10 unforgettable political moments of 2013 (in no particular order)

2013-12-25 06:00

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1. A ‘giant’ is born

“A different baby is born today, a giant, a child that walks immediately,” commander-in-chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters Julius Malema told a huge crowd assembled at the koppie in Marikana in the North West.

The EFF had been in the making a few months before, but the October 13 launch showed the EFF was up and running and ready to take part in the 2014 general elections.

Already some within the ANC estimate the EFF could cost the governing party up to 10% of its support base.

The EFF intends to take up causes like the struggle for better wages and control of the economy – both of which were at the heart of last year’s Marikana massacre.

Read: EFF’s red berets run out

EFF leader Julius Malema, with party supporters, outside the high court in Polokwane. Picture: Herman Verwey/City Press

2. The launch of Agang

After some agonising and a lot of speculation, businesswoman Mamphela Ramphele announced her entry into politics by launching Agang, meaning “build” in SeSotho. “Let’s build the country of our dreams,” she told the journalists assembled at Constitution Hill on February 18 for the announcement.

She said her entry into politics was a difficult one. It also emerged Ramphele had started her own party after declining overtures to join the DA.

Read: Agang calls in Obama’s strategy team

Agang leader Dr Mamphela Ramphele announces her political plans. Picture: Herman Verwey/City Press

3. DA drops the ball on equity

“Now to the Employment Equity Act. Here we dropped the ball,” DA leader Helen Zille admitted in her online newsletter on November 7.

Barely 10 days before, the DA’s representatives in the National Assembly voted in favour of the Employment Equity Bill. Zille said this was contrary to the party’s stance on the matter – but mumblings from within her party showed up big differences.

A heated internal (and external) debate ensued which highlighted the DA’s difficulties in transforming from a hardcore true blue liberal party to one that will rake in the (black) vote come the 2014 general elections.

Read: Helen Zille: We dropped the ball on equity bill

DA leader Helen Zille addresses the National Assembly in Parliament. Picture: Lerato Maduna/Foto24

4. Zuma must resign: Numsa erases the party line

Metal workers’ union Numsa’s special congress on December 20 resolved to call for President Jacob Zuma to resign with immediate effect.

This was “because of his administration’s pursuit of neoliberal policies such as the National Development Plan (NDP), e-tolls, labour brokers, the youth wage subsidy, and the track record of his administration, which is steeped in corruption, patronage and nepotism”.

The small matter of the big amount of more than R200 million spent on the upgrades to Zuma’s Nkandla home played a major role in this resolution, as did the suspension of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi – something Numsa believed was political.

Numsa, at 338 000 members the biggest trade union in Cosatu, also resolved, for the first time in its existence, not to support the ANC in next year’s elections and to start a process which could see it break away from labour federation Cosatu.

Read: Numsa resolution: Zuma must resign

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim during the trade union’s special congress in Boksburg on the East Rand. Picture: Muntu Vilakazi/City Press

5. Sex, blackmail and the suspension that rocked the labour federation

“I vehemently deny the allegations made against me by the staff member concerned,” Vavi said after a fellow Cosatu employee accused him of rape.

He admitted to having had sex with her in the office and claimed she had tried to blackmail him.

She later withdrew the allegation, but the damage was done and Vavi was suspended by Cosatu leaders in August to allow an investigation to take place.

Vavi – an outspoken critic of Zuma and his administration – and his supporters have since claimed this was a political plot aimed at silencing him.

His suspension has deepened divisions in the labour federation and by year-end one of the biggest affiliates, metal workers’ union Numsa, was threatening to break away.

Read more on the Vavi story here.

Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture: Elizabeth Sejake/City Press

6. Boo! The president humiliated in front of peers

“Boo!” hundreds of people said to Zuma at one of the biggest gatherings of international heads of state on December 10.

Critics deemed it somewhat inappropriate that this should have happened at former president Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, but the crowds ensured their displeasure with Zuma was felt.

This was mainly prompted by the debacle around the R200 million-odd spending on upgrades to his Nkandla home, which simmered shortly before Mandela’s death with a leaked Public Protector report indicating Zuma should have paid some of the expenses.

An inter-ministerial report giving some clarity on the mechanics of the upgrades was released the week after, but this led to questions over whether Zuma had previously lied to Parliament about not having been informed about the upgrades, or whether he should be held liable for any costs. The saga, which has been dragging on for well over a year now, is bound to come to a head next year.

Read: Zuma booing incident: the start of a very public rebellion

President Jacob Zuma is booed at the official memorial service for the late former president Nelson Mandela. Picture: Nelius Rademan/Foto24

7. ‘He is not my boyfriend’: Pule caught in a lie

Former communications minister Dina Pule was one of three ministers to lose their jobs as Zuma effected yet another cabinet reshuffle on July 9.

She was found to have lied about taking her boyfriend with her on lavish trips at taxpayers’ expense.

She did, however, retain her seat in Parliament, and wasn’t disciplined by the ANC.

Former human settlements minister Tokyo Sexwale and cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Richard Baloyi also lost their jobs.

Read: Dina, you didn’t have to put on the red shoes

Axed communications minister Dina Pule. Picture: Denvor de Wee/City Press

8. The rise of Cyril Ramaphosa

Following his election as ANC deputy president at Mangaung last year, Cyril Ramaphosa has seen a re-launch onto political platforms after a long absence from ANC politics.

Much of the time he spends is trying to sell the National Development Plan, which he helped draft.

In March he called on Christians to be South Africa’s moral compass, telling a church congregation: “This country requires leadership. It requires its consciousness to be raised.”

Ramaphosa has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Zuma should he not see in his next term after next year’s elections.

But Ramaphosa’s role in the Marikana massacre last year could be a huge stumbling block to such ambitions. He served on the board of mining company Lonmin at the time, and called for action to be taken against the striking miners.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Elizabeth Sejake/City Press

9. The ghost of Ancyl

Less than nine months after 22 young people were appointed as a crack squad to get the ANC Youth League fired up again, things seem rather damp.

In April the ANC appointed the team to replace the league, which was dissolved after most of its outspoken and rebellious leaders were either suspended or expelled.

The task team disbanded league structures in all the provinces, whether they were functional or not, and replaced these with appointed task teams.

They now have to work towards organising a conference next year where new leaders can be elected democratically.

The team also has to figure out what to do with the small matter of the almost R70 million debt racked up by the previous leaders.

Despite having been liquidated by an order of court, the league has continued to function – not that many have noticed this.

Read: ANCYL task team: Tame ducks?

10. They paid the ultimate price – but what were they doing in the CAR?

South African troops in the Central African Republic were surprised by an attack in March, in which 13 soldiers subsequently perished.

“We are truly proud of our soldiers. Just over 200 of them fought bandits numbering more than a 1 000 people,” Zuma announced.

What exactly they were doing there was less clear, and amid the confusion there were suggestions that they had been sent there to protect the interests of South African businesspeople.

The Battle of Bangui damaged Zuma’s reputation politically, but he had some highlights this year too. These included receiving US President Barack Obama on a state visit to South Africa. Diplomatically one of his lowest points was probably that much-maligned faux pas about Malawian roads.

Read: Zuma wants urgent action in CAR crisis

The bodies of the 13 South African Defence Force soldiers killed in the Central African Republic are handed over to the families at the Air Force Base Waterkloof. Picture: Muntu Vilakazi/City Press

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