ANC's cleaning process forges ahead

2018-01-28 06:01
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa.

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa.

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Ramaphosa faces a herculean task to clean up the filth generated during Zuma’s presidency. He is off to a promising start, but needs to ensure the ANC does not value unity over accountability.

Greek mythology has gifted us with the idiom “to clean the Augean stables”. It refers to perform a large and unpleasant task that has long called for attention.

It especially describes tackling a condition marked by a great accumulation of filth, not dissimilar to the scourge afflicting South Africa’s public and private sectors and, regrettably, society at large.

We learn from the fable that Greek King Augeas possessed stables housing 3 000 head of cattle. It had not been cleaned for more than 30 years. It is said that the king ordered Hercules to clean out these filthy stalls – a dirty, messy and gargantuan task – which he did by diverting the course of two rivers so they flowed through the stables, flushing them out.

Never quite absent from the South African scene, even after the onset of democracy in 1994, corruption has over the past decade reached a crescendo and become a dominant feature in Jacob Zuma’s administration.

It was with some justification that sceptics dismissed the outcome of the ANC’s elective conference last month. They saw it as a routine changing of the guard, during which a new set of leaders merely replaces some of the old. The sentiment is perfectly understandable when one looks at the strange array of bedfellows elected to the ANC’s six top positions and to its national executive committee (NEC), the party’s supreme decision-making body.

Due to the factional nature of the organisation’s politics, even the national working committee (NWC), the exalted “secretariat” of the NEC, features some characters whose previous performance in government and political office in the preceding years has been nothing short of mediocre and, in some notable instances, scandalous. The NWC’s redeeming feature, warts and all, is that it features a majority of women.

At the apex of the ANC leadership this consists of individuals who have worked hard to change the culture of corruption and lack of accountability that has characterised the party’s governance, sitting alongside those who were at peace with the status quo. The group supporting change received a slim majority that secured the installation of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC president.

Predictably, there are now calls for unity that must bind together the reformers together with those who were at peace with the stench of corruption and those who facilitated or benefited from it.

Among them are handymen of state capture, the systemic political corruption that saw the rapacious Gupta brothers exert overwhelming influence over the state’s decision-making processes.

Given the current balance of forces, the new leadership will no doubt have to chart a way forward with care and deliberation. Ramaphosa has already made some judicious pronouncements, which included counselling against the humiliation of the beleaguered Zuma.

The critical task of rebuilding the party at grassroots and leadership levels cannot be gainsaid in a democratic organisation such as the ANC, even when such an exercise is often hamstrung by corrupt electoral processes.

Special attention needs to be paid to strengthening organisational structures in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State – provinces that have been wracked by internal disputes and violence, a consequence of a fractured and poor leadership. Bringing an end to political killings in KwaZulu-Natal must necessarily be treated as the new leadership’s top priority.

In this regard, the dissolution of leadership structures in these two provinces and sending task teams to help sort out the mess is a step in the right direction.

Clean-up is in progress

When all has been said and done, the ANC has to demonstrate most clearly to the citizenry that party unity will not be forged at the expense of the fight against corruption, arrogance and a scant appetite for accountability.

Such has been the devastating impact of corruption society that people will want to see hard evidence of the party’s commitment to fight the scourge both in government and within its own ranks.

The good news is that the cleaning of the Augean stables has begun in earnest. In his capacity as the country’s deputy president, Ramaphosa recently announced the appointment of a new board at Eskom. He directed it to appoint a chief executive officer and chief financial officer within the next three months, and to urgently fix the problems that have crippled the power utility.

The instant resignation of chief financial officer Anoj Singh has helped facilitate this process. Not so with Matshela Koko, the executive responsible for power generation. Koko has decided to hang in, arguing that he was cleared of any wrongdoing in a properly constituted disciplinary hearing. Time will tell how his defiance pans out.

The inauguration of an Eskom board consisting of experienced leaders of integrity brings down the curtain on a succession of board chairpersons and non-executive directors who have reduced a once-respected institution to a sorry state, in the process creating a grave risk to the national economy.

Former chief executive Brian Molefe, whose questionable R11m pension payout (part of pension benefits totalling R30.1m) was stoutly defended by former Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane, has just been ordered by the Pretoria High Court to repay the money within 10 days.

Ngubane once described the findings contained in former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report as “a deadly blow against Eskom and the people of South Africa”. This, not surprisingly, for a man who had a similar admiration for one Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the wrecking ball at the SABC who is notorious for forging his matric certificate.

In stating in no uncertain terms that the nuclear build programme is off the agenda for the foreseeable future, the ANC president pulled off another memorable coup de grace.

There is simply no money for such a prestige project whose motive can at best be described as dodgy.

High levels of corruption and policy uncertainties having previously dampened the appetite for investment, Ramaphosa and his delegation returned home from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in a buoyant mood, their confidence boosted by international investors’ promises to give the country another look.

Having ducked and dived for more than a year, Zuma finally appointed a commission of inquiry into state capture, as Madonsela had recommended. Even with the expanded terms of reference for the inquiry, there can be no further delays in probing the astounding findings in her report and taking appropriate action.

The decision by the full Bench of the Pretoria High Court to direct the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to charge Zuma with the 783 corruption charges he has been trying to evade for years also constitutes a significant step in cleaning up the legendary stables.

So, too, does the court’s judgment ordering the removal of Shaun Abrahams as the head of the NPA. After the court declared Abrahams’ appointment by Zuma invalid, Ramaphosa was directed to appoint a new NPA head. In the fullness of time, when Abrahams’ and Zuma’s appeals have been heard, the cleaning process will forge ahead.

Yes, the clean-up is in progress.


Can the ANC successfully fight corruption and allow itself to be accountable to the public?

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Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  jacob zuma  |  state capture

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