The perilous game of politics

2018-06-17 06:09
Former president Jacob Zuma dances after appearing in the Durban High Court on Friday. He again declared his innocence and threatened his accusers in a speech to his supporters. Picture: AP

Former president Jacob Zuma dances after appearing in the Durban High Court on Friday. He again declared his innocence and threatened his accusers in a speech to his supporters. Picture: AP

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Comrade Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, immediate-past president of my organisation, the ANC, and of my country, the Republic of South Africa: I greet you, my leader, and offer you my best wishes for a long, healthy and happy life. I extend this salutation in an epoch that has seen the party of liberation suffer a substantial loss of confidence among the populace and, especially, among the youth. Corruption has been costly.

I pray that, as you seek to find your way forward, after scaling the summit of power in the land, you will tread with the utmost caution. There are perilous paths that we may not traverse. Do give us hope, comrade leader, not only in the words you utter, but also through your actions. Give us the assurance that nothing you plan to do will harm our country, our beloved ANC and, indeed, your good self. Scarred your reputation is, but it is not beyond salvaging. You are essentially a good human being.

My forebodings about KwaZulu-Natal, the province of our common provenance, are ominous. Lethal factionalism in our body politic has claimed too many lives already, especially in KwaZulu-Natal – more than 43 councillors alone in the past five years. And no end is in sight in the savagery. The police are still desperately trying to find the authors of the relentless fatalities.

In the midst of the deep fissures that sear the political landscape in KwaZulu-Natal, it is deeply concerning to see you hobnobbing with disreputable and dubious characters, some of them plain scoundrels, as you surely know. I entreat you again, my leader, to refuse to be a party to, let alone a cause of, the exacerbation of an already perilous political crisis. Blood flows all too easily in our province.

When you mounted the stage to address your followers after your court appearance in Durban a week ago, I watched with a sense of sadness as you addressed your supporters. I thought to myself: “However aggrieved Msholozi may feel, he cannot possibly be trying to incite an agitated crowd against his own comrades.” Senginyathelwa yizinsizwa zakithi, you led the chant to the roaring approval of the rabble. Kanjani? (How can that be?) Msholozi can’t be saying his comrades are responsible for him being in court on corruption charges.

My thoughts surged back to find the Msholozi who had intervened so decisively to help end the internecine carnage that was caused by conflict between Inkatha Freedom Party and ANC supporters on the eve of our liberation.

Before I get to the nits and grits of my message to you, comrade president, allow me to dispose of a niggling distraction. Repeatedly, you tell whoever cares to listen that you are a victim of baseless corruption accusations that no one bothers to substantiate. I would like to respectfully remind you that, when Judge Hillary Squires delivered his verdict in the trial of Schabir Shaik, he said there was “overwhelming evidence” of a corrupt relationship between Shaik and yourself. Shaik appealed the verdict in the Supreme Court of Appeal, but lost.

What would have been expected of you, my leader, was that you take the earliest opportunity and get to court to clear your name. This, regardless of whatever conspiracy Bulelani Ngcuka and Leonard McCarthy may or may not have hatched against you in 2007.

Park that.

Without doubt, the most damning corruption allegation against you emanates from your unfortunate relationship with the Guptas. You allowed them to make lucrative financial arrangements for members of your family in companies they owned that were involved in or planning business contracts with state enterprises at a time when you were the head of government. There is no record in any register showing you declared your interest in any of these relationships.

Secondly, to achieve their nefarious objectives, the Guptas used your publicly declared friendship with them to ensure placement of venal individuals in institutions they had targeted for pillaging. Finally, they used the power of their relationship with you to ensure the removal, by yourself, of conscientious professionals who refused to abet their looting. The names of Mcebisi Jonas and Pravin Gordhan come to mind.

This was the essence of state capture. It robbed citizens of many billions of rands. Without the cover you provided, the Guptas would not have been able to cause the damage that will, conservatively, take at least five years to fix.

The Guptas inflicted more than economic damage. The spectacle of ministers of government and senior officials thronging the Gupta residence to discuss matters of state constituted a national shame. So also were the Gupta-organised jaunts to Dubai and elsewhere. By any definition, this was corruption.

What motivated the scripting of this piece, my leader, was the concern shared by many of our comrades who have been watching some of your recent activities in KwaZulu-Natal with trepidation. The potential to incite ethnicity is monumental. As is the case with racism, tribalism is alive and kicking, and is evident from outbreaks from time to time in all parts of the country. Nothing but its studied and careful handling is required.

Apropos KwaZulu-Natal politics, the object of my trepidation, history has hard lessons for the ANC with respect to factionalism and a preoccupation with ethnic consciousness.

Before Natal was called KwaZulu-Natal, during the 1920s and 1930s, the upsurge in Zulu “ethnic nationalism”, as recorded by respected Professor Shula Marks, left the ANC in debilitating schisms. The Reverend John Dube, founding president of the ANC in 1912, left the national organisation to form the Natal Native Congress. Also in existence at the time was a Natal African Congress.

The trade union movement was not spared the affliction. The Industrial Commercial Workers Union split into several fragments that formed, among other organisations, the ICU Yase Natal.

The fragmentation of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal happened at a time of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, and the impact on socioeconomic conditions in the broad mass of the working people was palpable. In the meantime, the white administration was passing repressive legislation to tighten the stranglehold on oppression. It was during this period, too, that land acquisition was being consolidated at a furious pace.

The notorious Hertzog Bills, which in the words of SA History Online were “actually intended to deprive the African of the last vestige of citizenship and render him a foreigner in the land of his birth”, received scant attention in Natal, where local leaders were plaintively trying to negotiate “improvements” of essentially bad laws.

The revival of the ANC in the 1940s, especially after the establishment of the youth league, ended the era of fragmentation and accelerated the tempo of political activity.

It is the kinds of experiences described above that we dare not allow to recur. To honour the memory of our venerated comrades who departed this year, we may wish to commit that we will not do anything that can only lead to the destabilisation of their beloved ANC and, most importantly, South Africa.

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