Pieter du Toit

The ANC’s collectivism will eventually kill it

2019-03-23 13:54
The ANC flag is photographed. (Thapelo Maphakela, Gallo Images, file)

The ANC flag is photographed. (Thapelo Maphakela, Gallo Images, file)

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The ANC clings to corruption-tainted leaders, destructive policies and outmoded ideas because of its belief in collective leadership, writes Pieter du Toit.

On Friday Fikile Mbalula, a constant in the orbit around and in the Cabinet of former president Jacob Zuma, told the state capture inquiry how he stood up in a meeting of the ANC's national executive committee and told it how uncomfortable he felt at being contacted by the Guptas.

He was referring to a phone call in October 2010 when Ajay Gupta congratulated him on being appointed to Cabinet – before Zuma could officially share the news with him.

And then he told Deputy Chief Justice Ray Zondo that he "couldn't understand" why the 80-member strong NEC, the party presidium that seemingly holds more sway in national affairs than Cabinet, couldn't "stand up" when state capture became all consuming.

In reaction, Mbhazima Shilowa on Twitter reacted by asking why people are surprised that nobody joined the valiant Mbalula in mounting a resistance campaign, tellingly saying that Zuma was supported in countless motions of no confidence during his time of office in the ANC and Union Buildings by the same people sitting in the NEC.

But Derek Hanekom, minister of tourism who lost his job during the purge of March 30, 2017, responded, saying that not everyone stood idly by, saying that there were some ministers who voted against Zuma, inside the NEC and in Parliament.

Shilowa and Mbalula should however know: they were on opposing teams at Polokwane in December 2007 when Zuma rode to victory on a wave of support generated by Cosatu's Zwelinzima Vavi, Mbalula's ANC Youth League and Blade Nzimande's SACP.

When Zuma ousted former president Thabo Mbeki, Shilowa sat behind the then president in the cavernous and stuffy marquee tent, not quite knowing how to react at what was happening. And Mbalula crowed and cheered, gleefully pointing fingers at the media telling them: "We told you so!"

Mbalula might have been slightly peeved at being told by one of the Guptas that he was going to Cabinet, but beyond that, what did he really do to resist state capture? And is there any evidence that Mbalula's objection was based on principle, constitutional or otherwise?

No, but there is ample evidence that the Zuma years of excess and corruption didn't have any real cauterising effect on the man's morals.

In fact, he was so snug and happy in the inner circles of the Zuma networks that he openly and proudly campaigned for the extension of the Zuma dynasty by mobilising against Ramaphosa, whose campaign was equally vocal and transparent about the need to curb corruption and graft.

Jean le Roux, a former News24 investigative journalist (with a penchant for identifying fake news) helpfully dug out those tweets, with Mbalula crying out for more of the same.

Of course, shortly before Ramaphosa managed to edge out Zuma and the rent-seekers at NASREC in December 2017, the public protector found that Mbalula violated the Constitution by soliciting a "loan" of almost R700 000 from Sedgars Sport while he was minister of sport – the company was a supplier to the South African Olympic team.

Then there's the still unanswered questions about his trips to the US to go and watch his hero Floyd Mayweather box, how Mayweather's trip to South Africa was funded and who paid for his lavish and blinged excursion to Russia for the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

And when then public protector Thuli Madonsela asked Mbalula about the NEC meeting where he spoke about the Guptas? He denied it.

The answer to Mbalula's question (how long did he dwell on it?) therefore lies in Shilowa's response: there was collective inaction about Zuma, and almost everyone was in on it.

More than anything else, the ANC have held on to a mantra of collective leadership and responsibility over the years. This was of course necessary in the 1940s and 1950s when the organisation attempted to unite oppressed South Africans against the apartheid government, and even doubly so during the years of banishment when unity and cohesion meant the difference between life and death.

But in a modern-day, post-apartheid South Africa it has meant that the organisation is saddled with corrupted, dishonest and a fair amount of useless deadbeats. And it means the ANC has to cling on to individuals who do not advance the integrity of the party (as its election guidelines stipulate).

That's why Zuma was kept safe for almost a decade. He was shielded from scrutiny by the indecisiveness and lack of principle by collectivism.

In the aftermath of the ANC's disastrous showing at the 2016 municipal elections, the party's efforts to try and explain that the crippling losses it suffered was not due to the Constitutional Court's admonishment of Zuma or the steady revelations about state capture were almost comical.

And on Friday, Ramaphosa had to tell the media with a straight face that the ANC is committed to fighting corruption. And who was standing next to him? (Read Jan Gerber's excellent report about it here.)

The ANC clings to corruption-tainted leaders, destructive policies and outmoded ideas because of its belief in collective leadership.

And in an environment where everybody is part of the collective leadership, nobody takes responsibility. Or charge.

- Pieter du Toit is News24's assistant editor for in-depth news.

Read more on:    pieter du toit  |  anc
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