State Capture

ANC alliance politics at the heart of more ills than ‘Gupta capture’

Zupta caucus meeting?

Getting rid of President Jacob Zuma and dealing with the ‘Gupta capture’ of the state will, on its own, not rid South Africa’s body politic of the deadly ills currently besetting it.

In fact, the Gupta phenomenon is but one symptom of a much deeper problem. Another symptom is the international record-setting size of the country’s executive power of 73 members – 35 cabinet ministers and 38 deputy ministers.

The real poison is the internal factional divisions inside the alliance structure, all flying under the ANC’s flag, but in reality representing separate organisations with competing interests and ideologies.

It is this condition which in the first instance made it possible for Mr Zuma to get rid of ex-president Thabo Mbeki and mobilise state power to the benefit of himself, his family and his power partners. This included using the Gupta family as an instrument to achieve his aims.

The size of the executive is a reflection of the number of constituencies that Mr Zuma had to mobilise in his ousting strategy of Mr Mbeki. They all had to be rewarded and kept happy to retain his power base.  

The Gupta family is by far not the only players in the Zuma power construct aimed at capturing the state and the ANC.

Analysing the profiles of the 73 members of the executive over which he presides makes for very interesting, and chilling, reading.

For one, the South African Communist Party (SACP), which has never fought any election at any level of government, has at least 10 members in that executive, mostly in key portfolios in terms of influence and the economy. 

This list includes both the minister and deputy minister in the presidency and portfolios like Trade and Industry; Mineral Resources; Energy; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and Public Works. The Minister of Economic Development (Ebrahim Patel) is identified in official sources as a member of the labour federation COSATU.

As far back as June 2014, when after the general election of that year, Mr Zuma announced his cabinet, an article inThe Intelligence Bulletin warned about the SACP ‘Trojan horse’ in the ANC.

Judged by its reaction to the Gupta affair, the SACP’s nose is badly out of joint about the extent to which the business family from India has outperformed it in the game of state capture. They also seem to have turned their backs on Mr Zuma and are preparing for the upcoming power struggle to replace him.

Prominence of historical intelligence structures

Another feature of the Zuma executive that comes to the fore when the profiles of its members are analysed, is the prominence of his comrades from his days as head of the ANC’s intelligence structures during the freedom struggle.

It includes Lindiwe Sisulu, the present Minister of Human Settlements and ex-minister of, among others, Intelligence and Defence and Military Veterans. In the early 1990s she served as the personal assistant to Mr Zuma as head of ANC intelligence.

This network of Zuma influence also extends well beyond the executive to the administrative structures of the state. The ex-director of the State Security Agency (SSA), Jeff Makethuka, for example, recently revealed how the president had axed him and two other senior members of the agency, Mo Shaik and Gibson Njenje, for wanting to investigate the Gupta family in 2013.

In March last year, amid a controversy about the alleged leaking of SSA documents “exposing” opponents of the ANC as CIA moles, it came to light that that Simon Ntombela, director of NIA, and the deputy director-general of domestic collection, Nozuko Bam, were suddenly redeployed as ambassadors.

In the meantime, the South African Police’s Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (commonly known as the Hawks) has become embroiled in controversy for being seen as getting involved in the defence strategy of the Zuma power network, notably in a perceived attack on Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan.

Dangerous times

Bryan Roston got it absolutely spot-on when he wrote in Business Day Live last week: “It is now, in effect, a civil war within the African National Congress (ANC). The only sure outcome is that this scrap will get vicious. It will probably come down to who can claim loudest that there has been a furtive palace coup.”

The battle for the heart and soul of the ANC in its current alliance-format is set to flare up again in the weeks and maybe months ahead.

It is already evident in what has been happening around Mr Gordhan and in Duduzane Zuma’s charge laid against business tycoon Johann Rupert, but really aimed at Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. ­The days of dirty tricks are back.

And, as the ANC alliance is set to drift into an all-out and all-consuming internal battle, a new crisis might be looming with another court battle which could derail the municipal election process, which by law must take place before the end of August this year.

At the same time badly needed foreign investment in our economy has for all intents and purposes been put on hold as investors are increasingly making investment decisions in developing economies based on political stability assessments.

In the meantime, as we report elsewhere, South Africa is at risk of slipping into a full- blown revolution as discontent among millions of citizens is spilling over into often violent protest action.

The present political construct of a fracturing alliance that tries to be all things to all people on the one hand, and playing the blame game on the other hand, is ill equipped to deal with the situation.

We are living through a time of close-to extreme uncertainties, but the sooner the ‘alliance politics’ of the present make way for proper coalition politics between parties –  each fighting under its own banner – as is happening in Brazil with similar problems to that of South Africa – the better.

It will create options for an alternative platform to launch fresh starts when things go wrong badly – as they have under the Zuma-led ANC alliance.


by Steve Whiteman

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