THE YEAR IN REVIEW
As this year ends our economy is at its weakest in decades, with rising interest rates, worst-ever currency exchange rates and deplorably high unemployment, perceptions of corruption keeping investment out and stopping our economy growing. This is the great crime of our time, and one for which Jacob Zuma will go down in notorious history.
In the last edition of Political Perceptions for 2015 I will highlight some of the major political developments of the past year. The next edition will be on 12 January 2016.
The political year started with the State of the Nation address on Thursday 12 February being disrupted by the EFF when they refused to allow President Zuma to address the joint sitting of parliament until he answered their question as to when he would “Pay back the money” as recommended in the Public Protectors report into the cost of the security upgrades at the President’s private home Nkandla.
Apart from the EFF’s rowdy and unparliamentarily behaviour the sitting will also be remembered because of the actions of the Executive and the Speaker. Even before the President started with his address the installation of ‘jamming equipment” was discovered inside the Chamber preventing people in the chamber from receiving a signal. The Speaker and the Government denied all knowledge of the instrument. State Security Minister David Mahlobo eventually on Wednesday 18 February conceded that it was an “operational error” that resulted in the signal jamming.
In a statement released on Wednesday evening, Mahlobo said the operator of the jamming device “failed to properly terminate the device and this impacted on proper access to some users of mobile phones”. Now it appears that this official, who is not named, may well be subjected to disciplinary action. The normal government response when caught breaking the rules.
It was during the rumpus caused by the EFF that the Speaker Baleka Mbete violated the constitutional principle on the separation of powers by calling in the parliamentary security and the state security services, wearing white shirts and black pants, to remove the EFF from parliament. The opposition parties were outraged resulting in the DA and several other opposition parties walking out of the Chamber.
This led the DA to challenge section 11 of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act. This was the act used by the Speaker of Parliament to evict the EFF. The court declared Section 11 of the Act to be invalid to the extent that it permits a member to be arrested for conduct protected by the Constitution.
Parliament has appealed the ruling and a decision from the Constitutional Court is awaited.
The “Pay back the money” slogan was one that would continue to plague Zuma throughout the year and will continue to do so until the Constitutional Court rules on a case brought by the EFF and supported by the Public Protector, the DA and several other political parties against the President for employing every means fair or foul to not pay his fair share for those upgrades that he and his family benefitted from at their Nkandla homestead. The Constitutional Court Hearing for the nonsecurity upgrades to Zuma’s Nkandla homestead is scheduled to be heard on February 9 2016.
President Zuma used every trick in the trade to avoid “paying back the money” including appointing Nathi Nhleko the police minister, a man whose career depends on Zuma’s goodwill, to produce a report that President Zuma should not pay back a cent for these “essential security upgrades” which included a swimming pool, an amphitheatre, a chicken run and a visitors’ centre.
The report explained that the mosaic-inlayed swimming pool costing R3.9mil can double as an essential source of water for fighting fires. No one has explained why a normal concrete reservoir, costing less than R1mil would suffice.
To justify his report Nhleko showed a slapstick video of how the hapless municipal fire department did not have the equipment or capacity to put out a fire at Nkandla. This comical video ends with a ridiculously dramatic version of O Solo Mio’. What happens to the other residents with no fire pool?
Eskom and load shedding:
The power situation has been volatile, thanks to a combination of ageing infrastructure and technical problems at Eskom as with the other state owned enterprises Eskom was allowed to lose focus, namely to produce electricity. Rather than retain the qualified and experienced engineers the government started to offer packages to existing senior employees and used Eskom as a dumping ground for deployed ANC cadres. All of these appointments were done in the name of transformation, all part of their grand design to “appoint cadres to key centres of power”.
Eskom therefore announced load shedding for several months from 2 March 2015; this aggravated the already perilous state on the South African mining and industrial sectors.
Following the 2008 load shedding Eskom made the decision to build two power stations Medupi and Kusile. Medupi was due to begin production in 2012 with the final generator coming on line in 2015 at a cost of R69.1 billion. Kusile was budgeted to cost R80.6 billion with the first unit to be commissioned in June 2012 and completed during 2017. A 4800 MW pump storage station was also planned in the Drakensberg, Ingula, near Ladysmith at a cost of R8.9 billion for commissioning in January 2014.
