The outpouring of emotion at the funeral of Struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada brings into sharp focus just how far the ANC has slipped since December 2007, when Jacob Zuma became its leader. Once a glorious liberation movement that was able to comfortably occupy the moral high ground, the current state of degeneracy of the leadership suggests that there is, as Jessie Duarte suggests, a need to shine some light into the dark corners of the soul of the ANC.
For a member of the “top six” in the ANC to plaintively enquire, as she does, in public: “Are we a centre, centre-left or a left organisation? What does ‘disciplined home of the left’ as we state in our strategy and tactics documents, really mean?” illustrates the nature of the identity crisis. This is a crisis brought on by the sins of incumbency, the illegal cadre deployment in the public administration and the descent into corruption, through what Duarte calls “patterns of patronage”, have wrought. Blade Nzimande, a speaker at the funeral, is less delicate about the slide; he suggests that those involved in patronage are parasites of the body politic.
What was once a broad church of anti-apartheid activists united by their antipathy for that particular crime has morphed into a bi-polar party in which one faction is tolerant of or involved in the crime of corruption and the other, which is not quite so forgiving of this sin of incumbency.
Today the darkest corner of the soul of the ANC is undoubtedly its willingness to tolerate corruption with impunity and to allow greed and accumulation to be the watchwords of too many in leadership positions. The really serious corruption started with the use of bribes from certain arms dealers to fund the ANC election campaign in 1999. Andrew Feinstein, then an ANC MP, has painstakingly documented this corrosive phenomenon. So much time, energy and effort have been expended on covering up the corruption in high places in the ANC that there has been no time, capacity or will to govern according to the precepts of the Constitution with a view to creating its promise of a “better life”.
Jessie Duarte herself asserts that “corruption and crime need to be viciously and relentlessly booted out”. She should tell that to Feinstein, and to Zuma whose family patronage network has become a veritable empire since 2007. Not bad for a man who once had so little money that he had to get Schabir Shaik to pay for his car to be washed in the course of what the prosecution termed a “generally corrupt” relationship; one which was proved beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of all the higher courts in the land in the criminal trial of Shaik.
The tolerance of corruption in high places that the ANC is prepared to display includes convicted travel-gate fraudsters in the cabinet and many other “smallanyana skeletons” in the top six, the NWC and the NEC. The Nkandla saga was entirely predictable in this milieu, with no vicious or relentless boot work in evidence. Mouthing platitudes about “serving the people” won’t do when the unaddressed order of the day is what Duarte calls “transactional political relationships” to obfuscate a critical issue.
If there is any genuine desire for “renewal and relevance” in the not so dark corners of the soul of the ANC, then more courage must be taken than that required “for a soldier to fight on a battlefield” as Yeats put it.
Here are a few random agenda items for the renewal and relevance debate that Duarte might like to consider putting on the order paper for the mid-year policy conference of the ANC:
Exacting accountability from politicians via the type of reform of the electoral system that makes those elected more beholden to voters and less to party bosses (just ask Winnie Mandela and consult the Van Zyl Slabbert Commission report at present gathering dust in the vault under parliament). Fully transparent disclosure of sources of political party funding must be made compulsory to help get to the root of corruption.
•Establishment of an Integrity Commission under Chapter 9 of the Constitution, an idea currently under detailed (but slow) consideration by the Constitutional Reform Committee of the National Assembly.
•Curtailment of the current wide-ranging powers of appointment that vest in the President as per the plea by our former Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke.
•Restructuring and widening the mandate of the Judicial Service Commission to depoliticise it and to expand the new body’s mandate to include appointments like the NDPP, the Chief of Police and the Head of the Hawks and leadership of Chapter Nine Institutions. Retired judges should replace politicians (both amateur and professional) on the JSC or what could be called the new Independent Senior Appointments Commission.
•An economic Codesa to address joblessness, lack of economic growth, illegal cadre deployment in the public administration and the land and housing questions by developing a national consensus. This would be a welcome alternative to shouting past each other, scapegoating the mythical “White Monopoly Capitalists” and projecting shortcomings in the ANC’s essentially unworkable communistic economic policies onto world economic conditions. The ANC needs to recognise that development of a country of the kind the Constitution promises cannot be achieved without economic growth; transformation without growth is illusory and enriches only a miniscule politically connected elite, while leaving Gogo Dlamini (no relation to Bathabile), and half the population with her, no better off.
