Guest Column

Zuma and the failed executive

2017-03-26 06:34
President Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma

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Tebogo Khaas

It is clear that those who crafted our Constitution premised their work on two noble assumptions.

The first was that only individuals of the highest intellect and moral stature would ascend to the highest office in the land.

The second was that irrespective of which political party constituted a majority in Parliament, members of that House would be upright individuals guided only by their conscience as they discharged their constitutional mandate on behalf of us – the people of South Africa.

Put differently, crafters of the Constitution surely imagined that only men and women cut from the cloth of Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe or Steve Biko would be considered for elevation to any of the three arms of state.

It is now evident that some members of the executive and Parliament are cut from peculiar cloth.

Let me explain.

Parliament has failed to hold the executive to account on many occasions.

With respect to the latest debacle regarding the disbursement of social grants, it was left to justices of the Constitutional Court to, once again, intercede.

The men and women in green robes summoned the biblical wisdom of Solomon as they navigated the interplay between the need to adhere strictly to the rule of law, on the one hand, and the exigent need to respond to an impending plight facing the indigent were social grants not disbursed, on the other.

With National Treasury not disposed to allocate funds for a proposed extension of a contract already declared unlawful by the Constitutional Court, which extension Treasury also deemed insidious and in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act, it was thanks to Black Sash’s intervention that looming social chaos was averted.

Constitutional Court justices were undoubtedly placed in an invidious position as they were compelled to legitimise the extension of the very contract between Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and the SA Social Security Agency they had earlier declared unlawful and invalid.

What is agonising is that President Jacob Zuma’s administration has, once again, gifted racists a golden opportunity to arrogantly remind us, as Steve Biko eloquently put it, that “white liberals believe that white leadership is a sine qua non in this country and that whites are the divinely appointed pace-setters in progress”.

According to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and CPS CEO Serge Belamant, we black people owe it to colonialism for blessing us with the courts and technology needed to disburse social grants.

Their postures are patently wrong and there is inherent danger of their apparent ignorance becoming axiomatic.

Let me hasten to state that Africans have been at the forefront of developing knowledge systems and progress long before white people colonised us. But this is a topic for another day.

The Constitution is not the only sacred covenant Zuma has violated with impunity.

He has equally trampled the ANC’s own constitution ad nauseam in the process, earning himself the “equal-opportunity constitutional delinquent” moniker from his detractors.

Zuma is likely to be joined soon in his infamy by one of his useful acolytes, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, under whose watch the social grants fiasco grew.

Notwithstanding the court’s findings, Dlamini is unlikely to be censured owing to her proximity to and importance in Zuma’s project to have his former wife succeed him as ANC president later this year.

Ordinarily, any individual with some vestige of shame would step down voluntarily after such public humiliation without even risking impeachment.

But then again, we are dealing with an extraordinary executive that has become adept at sidestepping decisions of the courts.

Zuma can afford to scoff at the courts and society because his political ecosystem plays habitat to some equally extraordinary ANC national executive committee members; Cabinet acolytes, including the self-same Dlamini, whose integrity owes its sartorial elegance to Travelgate; while Parliament boasts among its latest additions an ANC MP who features prominently in the damning State of Capture report.

They all provide the necessary political cover and oxygen Zuma needs in his pursuit of narrow self-interests.

That even some upright ANC MPs “temporarily lost their conscience” as they closed ranks during Nkandlagate informs us just how extraordinary these times are.

There is unlikely to be any respite on a weary populace in the immediate future as the ANC will, come December 2017, probably install its new leadership along factional lines with the attendant expectation that those elected or appointed to strategic positions are obligated to ensure that the status quo ensues.

Further, despite the fact that the 2017 ANC policy documents enjoin its proposed electoral council to be guided by principles enshrined in the ANC’s now-defunct Through the Eye of the Needle policy document, this is unlikely to be adopted and, in the event that it is, its implementation is likely to face gusty political headwinds.

As I conclude, let me state the obvious. Zuma has all but abdicated the presidency.

His primal fear and preoccupation now seems to be about self-preservation.

There are still many good men and women in the ANC.

They will, however, remain muzzled or ineffectual for some time. Only a seismic shift in the balance of forces within the ANC can help embolden them and hopefully save the party from itself.

Lastly, our constitutional democracy has endured yet another agonising stress test and, as the only effective bulwark against an inept ANC government, let us pray that the judiciary continues to never fail us – the people of South Africa.

Khaas is executive chairperson of Corporate SA, a strategic advisory consultancy. Follow him on Twitter @tebogokhaas

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  parliament  |  sassa
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