At present not only are these power stations way behind schedule but also well over budget. Ingula is now only expected to come on line in 2016 and the price has escalated to R23.8 billion 167.4% above budget. Medupi is still not operational, five years behind schedule; the first generator is now connected to the grid. The full power station is now only expected to be operational in 2021 at a revised cost of R154.2 billion, 123.2% above budget. Kusile is in the same position and is also only due for completion in 2021, four years behind schedule and 113.6% over budget at R172.2 billion.
This year saw the ANC government clash with the judiciary on a number of occasions but none more dramatic than the Omar Al Bashir debacle when the Sudanese President attended the ANC summit in Johannesburg.
The South African Litigation Centre took the matter to court to instruct the government to enforce the International Criminal Court’s warrant for his arrest on war crimes and genocide. A preliminary order was granted and government was instructed to hold him until a hearing could be held on the Monday morning.
The government of President Zuma not only ignored the order but also facilitated the escape of Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir from South Africa on 15 June 2015 in direct contravention of a court order issued by the North Gauteng High Court. This was a clear violation of the President’s oath to “obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic,” this is an offence for which the President should be impeached in terms of section 89(1) (a) of the Constitution?
Members of the ANC have frequently attacked the judiciary when they have lost legal battles. Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s that “some elements of the judiciary meet with characters to produce certain judgments.”
The minister of higher education and SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande has accused parts of the judiciary of interfering in the political arena. He stated that “We are concerned that sections of the judiciary tend to somehow overreach into areas that one would expect even in a constitutional state to tread very, very carefully,”
ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe has criticised the judiciary for what he perceived as its bias against the ruling party. He singled out two courts in particular: the North Gauteng High Court and the Western Cape High Court, accusing their judges of having a negative attitude towards government.
At a press conference on 8 July 2015, the Chief Justice – together with Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Lex Mpati, and Judges President, Deputy Judges President and senior judges – said the Heads of Court and senior judges of all divisions had requested him, as head of the judiciary, to meet with President Jacob Zuma to point out and discuss the dangers of the repeated and unfounded criticism of the judiciary. ‘Criticism of that kind has the potential to delegitimize the courts. Courts serve a public purpose and should not be undermined,’ said Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng
A meeting to clear the air was held between the judiciary and executive on Thursday 27 August and ended with agreement on measures on how to deal with each other with “mutual respect” .The 10 points agreed to on Thursday included that there be care and caution exercised with public statements about and criticism of one another; and the ethos and values of the Constitution be promoted and the Constitution be protected and upheld.
This year saw university students take on the establishment and come out on tops.
#RhodesMustFall was launched at the University of Cape Town on 9 March 2015 ostensibly with the purpose of having the statue of Cecil Rhodes removed from the university campus. The campaign for the statue’s removal received global attention and led to a wider movement to “decolonise“ education across South Africa. On 9 April 2015, following a UCT Council vote the previous night, the statue was removed.
Rhodes Must Fall captured national headlines throughout 2015 and sharply divided public opinion. It also inspired the emergence of allied student movements at other universities, both within South Africa and elsewhere in the world.
#FeesMustFall was a campaign launched at Wits University and was directed at the proposed above inflation increase in tuition fees. This developed into an unprecedented movement of student activism that swept across South African university campuses and cities, culminating in a march on the Union Buildings on Friday 23 October, the seat of the South African government. Not since the Soweto Uprising of 1976 have this many youth arisen to demand the right to quality and accessible education.
A most significant aspect of this campaign was that students united across the political divide in a show of unity to oppose what they considered excessive increases. Politicians from several political parties tried to win political mileage out of the campaign but the students rejected their overtures preferring to make this a students’ only fight.
Having tasted success this year we can expect mass action every year in the future until the government backs down and provides more funds to provide for greater funds for free basic and tertiary education.
The National Prosecuting Authority:
Once again the National Prosecuting Authority was plunged into disarray this time President Zuma instituted an inquiry into of the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Mr Mxolisi Nxasana for not having the necessary security clearance. It would appear that this was merely the pretext to rid himself of the NPA head who only appointed from 1 October 2013 by pressuring him to take an exit package, reportedly to the tune of R17, 3 million. His services terminated as from 1 June 2015, less than two years from his appointment.
On 15 June 2015 Zuma announced that Advocate Shaun Abrahams a relatively junior official had been appointed as the head of the National Prosecuting Authority over very competent and much more senior officials.
