Max du Preez

Awuleth' Umshini Wami!

2015-02-17 08:52

Max du Preez

Awuleth' Umshini Wami!

The Zuma machine gun toppled them one after the other like tins on a wall: the state security apparatus, the intelligence services, the police, the SABC, the National Prosecuting Authority, the SA Revenue Service and the Hawks.

And now the Jacob Zuma gang’s next target also has a gaping bullet hole: parliament.
One can’t help but admire the brilliance of the Zuma blitzkrieg on key state institutions. This is textbook material on how to survive and flourish against all odds; how to render the constitution worthless without scrapping or changing it; how to pay lip service to freedom and democracy while acting like a dictator.

Moreover, Zuma has succeeded in co-opting the once proud liberation movement of Luthuli, Tambo, Sisulu and Mandela into his single-minded survival strategy. He achieved this through an unprecedented system of patronage and through fear, intimidation, clever key appointments and divide-and-rule tactics.

I watched them on the benches of Parliament last Thursday, those seen as the last remaining so-called constitutionalists in the ANC and now reluctant accessories in the onslaught on our democracy: Cyril Ramaphosa, Pravin Gordhan, Derek Hanekom, Naledi Pandor, Collins Chabane, Lynne Brown, Nhlanhla Nene, Lindiwe Sisulu.

About a month ago I documented in a column how the “Zuma Wrecking Ball” has systematically been capturing state institutions and manipulating them into doing his dirty work. It was just another column, but the Presidency swiftly reacted with two strongly worded statements.

There can only be one explanation for this complete over-reaction: I had touched the main artery of the Zuma Strategy.

It is one thing for a head of state or government to white-ant state institutions for their own purposes. It is quite another to arrest the highest legislative power; the place where the elected representatives of the voters are supposed to discuss policy, legislation and national affairs in a free and unfettered environment.

The ANC and government have known since November last year that the EFF was planning to disrupt the state of the nation address. They were adamant that they would withstand this “onslaught” and give Julius Malema et al bloody noses in the process.

There is sufficient evidence before us today that the presidency, Luthuli House, the cabinet, State Security, the police, the Speaker and parliamentary officials were part of a detailed plan of action to make sure that the opening of parliament wouldn’t be disrupted.

There were even dry runs held in parliament on how a disruption was to be handled. One report says the policemen and parliamentary officers received special training and were given photographs of prominent MPs to use as targets.

The scrambling of the cell phone signal and the use of armed riot police – camouflaged in white shirts – were clearly part of this plan.

How did Ramaphosa know that a note to the minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, would resolve the scrambling issue? For all he knew, it could have been a technical issue unrelated to scrambling. And how did Mahlobo know how to stop the scrambling in just a minute or two?

The ANC knew that the presence of riot policemen (under the command of the police hierarchy rather than the Speaker’s) in Parliament had crossed a line. That’s the only explanation for its top leaders’ (including Baleta Mbeke and Thandi Modise) reluctance to own up that they knew these were policemen and not parliamentary security officers.

All these actions were a very serious transgression of the most basic democratic principle: the division of power between the executive and the legislative branches. It was as serious as if a cabinet minister was to interfere with the functioning of a court, the judiciary being the other branch.

But then again, the ANC, especially since Zuma came to power, sees the state and the ruling party as one entity.

Zuma’s belly laugh, the triumphant attitude of some cabinet minister and the celebrations by ANC MPs after the violent scenes in parliament sent shivers down my spine. It occurred to me that the spirit of Mbokodo, that feared body of brutal enforcers of the ANC in exile that crushed all dissidence and protected leaders at all costs, was alive in Zuma’s ANC. (Zuma was head of ANC intelligence up to 1990.)

Our democracy is wounded, but it isn’t in ICU. South Africa, its people and civil society are far too strong for one such event to kill our democracy. We still have an independent judiciary.

At least those who still had doubts now know for certain what the ANC’s view of our constitution is and to what levels it’s prepared to go to defend its president and to rule with an iron fist.

This much is abundantly clear now: the protection of South Africa’s constitution is the New Struggle.

Just don’t think that Julius Malema and his EFF are allies in this struggle. They’re not.

They’re as much part of the problem as the ANC is.

- Follow Max on Twitter.


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