction of procrastination that has beset the ruling party due to this factionalism is putting South Africa and its people’s future in mortal danger. The time has come for the ANC to listen to voices from within and elsewhere.

It has to admit that the leadership of Mr Zuma has become a national crisis and do something about it before society takes matters into its own hands, with all the dangers that go with such a situation.

by Piet Coetzer

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