ZUMA – WHAT NEXT?
The Annual ANC NEC Legotla took place in Irene from 25 to 27 January. The Legotla is probably the most influential ANC gathering you can get. Those attending the Legotla include the top six officials, 80 NEC members, also the ANC Women’s and Youth leagues’ leaders, high-level delegations from Cosatu, the SA Communist Party (SACP) and the SA National Civics Organisation, ministers and deputy ministers who are not part of the ANC NEC and includes senior government deployees.
As the brains trust of the ruling alliance this Legotla is meant to set the agenda for government and lay the foundations for the State of the Nation Address as well as the annual budget. However, Gwede Mantashe’s report after the proceedings was very bland leading one to believe that it is not what he said but rather that what he did not say that will prove to be significant.
The statement released at 22:15 on Tuesday 2 February by the Presidency that President Zuma would “implement what the Public Protector recommended as remedial action contained in the report” following the upgrades made at his private residence at Nkandla being the first and most significant statement.
Although non-specific, after over a year of denials and machinations to avoid having to “Pay back the money” the President has in fact admitted that he did, in fact, unduly benefit for these upgrades and is now attempting to avert any further damage to his public image before the EFF and DA in all probability wins its case, scheduled to be heard, in the Constitutional Court next week Tuesday, 09 February 2016.
The Presidency has specifically stated that this offer “does not in any way imply that the President did anything wrong”.
The President’s offer has not been accepted by either the DA or the EFF because the settlement offer made does not comply with the remedial actions as ordered by the Public Protector in her report entitled Secure in Comfort. In fact, with the President designating the Auditor-General (A-G) to come to a determination as to how much he is liable is the latest attempt to establish a parallel process, for a fifth time.
Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela says she appreciates the president’s partial acceptance of her remedial action, and his efforts to resolve the matter. However, she stands by her findings, but agrees that it’s no longer appropriate for the SAPS to determine the costs of non-security upgrades in Zuma’s private home.
She still wants to argue in court about her powers and the legal effect of her remedial action.
Now that Zuma has offered to pay back a fair share of the money the case before the Constitutional Court is mainly about getting a definitive ruling on the powers of the Public Protector.
So why did Zuma make an about turn?
The ANC Legotla in all probability pressurised the President into taking action to avoid electoral losses in the forthcoming elections. It is widely assumed that Nkandla and E-tolls were the main causes for the ANC losing support in Gauteng in 2014.
He probably did not want to risk another scene, like last year, in Parliament during the State of the Nation (SONA) address on Thursday 11 February.
It was also reported in the Sunday Times that Senior Counsel Jeremy Gauntlett advised that Zuma recognise that there is a mess up with Nkandla and that he should make an offer to settle before the court case. Obviously those parties against Zuma believe that his offer is too little too late!
Gauntlett is also thought to have advised Zuma that he should ‘stop involving himself in peripheral legal action’ and also to ‘stop fighting with Madonsela’.
What are the implications of Zuma’s about turn?
In my opinion it is too late to have any effect on those voters who have been antagonised by the ANC over this issue.
What it does however indicate that Jacob Zuma is fast losing control of the ANC and its senior structures. He can no longer rely on them to do his bidding; all his decisions could be received with scepticism and subjected to intense scrutiny.
The greatest implication is going to be on the integrity of those Zuma allies whose personal reputations now lie in tatters after supporting the President:
Nathi Nhleko must be wondering why he had to sweat profusely, wiping his face 31 times in an hour to present a report, including a video clip with the song serenaded on the Gondoliers in Venice Ole Sole Mio to justify that President Jacob Zuma did not have to pay a cent for the multimillion rand security upgrades to his private home in Nkandla;
- Mathole Motshekga the ANC Chief Whip who said “We should not, and cannot, apologise when we say that the report of the Public Protector has misled the nation”
- How about Bheki Cele Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries who warned Madonsela ”to stop carrying on like Jesus of Jerusalem”;
- Cedric Frolic who chaired the Ad hoc committee that investigated Nhleko’s report state “We must be very careful before we can say that there are very serious allegations against the President”;
- As usual Speaker Baleka Mbete waded in that “In African tradition, you don’t interfere in a man’s kraal. The issue of a man’s kraal or the kraal of a family is a Holy space”. Obviously, according to Madam Speaker’s logic, he is entitled to use money not belonging to him!
At present everyone is using the same reason not to comment “The case is before the court so I cannot comment”. But once a ruling is delivered there is no way out there is no higher court to appeal to.
How are the ANC in general and police Minister Nathi Nhleko going to justify their support that Zuma owes nothing? Did they deliberately mislead parliament and should they be reported to the Parliamentary Ethics Committee? Are they going to apologise to the opposition parties and particularly to the Public Protector for their insults and accusations about their stand on Nkandla. I expect not!
Like it or not the president is, by his actions, has admitted to having received undue personal benefit from state funds.
