Tjatjarag: A Number 1-sized headache for ANC

2013-10-06 10:00

The thing I love about South Africa is that it is almost impossible to cover up anything.

So it has proven again with the scandal now called Guptagate, the landing of a wedding jet at Waterkloof Air Force Base by the wealthy Indian Gupta media and IT dynasty.

At issue now is the role of “Number 1”, the numeral by which air force and diplomatic staff refer to President Jacob Zuma. As Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson explained this week, you never call the president by his name or title in air force communication.

Beeld reported this week that Anderson told a disciplinary inquiry she believed the instruction to land the Indian jet came from Number 1. The state’s then head of protocol, Bruce Koloane, had told her the president had asked whether the landing was on track.

Koloane took the fall for Guptagate and has been demoted. I wonder what he feels. Or what he has been promised for his loyalty.

Hidden hands are trying to make Anderson and four others the fall guys and girls for Guptagate, but robust civil society is having none of it.

Anderson is represented by the strong SA National Defence Union and has a formidable defence team behind her. From it, the truth has emerged.

Zuma is house friends with the Guptas. The government is a huge supporter of the family’s enterprises and the president met with its TV executives three times before their channel, ANN7, went on air. But could it possibly be that some in the ANC are tiring of cover-ups and shenanigans?

You will remember the ANC took the unprecedented step of issuing a stern rebuke against the landing when it happened in April. The governing party complained volubly about the security threat posed by the landing and about the country surrendering our sovereignty to a foreign wedding retinue.

Thereafter, a rapid-fire ministerial commission was appointed and the charges against Koloane and now Anderson flowed from it.

It was a cover-up of note and not the first time the ANC has had to clean up after Number 1.

Nor was it the first time the party has been damaged by our president’s careless ways and friendships, which morph too easily into cronyism and patronage.

There is a long line of infractions, stretching from the arms deal and his relationship with Schabir Shaik, to the rape trial he faced (the president was acquitted), the news of a child born out of wedlock with Sonono Khoza, the splurge at Nkandla and the game-playing with the courts around the spy tapes.

The ANC’s stance on Waterkloof was a shot across the bow to President Zuma.

The governing party’s image of itself as being on the right side of good morality is important to its core members and to a new generation who draw a lineage from the party.

Remember, this is a movement born in a church and from the professional classes.

As such, its good standing in society has always mattered. The ANC-aligned leaders in the churches, the professions, the academies and the middle classes are distressed and embarrassed by the series of scandals that have trailed the president.

As I read this week of the clear influence and authority of Number 1 in the Waterkloof landing, I do wonder how much more the ANC can take. How many more scandals will there be before its sense of self is lost completely and the movement becomes something else?

What happens if the Supreme Court of Appeal confirms that the transcripts of the spy tapes must be made public? The presidential lawyer, Michael Hulley, has filibustered the spy tapes case all the way to the top court. What if the DA uses the tapes to review the National Prosecuting Authority’s decision not to prosecute the president on the corruption charges he faced?

What happens if the Public Protector report into the splurge of more than R250?million on the presidential estate at Nkandla also finds the finger of Number 1 pointing to the tuck shop, the rolling soccer turf, the lift, the ace air conditioning systems, the bling cattle kraal?...

Will the ANC-led government help to cover it all up again? Or will it call upon Number 2 to become Number 1?

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