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Will the Concerned Elders ever learn?

Opinionista • Paul Hoffman • 29 March 2019 • Daily Maverick

The ANC Elders are a highly respected group. But their recent intervention in deploring the composition of the ANC’s electoral lists begs the question – why did it take them so long to speak out?

Last week a group of Concerned Elders in the ANC wrote an open letter which they addressed to “ANC Patriots” in which they appealed to the numerous apparently and allegedly rotten apples to get out of the box marked “party list” or that they be removed by the leadership.

There has been no word of any response to the Elders. Perhaps the letter was returned by the postal authorities marked “addressees unknown at Luthuli House”?

Ferial Haffajee has speculated in Daily Maverick that no response will come because the ANC does not listen. She advances a convincing argument based on Nasrec resolutions that were solemnly taken and then promptly discarded when the lists were prepared under the supervision of that paragon of political virtue, Ace Magashule. He who was caught by the press busily discussing party “administrative matters” in the Maharani Hotel with Jacob Zuma in September 2018. It now seems that the hijacking of the party list may well have been on the agenda. A Trojan Horse full of Zuma supporters lurks in the top echelons of the list.

Omri Makgoale, who describes himself as a “rank and file” member of the ANC, is wont to express his personal opinions in the DM columns from time to time. His take on that which prompted the Elders to burst into print is that the Zuma faction is on the up-and-up and team CR17 is being outmanoeuvred. He contends that this is the only conclusion to be drawn from the composition of the party list.

The last thing that patriotic folk need is an underground or, heaven forbid (with Mark Swilling in the role of Cassandra), overtly Zuma-led Sixth Parliament.

It is hugely puzzling that Jacob Zuma, bought-votes at Polokwane notwithstanding, ever rose to the leadership of the organisation he led for nine long and wasted years.

At the time of his first election (the mistake was repeated at Mangaung) it was known that Zuma’s financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, had been sentenced to 15 years in prison for corrupting Zuma. Quite correctly, then-President Thabo Mbeki fired Zuma when the conviction was announced. Like Mbeki, who fretted terribly about being succeeded by Zuma, the Elders should have seen the amber light.

Then there was the infamous rape trial. The huffing and puffing over who believes and who does not believe that “Khwezi” Fezekile Kuzwayo was raped by Jacob Zuma misses two important points: First, the state was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms Kuzwayo was raped. That does not mean she was not raped; it only legally signifies that the accused was entitled to the benefit of the presumption of innocence because his version was reasonably possibly true.

Second, should an open, accountable and responsive constitutional democracy entrust its presidency, both head of state and leader of the national executive, to a person who admits to having unprotected sex with a young woman around half his age who is to his knowledge HIV positive? A woman who happens to be the daughter of his late wartime friend, comrade and protector, as well as his vulnerable house guest, one who calls him “Uncle”? And then “Uncle” takes a shower to ward off infection?

The truth about the alleged rape is known only to Jacob Zuma and has gone to her grave with Ms Kuzwayo, may she rest in dignified peace.

The truth about the second issue is universally known and was blithely ignored both at Polokwane and Mangaung.

At that stage, the Elders ought to have seen the red light. They manifestly did not.

The Elders are all decent people. Their concerns, however belated they may be, are well-founded. Their decision to express them in public is admirable. The lack of response from anyone who is anybody in the ANC is deplorable. Attention has now fallen on the astute take on the party list which Omri Makgoale has published. It chimes with an earlier analysis by Professor Mark Swilling of the University of Stellenbosch.

It seems the Elders have at last seen the red light. What are they going to do about the failure of the ANC to respond to their well-grounded reservations about the party list? What are they going to do to prevent the hijacking of the next parliament by the odious Zuma faction, a rent-seeking patronage machine if ever there was one?

The Elders are aware of the corrosive effect of the corruption of the Zuma years on the fabric of SA society. They are astute to wish to put a stop to the looting. It is a well-established academic and scientific truth that corruption and kleptocracy are absolute and corrosive obstacles – anywhere in the world that they occur – to peace, social justice, good governance, economic development, reconstruction, redistribution and population health and well-being.

It is now emerging that perhaps one-third of South African Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – in other words over 30% of the total South African economic “pie” – has been wasted, stolen and consumed by grand corruption, state capture and kleptocratic crime in our young democratic country, mainly during the Zuma years.

This situation has already had devastating socio-economic impacts on our people, especially among those who are poor. This impact will be felt for decades to come. It is thus hard to conceive of a more urgent and greater priority for the Elders to address. Their appeal for ethical behaviour and integrity in the process of list compilation has fallen on deaf ears, as Ferial Haffajee correctly points out: The ANC does not listen to anybody.

The issue of corruption has also been addressed by the courts: Perhaps most memorably, in 2011, the joint judgment of Moseneke DCJ and Cameron J in the second Glenister case remains the most salutary judicial reminder of the scourge of corruption: “There can be no gainsaying that corruption threatens to fell at the knees virtually everything we hold dear and precious in our hard-won constitutional order. It blatantly undermines the democratic ethos, the institutions of democracy, the rule of law and the foundational values of our nascent constitutional project. “It fuels maladministration and public fraudulence and imperils the capacity of the state to fulfil its obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil all the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. When corruption and organised crime flourish, sustainable development and economic growth are stunted. And in turn, the stability and security of society is put at risk.”

If those resounding words do not suffice, the opening salvo, in a later case on the same topic, fired by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in November 2014, should:

All South Africans across the racial, religious, class and political divide are in broad agreement that corruption is rife in this country and that stringent measures are required to contain this malady before it graduates into something terminal.”

It is to be hoped that the ethical standards and the integrity of the Elders will inspire them to break the shackles of the Stockholm Syndrome that has gripped them since 2007 when the Polokwane vote for Zuma befell us all. They can demonstrate that ignoring them and their plea for ethical conduct has consequences. They can remind the ANC that ours is a multi-party democracy in which they are free to choose between the 48 parties contesting the election in May 2019 or choose not to vote at all. They can also let the public know that loyalty to the ANC is not a given, an article of faith or an immutable principle of voting patterns in SA.

Or they can remain silent in the face of the provocation, slink off to the polling booths on 8 May 2019, ignore the warnings they have seen for themselves in the composition of the party list. Warnings confirmed in the analysis of their rank and file compatriot Omri Makgoale as well as in the prognostications of Mark Swilling, both writing in Daily Maverick. They will only have themselves to blame if the Zuma faction “Trojan Horse” candidates sneak into Parliament and the Cabinet to bedevil the future of the country and the prospects of secure peace, sustainable progress and shared prosperity.

Perhaps they will face the sad reality of the current ANC when the fairness of the election is impugned on the basis that the electorate was baited with the Ramaphosa candidacy only to be subjected to the Zuma faction switch. This is a form of electoral fraud that destroys the fairness of the elections and will not be tolerated by the IEC and the courts.

Which is why the Elders asked the ANC Patriots (whoever they may be) to clean up their act in the open letter they wrote. DM

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