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Open letter to the ANC NEC: Fixation with National Democratic Revolution is failing South Africa

Opinionista • Paul Hoffman • 11 February 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa is only allowed to do what you in the NEC allow him to do: no more, no less. You, or a good number of the comrades who serve with you on the NEC, are preventing the president from getting on with the job of saving SA from junk status and possible failure as a state. The resulting paralysis is doing the ANC and the country’s prospects no good. 

Dear NEC members,

The editors of Bloomberg have done you and the country a good turn by publishing the article written by Prinesha Naidoo and Mike Cohen under the portentous heading “World to Ramaphosa: Do something fast to save SA”. If you haven’t read, considered and inwardly digested the article, please follow the link and do so now.

The point is that the world does not understand how the ANC works. When he was in his last full month as deputy president of the ANC and the country, Cyril Ramaphosa visited Davos and talked up a storm about what he realised needed to be done to get the country, and the ANC, back on track and on the road to recovery from the ravages of State Capture, grand corruption and the kleptocracy of the “wasted Zuma years”, as he put it.

As president of the ANC and the country, Ramaphosa, like every other member of the NEC, is a deployed cadre of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) and has been so deployed to do the bidding of the NEC and the ANC. The NEC is the highest decision-making body in the ANC between conferences, and the last ANC conference was held a month before he uttered all the quotable quotes and encouraging messages recorded in the Naidoo and Cohen article which all engaged South Africans should regard as prescribed reading.

The president is only allowed to do what you in the NEC allow him to do: no more, no less. That is the way the NDR works as it strives for hegemonic control of all the levers of power in society. You, or a good number of the comrades who serve with you on the NEC, are preventing the president from getting on with the job of saving SA from junk status and possible failure as a state.

The resulting paralysis is doing the ANC’s electoral prospects no good. Remember, Bra Fiks, now Minister of Transport, let it be known in public that the “Ramaphosa factor” lifted the support of the ANC in the last elections held in 2019 from a miserable 40% to the about 57% actually achieved. Seasoned commentators such as Peter Bruce even urged their readers to support Ramaphosa as if he is not just another deployed cadre. That, and the New Dawn, swung 17%.

The thing is, if Ramaphosa is exposed as no more than a deployee of the NDR who is incapable of doing what he said he would do when he spoke in public at Davos, the voters will realise their mistake and support will fall back to 40% or even less for the ANC. Patricia de Lille, who serves in the current national Cabinet, used to be fond of saying that the voters of SA are not fools. Be warned, she is probably right. The “liberation dividend” the ANC has enjoyed in the past has been used up as ever more service delivery protests, student unrest and litigation against municipalities bear witness.

In these circumstances, it is in your own self-interest, and in the interests of the country, to effect the various reforms of which Ramaphosa spoke so enthusiastically when he visited Davos in 2018. Failure to do so will impact negatively at the polls, reducing the ANC to just another opposition party in the metropoles in 2021 and nationally in 2024. At best, the ANC can then hope to participate in coalitions that are not directed at implementing the vision and mission of the NDR.

The essential problem is that the NDR is not aligned to the principles and precepts of the national Constitution, our supreme law. The NDR ought to have been abandoned when Professor Kader Asmal called for it to be abandoned, and it is not too late to abandon it now. It has not served the interests of the people of SA and it no longer serves the interests of the ANC. Instead, it has been perverted and turned into a vehicle for patronage, nepotism and kleptocracy. Don’t for a moment think that voters have not noticed this. The Ramaphosa factor made them think that the new leadership would take corrective measures and swiftly arrange those orange overalls for the bad apples in the ANC. 

The sad truth is that a good number of bad apples continue to serve in your ranks on the NEC and even in the national Cabinet. This is incompatible with the establishment of a competent developmental state, the restoration of the rule of law and the kick-starting of the economy. Without these changes, it is “game over” as Comrade Tito has publicly warned.

It is understandable that loyalty to comrades who have corruptly fallen from grace may motivate defensive measures in the minds and actions of some in the NEC. The outpouring of criticism of the duly stayed warrant of arrest for Jacob Zuma is illustrative of this point. However, these unseemly noises are ominous to all who long for equality before the law and the termination of the “royal game” status which cadres from Tony Yengeni to Jackie Selebi have tried to enjoy in the face of stiff opposition from the criminal justice administration in its pre-capture guise.

Complaints of corruption, the damning evidence pouring out at the Zondo commission, criminal dockets and recommendations of other commissions of inquiry are not being attended to either diligently or without delay, which are the standards required by the Constitution. 

