Political Watch Opinion

ANC’s structure destroying itself and the country

Real centre of power

The ANC’s organisational structure of two centres of power (government and ANC headquarters), but with the same leader in control at both, has allowed the development of a toxic power mix that just about destroyed itself and is seriously threatening the country with ‘failed state’ status.

It has done so by destroying the key democratic principle of the separation of power between the executive, legislative and administrative functions of government. Furthermore, it has undermined the functioning of the crucial mechanism of checks and balances, needed for any democracy to survive and for a country to prosper.

This ANC construct as a dominating ruling party – greatly assisted by the programme of cadre deployment –  has allowed one man, President Jacob Zuma, to not only monopolise political power in the country, but effectively to capture the state for personal gain.

It has allowed him to establish a crony network via the use of patronage – in many instances stretching beyond mere party structures to a league of tenderpreneurs – that amounts to what can almost be described as akin to a shadow government.

The power that he has accumulated might require somewhat more sophisticated political footwork, but is not much less than that of an absolute dictator.

The situation, as far as the ANC is concerned, is well summed up by a former treasurer-general of the party, Mathews Phosa, in his reaction to the developments surrounding Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and the Zuma-controlled police investigative unit known as the Hawks.

Reacting to the fallout caused by the Hawks summoning Minister Gordhan to their offices and indicating that they plan to charge or even arrest him, Phosa said: “It is shocking that our national collective effort to avoid a ratings downgrade and to restore inclusive economic growth is now being so insidiously subverted. If this sinister behaviour is allowed to continue the consequences will be devastating for our economy, and will fatally undermine our national efforts to address poverty, inequality, and unemployment.”

Crisis building to a crescendo

The crisis situation for the country, and for the ANC, built up to a crescendo as the onslaught on the National Treasury spread wider, with more former officials, including former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula also summoned by the Hawks for a warning statement.

It took on the air of a wider smear campaign since it was pointed out that Magashula resigned from the Revenue Service in 2013 after an inquiry found he had offered a young woman a job at Sars without following required procedure.

It also spread to the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), with close Zuma ally and ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and the Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, both launching attacks on the bank. While Zwane suggested that the authority of the Reserve Bank to license banks be withdrawn and moved to government itself, Duarte accused it of failing to protect the value of the rand, suggesting it was because “ ..the Reserve Bank is privately owned, and so we have a difficulty”.

Gordhan remained the main focus

Gordhan, however, remained at the centre of the storm as the country’s currency kept on plunging against major currencies, and bonds weakened. The country seemed firmly heading for a similar, if not worse, crisis than the one that ensued when Nene was fired in December.

President Zuma played an aloof game, smacking of a double bluff, when he, in the middle of the crisis, as often in the past, departed on a visits abroad and postponed his August question answering session in the National Council of Provinces by a month.

His office also issued a statement claiming there is nothing he can do about the Hawks’ ‘investigation’. This amounted to a shoulder shrug about the economic crisis the investigation might cause.

The statement, in part, read: “The negative effect of these matters on our economy, personal pressure on the individuals affected as well as the heads of institutions, however disturbing, cannot be cause for the President to intervene unconstitutionally (our emphasis).

“The broader speculation linking these investigations to government and state owned institutions are equally unhelpful and they are also false and misleading.”

The latter, considering the known facts surrounding the South African Airways and its role in Nene’s departure from the ministry of Finance and the involvement of the NPA, amount to little more than a boldfaced lie.

Deputy President Cyril, standing in for Mr Zuma at the funeral service of the late Minister of Sport, Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile, said it was worrying to have a state that seemed to be at war with itself. He expressed his full confidence in Minister Gordhan. He also said that whatever the agencies of government need to do, it should be done in a way that does not jeopardise government and the economy and does not demonstrate to the electorate a government that is at war with itself.

The ANC’s two governing alliance partners, the South African Communist party (SACP) and the trade union federation Cosatu, also expressed concern about what is happening.

The SACP, in its statement, went as far as saying that the conduct of the Hawks in their investigation of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is highly suspicious and the unit’s contradictory public statements are making it difficult to trust.

It is also an open secret that present Sars commissioner and Zuma confidant, Tom Moyane, is behind a massive new forensic probe into deals concluded during Mr Gordhan’s tenure at the organisation, in a determined attempt to ‘find dirt’ on him.

Much wider problem

In the meantime, former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said arresting Mr Gordhan will do more damage than Nenegate, and would probably “destroy the economy”.

SA Business Leadership, in a strong statement, warned that the country is once more being taken to “the brink of the abyss”.

The problem of attempted state capture, as a result of the centralist concentration of power and the lack of trust it causes, runs much wider than what is presently happening at Sars. This is well illustrated by the following examples:

  • Recent reports that “insiders” made R5 billion from the controversial sale of the country’s strategic oil reserves in December last year;
  • The only question mark raised over the nomination of Busisiwe Mkhwebane as South Africa’s new Public Protector (PP), concerns her former position as analyst for the State Security Agency, believed to be firmly under control of Zuma;
  • The current PP, Thuli Madonsela, recently told the Labour Law Conference that tenderpreneurship is one of the biggest contributors to corruption and unemployment in South Africa;
  • Transport Minister Dipuo Peters – regarded as a close ally of Mr Zuma – recently instructed the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) to close its investigation into contracts worth R51 billion, awarded by former CEO Lucky Montana, in which the infamous friends of President Zuma, the Gupta family, were involved;
  • There seems to be a determination to push through a nuclear energy deal, which, some are warning, would dwarf the arms deal scandal and has the potential to bankrupt the country. It is one of the “strategic programmes” pulled into Mr Zuma’s new Presidential Co-ordinating Council;
  • There is hardly a single State Controlled Enterprise where an ANC-/ Zuma-associated ‘cadre’ has not been deployed and which is not involved in some or other controversy.

Also read: South Africa in deep trouble as existing order comes apart

by Piet Coetzer

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