•A thorough clean-out of corruption in high places via the ANC integrity committee and, where necessary, the Integrity Commission established under Chapter 9. This step will bring Duarte’s expressed wish for vicious and relentless action to fruition. The SAPS, the Hawks and the NPA are currently too inefficient, corrupted, cadre-infested and captured to do the work required. The Integrity Commission will have to function as a one stop specialised, independent and properly resourced institution if the wish for clean governance is to come true.
•A proper and sincere commitment to the rule of law and fully expressed respect for property rights are urgently required. Commitments that will unlock the R700 billion of local capital currently lying fallow in SA and which will be leveraged to attract new foreign direct investment of the kind the finance ministry team members were seeking when their pre-arranged and duly authorised tour was cut short by the president. This change in attitude requires the election of the kind of politician who serves people responsively and does not enter politics to satisfy greed and become enriched. Those who seek to become rich are entitled to do so, by going into business or a carefully selected profession, not by abusing elected office.
Discussing honestly whether the values of the NDR are compatible with those of the National Development Plan and the Constitution. An objective assessment of progress with the implementation of the NDP might assist in answering this question. Examples such as the militarisation of the police, the failure to transfer responsibility for Early Childhood Development (so crucial to mending the education system) to the Department of Basic Education and the mushrooming of squalid informal settlements all suggest that the NDP is not taken seriously by the unconstitutionally deployed cadres in the public administration and their political heads.
The political will properly and carefully to address all of these agenda items will not be generated at isolated emotional occasions like Uncle Kathy’s funeral where some participated in standing ovations, some sat and clapped and other sat stony faced, still and silent. Significantly, many leaders of the ANC, including cabinet members, joined in the standing ovation accorded to the reading out of the polite request by the deceased that the President give consideration to standing down.
What is required is a gigantic effort at grass roots level between now and the ANC policy conference to grapple with the darkness that threatens to destroy the ANC by honestly discussing the eight agenda items.
The ANC may well be too far down the road to perdition to muster the necessary courage to effect these vital changes or even give objective consideration to their content. If it is rotten to the core, as many observers are beginning to suspect, the ANC’s policy conference will not even mention the topics listed above and the opportunity to deal with the dark corners of the soul of the ANC decisively will be missed by its faithful members. There is a manifest need for the good people in the ANC, and there are many, to assert themselves urgently.
The need for change (“renewal and relevance” are the terms used by Duarte) may, however, not be missed by the electorate which could turn to opposition forces, those who find the courage to break away from the lost rump of the ANC as it self-destructs and also to faith-based and civil society organisations to restore the country to the high road to a future in which tomorrow is better than today.
The moral ambivalence in trying to turn the ANC around from within when it has clearly been captured by the forces of greed, corruption and evil is becoming intolerable – hence the chanting of “Phantzi Zuma” at the funeral – as though his removal is a panacea to the problem of partial state capture. It is not.
At this stage only the judiciary and some Chapter 9 Institutions stand between partial and complete state capture. The patronage parasites that Blade Nzimande complains of are far more numerous and are better entrenched in truly dark places than Zuma ever will be. His removal may be a symbolic starting point for the processes now needed, but much more than his resignation, recall or removal is required to get to where we should, and deserve, to be as a country.
With the EFF now litigating to get an impeachment enquiry established in Parliament, Zuma is going to have to consider whether he wishes to be cross- questioned by his nemesis, Julius Malema, during that enquiry, or whether he would prefer to respect the wishes of the now deceased stalwart, Ahmed Kathrada. It ought not to be a difficult decision to take. If the DA motion of no confidence is successful it is a decision that Zuma will not need to take. This depends on about 50 ANC members of the National Assembly invoking their consciences and voting for the motion of no confidence. DM 2
Paul Hoffman SC is a director of Accountability Now and is the author of Confronting the Corrupt