How the good candidates can distinguish themselves from being “more of the same”.
At a time of desperate drought in the south and violent flooding in the north; with Sassa melting down the hopes of the grant-reliant poor and “radical economic transformation” supposedly poised to freeze out “white monopoly capital”, it is difficult to find a good news story in SA.
A refreshing, but, at least for now, unauthorised campaign extolling the virtues of Cyril Ramaphosa as candidate for the presidency of the ANC provides light relief. This campaign has been dubbed “CR17” with a sly nod in the direction of Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the most popular soccer players in the world.
There was a time when the deputy president of the ANC was regarded as a shoo-in for the presidency. This, traditionally, is how the succession used to work. But current deputy president, Ramaphosa has no more than an inside lane in the line-up of candidates for the office which Jacob Zuma will vacate when the ANC elective conference meets in December 2017. He became deputy when the previous deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, broke ranks in Mangaung to run for presidency rather than endure a second term as deputy to Zuma. Motlanthe was roundly trounced by the supporters of Zuma, who, with Ramaphosa on his ticket, was able to see off all opposition.
First out of the starting blocks for the December 2017 elective conference was the former wife of Zuma, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, mother of four of his many children and former head of the AU in Addis Ababa. She is endorsed by Zuma himself and her gender is being used as a factor in her campaign which, at least initially, seems to be confined to addressing church meetings of various religious groupings.
The gender card is somewhat diluted by the presidential ambitions of several other possible female candidates including the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka “watch this space” Mbete, the unspeakable Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, and the royal princess, Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu – daughter of the iconic Walter and sister of Max, himself a former speaker.
If ANC branches want a woman candidate, they are spoilt for choice.
The greatest strength of the Dlamini-Zuma campaign is also its greatest weakness: access to the Zuma faction patronage dispensing machinery is now a mixed blessing in the wake of the “State of Capture” report of the Public Protector and the exposure of the “Zupta” phenomenon in all its ugliness in pending litigation started by the Minister of Finance to get the Gupta family off his back. No longer as shiny and well-oiled as it used to be, the nepotism and cronyism of “Zuma-hood” may well count against any candidate endorsed by Zuma himself, including his ex-wife.
So, the good news is that Ramaphosa is willing to run and that supporters of his have launched a “CR17” campaign to give impetus to the presidential aspirations of the man of their choice. Officially, of course, it is not yet campaign season according to Luthuli House, but that small wrinkle does not seem to be holding back any of those with the necessary political aspirations.
Ramaphosa is not the only male candidate in the race. Somewhere on the road to Damascus, Matthews Phosa has rekindled his ambitions for high office, having been Treasurer-General of the ANC in the first Zuma team assembled at Polokwane in December 2007. Motlanthe’s name gets mentioned, but when he speaks out against the “recycling” of former leaders, many wonder just how serious he is about not running. The names of Jeff Radebe, a cabinet member since the very first day of freedom, and some younger members of Cabinet also crop up in discussions. 3
The questions which must be exercising the minds of those running the potential candidates’ campaigns is: How do they best garner votes by distinguishing their candidate from the rest of the field? How to do so without further alienating the electorate (who have sounded a warning in the municipal elections held in August last year and who may be minded to repeat themselves more emphatically in the national elections due in 2019) to the extent that the hegemony of the ANC-led alliance in national politics is not broken by in-fighting, schism, factionalism?
Joblessness, crime and corruption have all been identified as hot-button issues. They are inter-related. A crime-infested and corrupt society is not one in which investment flourishes. Without new investment, job- creating economic activity does not take place and poverty continues. Prosperity is a by-product of enforcing the rule of law, dealing firmly with the corrupt and creating an enabling environment for job-creation through investment and economic growth. All the candidates will, as has long been the case, pay lip-service to the achievement of peace, progress and prosperity.
Those candidates who show sincere intent to do things differently from the way that they have been done in the Zuma years are more likely to win the popular vote, not only from the branches and other structures of the ANC, but, perhaps more importantly, when the electorate casts its vote in 2019.
It would be a bad day for the ANC if a hard-fought battle for the presidency in 2017 ends in defeat in the electoral war of 2019. Those who vote for the new president of the ANC this year will be mindful of the precariousness of the hold on national power if current voting trends continue as they seem likely to do if “team Zuma” holds sway. The prospect of coalition governments at national level and in some provinces ought to concentrate minds wonderfully. The thought of battling so divisively for the presidency as to precipitate a split in the ANC itself is also a matter of concern to those who do not wish to be seen to be involved in the demise of their beloved movement.
How then are the good candidates going to distinguish themselves from the “more of the same” candidates?
One way of doing so is to endorse an idea already embraced by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and by Thuli Madonsela, our previous Public Protector. The idea is the establishment of a new Chapter Nine Institution called the Integrity Commission to prevent, combat, investigate and prosecute corruption in SA in a manner that accords with the criteria laid down by the Constitutional Court. These criteria are summed up in the acronym STIRS. A specialised, well-trained and independent commission that is capable of acting without fear, favour or prejudice is needed. Resources for the commission must be adequate to the task at hand and guaranteed. Most critically, the staff of the commission must enjoy security of tenure of office, the one criterion which the Scorpions, mere creatures of statute that they were, did not have.
With these criteria, the Integrity Commission will be able to take up where the Scorpions left off after a Polokwane resolution snuffed them out. As a Chapter Nine Institution, it will be necessary to create the commission by way of a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The same majority will be required to close the commission down. Proper fealty to the rule of law and respect for the binding nature of court orders will be demonstrated by establishing the Integrity Commission.
A commitment to the Integrity Commission signals a desire for good governance of the kind contemplated by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Integrity Commission will complement the audit work of the Auditor General and the investigation of maladministration in state affairs and the public service by the Public Protector. Neither of these existing Chapter Nine bodies has jurisdiction over the private sector, a gap that cries out to be filled.
Not since the dissolution of the Scorpions has there been any efficient and effective anti-corruption machinery of state. The Hawks, a mere SAPS unit, simply do not measure up to the task at hand. This lacuna has propelled the country down the road that leads towards failed statehood. The sensible leaders in the ANC are aware of this danger and its impact on both the poor and the pensions of parliamentarians. Placing the payment of pensions in jeopardy is not in their self-interest, nor is it in the interests of the country as a whole to flirt with failed statehood.
Of all the candidates in the field, Ramaphosa has the best credentials to credibly support the establishment of the Integrity Commission or Independent Commission Against Corruption as it is called elsewhere in the world (where Afrikaans is not spoken and the unfortunate acronym is not likely to offend anyone). Ramaphosa is a lawyer, a constitutionalist, a drafter of our supreme law and a person without the “corruption baggage” that so many of his competitors carry. He is accordingly well placed to give credible support to the Integrity Commission’s creation, thereby distinguishing himself from the “business as usual” type of candidate that is likely to lead the ANC further into the wilderness, out of power and towards obscurity in opposition politics.
As Patricia de Lille is fond of pointing out: “Voters aren’t stupid.” The candidate for presidency of the ANC who takes this warning to heart is the one who stands the best chance of winning in the electoral battle in December.
Any candidate for the presidency of the ANC who does not support the idea of creating the commission should be rejected out of hand by those responsible for keeping the ANC on the high road to the future through the exercise of their votes in a responsible fashion. DM
Paul Hoffman SC is a director of Accountability Now and author of Confronting the Corrupt.
Article published in the Daily Maverick 6th March 2017