Where is the money going to come from to pay for the upgrades?
It is common cause that Zuma is not an inherently rich man. Based on the information in the public domain the DA has calculated the Zuma should pay back about R52 million for the non security upgrades.
What are the options?
- To take a bond on the property with an ever increasing interest rate? But then as the property is on Traditional Land and he has no title deeds so that option is not on?
- Maybe his friends will lend him the money? Well if it is interest free or below a market related rate will he be taxed on the benefit;
- Perhaps his friends or the Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust will donate the money to him? If so will it be subject to donations tax?
What other developments have we seen since the Legotla?
The Legotla was hardly over and the ANC decided to take action against two senior members of the ANC in the Western Cape by suspending Western Cape ANC Chairperson, Marius Fransman, and the Secretary, Faiez Jacobs. Fransman has been charged with sexual assault while Jacobs is facing a charge of assaulting a junior ANC staff member.
Gwede Mantashe announced on the afternoon of Monday 1February that caretakers will be deployed to the Western Cape ANC because it is currently leaderless. By sending in Luthuli House caretakers to replace the Western Cape ANC Chairperson, Marius Fransman, and the Secretary, Faiez Jacobs, while they are suspended, is an acknowledgement by Luthuli House that the ANC in the Western Cape is in disarray. Urgent action was required if the ANC wanted to garner any meaningful progress in the Western Cape in the local government elections. It is probably too little too late.
Next, the sudden cabinet reshuffle in Gauteng with the former ANC Paul Mashatile into the position of MEC for Human Settlements, Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs.
The hope is that he will be able to speed up the delivery of housing in Gauteng. Although not a Zuma man Mashatile has support in the province particularly amongst the middle class voters whose support the ANC needs if it is to retain the two metros of Johannesburg and Tshwane.
Once again probably too little too late to make a meaningful difference, the appointment should have taken place last year.
It was revealed on Friday the former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene had resigned as a member of parliament in December but The Speaker only processed the resignation in January.
Also revealed was despite the indecent haste in firing Nene from the cabinet because his name had to be sent to Shanghai as he was to be appointed as the head of the African Regional office of the New Development Bank based in Johannesburg. As yet no approach has been received by Nene. Possibly another lie?
No doubt the delayed processing will be blamed on the recess. However, in my opinion it was also convenient to keep it quiet until after the Doha meeting in order to avoid ‘Team South Africa’ in general and President Zuma in particular from having to answer more embarrassing questions.
Pravin Gordham is reported to have used the dreaded word ‘privatisation’. Apparently that at recent meeting between Gordhan and about sixty senior businessmen they expressed an interest in the privatisation of 49% of Eskom. This would inject much needed funds into Eskom however, once a proper financial due diligence is conduced into the corporation it may not prove to be a worthwhile financial investment.
Even if there was a definite proposal Gordhan would have an uphill battle to sell the ANC allies the SACP and Cosatu who are totally opposed to any form of privatisation.
Can we expect anymore surprise announcements?
No doubt President Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will use SONA and the Budget speech to make some concessions to act as sweeteners to various constituencies.
My money is on E-Tolls being abolished in the near future, it makes good political sense!
- An announcement that the nuclear procurement will be postponed until the current economic conditions improve;
- There will be some revisions to those policies and acts that discourage investments; and
- Don’t be surprised if South Africa does not have a new State President by year end.
The ANC’s diversionary tactic:
After the Legotla Gwede Mantashe briefed the media that the ANC was going to declare war on racists. They called on all South Africans to unite to fight against white privilege.
Unable to account for the high levels of unemployment and lack of service delivery the ANC has decided that the only way to attract votes is divert attention away from their blunders and to rather play the race card. The plan is obviously that the ANC does not see the EFF as a threat but they are unable to counter the surge in support for the DA under the leadership of Mmusi Maimane and have decided to demonise the party and its members as racists.
Hardly a day goes by without some new DA member being accused of racism. It is a pity that they do not show the same enthusiasm in tackling racism, corruption and sexism in their own ranks.
As the organisation that claims to have fought against racial discrimination throughout its life, and now governs the country, the ANC should be leading the campaign to foster race relations. But no, this is not what the ANC sees as its role. “Black South Africans cannot continue exaggerating the domination of whites. They must actually be bold enough to confront racism,” Mantashe said.
The ANC is however still got to find a way of controlling the uttering’s of their members such as ANCYL Leader Collen Maine who on Sunday called Julius Malema and his members ‘monkeys’. He also said that “The ANC Youth League will attend the SONA to defend the nation. We are ready for them. There will be blood.” The thousands of youth present were urged to take action and to “defend the nation” during the upcoming SONA. The Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko, was even requested not to have security as the youth members would take over this role. But yet 24 hours later the ANC is yet to comment on the issue.
Clearly the ANC is more important than South Africa.
Hopefully the voters will not be fooled by ANC rhetoric and will vote for a united South Africa.
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.