The first significant decision that Advocate Abrahams made was a questionable one. He decided that the NPA would not pursue charges of fraud and perjury against Ms Nomgcobo Jiba despite the overwhelming prima facie evidence against her.
Let’s now see if Richard Mduli walks free and if the 793 charges against Zuma that have been referred back for investigation will be withdrawn.
Adv Abrahams “I am my own man” has not instilled much trust with his first decision.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF):
The EFF dominated much of the media headlines this year with their “Pay back the money” slogan, their uniforms and their generally boisterous behaviour in Parliament and the various legislatures. However, despite these headline grabbing events the party’s attendance and contribution at important portfolio committees has been dismal.
From Julius Malema’s personal perspective he will be happy that the IRS’s attempt to have him sequestrated was withdrawn in Pretoria High Court by Judge Gregory Wright on 31 May 2015.
In what should have been an opportunity to show the world that he has the qualities to be an influential leader while on an end of year tour to Britain Malema blew it. At a gathering of the prestigious Oxford Union he told the audience the late former president turned his back on parts of the revolution after he was released from prison. Malema accused Mandela of compromising the fundamental principles of the revolution captured in the Freedom Charter when he became a free man.
This could turn out to be a costly mistake to the electorate for the normally politically streetwise Malema.
The Democratic Alliance (DA):
The party was shaken to the core when on 12 April Helen Zille announced that she would not be available for re-election at the Party’s elective conference on 9 May 2015.
Mmusi Maimane, a young charismatic first term Member of Parliament and the Party leader in the National Assembly became the first Black African leader of the official opposition. Mmusi started off as party leader with zeal and great enthusiasm which he still portrays as the year ends.
He has travelled from one corner of the province to the next first promoting the party’s newly adopted Values Charter followed later by their Vision 2029. Vision 2029 is a projection of how DA believes SA would be if the party wins the 2029 election.
Electorally the party has done very well this year improving their performance in most by-elections contested during 2015 including capturing a number of former ANC wards. In student politics the party’s student wing DASO has shown some remarkable growth have retained control on the Student Representative Council (SRC) at the Nelson Mandela Bay University, for the first time winning the SRC election at the ANC stronghold of the University of Fort Hare and also the University of Pretoria.
The party continues to perform well in parliament asking more questions than the rest of the parties combined, proposing more motions than any other party and certain members delivered some outstanding speeches but yet in the main they failed to capture the headlines. The party’s whole media approach may need a total relook.
The party went through a traumatic media upheaval when senior DA Member of Parliament Dianne Kohler Barnard forwarded a Facebook posting without reading it properly which purported to show PW Botha in a good light. She was immediately demoted in the Shadow Cabinet and disciplinary proceedings started.
The disciplinary committee found her guilty of the offence and recommended severe sanctions be imposed however, the party’s Federal Executive decided to terminate her party membership. After Kohler Barnard appealed her membership was reinstated. In my opinion this whole episode was handled very clumsily and should have been handled more professionally.
Zuma Must Fall:
The year ended with President Zuma outdoing himself in his hapless governing of the country. After a cabinet meeting on 9 December he fired the competent and trusted Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene for no obvious reason and without his cabinet being aware of the pending dismissal. To make matters worse he appointed the totally unknown back bench MP David ‘Des’ van Rooyen as his successor.
Within minutes the Rand depreciated to an all time low and investments started to flow out the economy was in a crises. On the Sunday, four days later, Zuma was forced to back down and announce the Nene’s predecessor Pravin Gordhan was to be appointed as Finance minister.
So far Pravin Gordhan is making all the right noises just what the markets want to hear. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Will he be able to withstand the pressure from Zuma and his cronies to just spend?
Most noticeably this year is that instead of welcoming investors, the ANC has passed the Protection of Investment Act which is chasing investors away. Instead of encouraging more tourists the government has restricted the issuing of visas. Instead of complying with international obligations, the ANC helped Omar al Bashir to elude arrest in June. Instead of voting at the United Nations for the protection of Human Rights, South Africa voted against a resolution to sanction rights violations.
For the first time in South African politics since the introduction of the new democratic order in 1994 we have seen ANC stalwarts joining in the criticism against the President – who knows what can happen during 2016 especially during the forthcoming local government elections.
I wish you a very happy and healthy 2016
Until next time,
This newsletter is published by Clive Hatch former Leader of the Opposition in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature and former DA Provincial Leader. These views are my personal views and do not represent those of any other person or organisation.