Ask the opposition parties who laid complaints about the obvious criminality in effecting improvements to Nkandla in the wake of the “Secure in Comfort” report of the Public Protector which fingered JZ and the officials involved.

Ask Anwa Dramat how he was hounded out of the Hawks for having the temerity to call for the Nkandla dockets in 2014.

Ask Glynnis Breytenbach whether she would prefer to be shadow minister of justice or a prosecutor who has the space to act without fear, favour or prejudice. 

Ask Major-General Johan Booysen, Johann van Loggerenberg and Ivan Pillay about their lot in life. 

Ask Paul O’Sullivan about his many and varied experiences with the criminal justice administration in the Zuma years. 

Indeed, ask anybody who has laid or pursued a criminal complaint against any well-connected friend of, or member of, the ANC.

The reply from all of them is that there is no political will in the dysfunctional criminal justice administration to do anything to counter grand corruption on the part of those who qualify for impunity according to the warped rules of the game that have been forged on your watch in the NEC and continue to this day.

The problem started with the dissolution of the Scorpions and continued with the firing of NDPP Vusi Pikoli, both for doing their jobs properly and constitutionally, not as deployed cadres with primary loyalty to the NDR.

Consider the role of mendacious Menzi Simelane, who announced, upon his appointment to replace Pikoli, that he would implement the “vision of the ANC for the NPA”. The staff in the NPA not prepared to do so left in droves and cannot be persuaded to return in numbers because the vision of the ANC for the criminal justice administration is radically at odds with the need to be independent of political influence and interference, both of which have dogged the whole criminal justice administration since the days of Comrade Thabo Mbeki. It was he who suspended Pikoli for going after Selebi; Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe fired him for going after JZ. These disgraceful moves were but a curtain-raiser to what went on in the “wasted Zuma years”.

To come back from this mess, it is necessary that the NEC resolve to reform the criminal justice administration in a way that promptly addresses grand corruption. It is no good tinkering with the structures we have. They are broken and will take many years to repair. They are not an attractive workplace for those in the country who have the skills, training and experience to deal with the corrupt in the style last seen in 2007 when the Scorpions were “the people’s advocates” and were going after crooked ANC cadres with such success that they had to be closed down.

New NDPP Shamila Batohi, after a year in office, complains of lack of resources and lack of skills needed to mount complex corruption prosecutions. Vacancies abound. None of these problems can be solved by simply throwing money at them. The whole culture of the NPA must be changed and that will take years. The new Investigative Directorate head, Hermione Cronje, feels overwhelmed and dogged by what she calls “saboteurs” placed in the NPA to continue to protect the baddies long after they have fallen from grace in the ANC and its NEC. To her credit, Cronje left the NPA when Simelane was appointed. What she has come back to is a monumental mess that will not operate optimally for years.

Comrades in the NEC, you now need to act accountably.

Remember the words of Comrade Thuli Madonsela when she was still Public Protector. (Like Comrade Vusi Pikoli, she knows and understands that her constitutional obligations trump her obligations as a cadre of the ANC). She remarked:

“The notion of accountability holds government and society together like glue and it is at the heart of modern democratic processes to address the misuse of power and other forms of inappropriate behaviour.”

Comrades, you all know that the NDR is not in any way, shape or form a “modern democratic process”. It is antiquated, inappropriate and in dire need of a radical overhaul, if not the abandonment suggested by Comrade Kader.

Step one in the process is to address the debilitating effect of grand corruption on the trajectory of the ANC and the country. The need to establish an Integrity Commission as a new Chapter 9 Institution capable of operating in the manner required by law, as laid down in the Glenister litigation by the Constitutional Court is the number one priority of sound governance in SA.

Please instruct Comrade Cyril to announce during SONA that he is finished with his “mulling over” of the Integrity Commission idea and that it is the intention of the ANC to establish one under Chapter 9 as a matter of urgency so that it can independently investigate and prosecute grand corruption and make the public longing for orange overalls for the corrupt a reality sooner than the NPA and Hawks will ever be able to do. The draft laws await scrutiny; Accountability Now, which has no party political affiliation, prepared them eight years ago.

The collateral damage that crooked comrades will suffer is as nothing compared with the consequences for the ANC and the country that the continuation of the corruption-with-impunity culture that the NEC of the ANC has allowed for too long now.

Please, comrades, put the long-term interests of yourselves and your country ahead of NDR backsliding on corruption. DM

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