The revolution eats its children

2015-03-22 18:00

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An interesting trend is taking place in our institutions that are at war – and in at least one it is supposedly the antidote to the battle.

Increasingly, seasoned activists ?are coming under fire and being marginalised for taking the principled positions the ANC instilled in them during the struggle against apartheid. In their stead, the party or its president is placing loyalists, some of whom were even aligned in various ways to the apartheid state.

In other cases, long-standing activists and members of the ANC are being overlooked for more recent comers who are known for little more than loyalty to President Jacob Zuma.

The revolution is eating its children – a common pattern when liberation movements fall off the tracks and are captured by patrons and profits.

The liberation movement’s best cadres were often highly principled and taught to speak up when they differed with leaders – internal democracy was revered.

But two decades after it took power, the governing ANC does not seem to value this quality any longer, as some of its best revolutionaries find themselves fighting a lonely battle against patronage and pork barrel politics.

Take the case of the head of the Hawks, Anwa Dramat, once an admired member of Umkhonto weSizwe in the Western Cape.

On Friday, he was said to be finalising an exit package from the SA Police Service, hounded out by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko after allegedly starting to investigate spending on the president’s estate at Nkandla.

In his place is a yes man, Mthandazo Berning Ntlemeza, who was once a homeland policeman in the Transkei.

The first thing Ntlemeza did upon taking office was to call for the file on Nkandla – and allegedly put it into File 13.

Two weeks ago, he told City Press there was no police investigation into the R246?million spending on the estate’s upgrades.

There’s a similar pattern at the SA Revenue Service. Ivan Pillay, a long-standing and admired strategist of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, is out in the cold for refusing to allow a consignment of ANC T-shirts into the country sans customs and duty fees.

The head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, Robert McBride, also an MK veteran, is fighting Nhleko, as he too faces suspension in the wider fight for the soul of the police service.

In that battle, President Zuma appears to have sided with factions aligned with disgraced former police criminal intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, another apartheid-era policeman.

Mdluli, who has penned serial intelligence reports for the president, has seen off many good democratic-era police officers as he sought to protect turf that earned him a fortune.

Mdluli is accused not only of murdering a love rival, Oupa Ramogibe, but of looting crime intelligence funds to live the high life.

At the communications department, perfectly competent former minister Yunus Carrim was replaced by new minister Faith Muthambi, who has little national political pedigree other than the patronage of the SABC’s chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

You don’t have to dig hard to find senior members of the SA Communist Party and the governing ANC who say Carrim was well suited to the role of managing a sector of highly vested interests and pushing for quicker broadband access for more people.

She is another example of how a loyal presidential clan member (in the sense of political, not tribal, clan) has seen a cadre sacrificed, allegedly because she is more malleable.

For the role of inspector-general of intelligence, a similar pattern is unfolding. A faction of the ANC is said to favour former MP and securocrat Cecil Burgess.

Burgess pushed through the draconian Protection of State Information Bill and was regarded as a parliamentary hardliner, fiercely loyal to President Zuma. Burgess is a former conservative politician who favoured coloured-identity parties.

He is the frontrunner for the position, ahead of even ANC intelligence luminary Barry Gilder.

Gilder would bring an independent spirit to the role of intelligence watchdog when what rulers may now require is a loyalist, to keep closed from scrutiny the rise of a securocrat impetus in the state.

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