A year of impunity

2016-12-11 06:03
President Jacob Zuma waves to his supporters as he arrives at the party’s traditional Siyanqoba rally in Johannesburg in July this year, ahead of the local municipal elections that proved disastrous for the ANC. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

President Jacob Zuma waves to his supporters as he arrives at the party’s traditional Siyanqoba rally in Johannesburg in July this year, ahead of the local municipal elections that proved disastrous for the ANC. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

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This is the year in which the Nkandla judgment summed up the state of our nation: A nation no longer easily outraged. Sadly, it has all been centred on President Jacob Zuma.

The president has split public sentiment down the middle and the narrative has sadly been reduced to good against evil, change against status quo and competence against utter mediocrity.

Some highlights of the year:

. Zuma kicks off 2016 by trivialising the inexplicable firing of then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. Despite the flight of capital and collapse of the currency, he reckoned everyone was exaggerating the situation. That gave an idea of a wounded president, angry that his ministerial appointment – and therefore an attempt at control of Treasury – had failed. The Public Investment Corporation confirmed later that R100 billion was lost to the economy. No consequences. Impunity strike 1. Life goes on.

. Zuma is found guilty of violating the Constitution. Shortly thereafter, he calls an April Fools’ press conference where he dupes the country into believing that he would take some responsibility for the mess that the Nkandla saga created. This was not to be. A half-hearted apology was offered and the ANC followed suit to accept same. Impunity strike 2. Life goes on.

. The ANC loses three metros with a budget worth billions during the August 3 local government elections. All analyses pointed to the ANC’s loss of support owing to the scandals surrounding government in general and Zuma in particular.

. The Auditor-General reports on billions being wasted by municipalities and rising unemployment costs. While analysts were careful not to attribute these terrible losses to Zuma alone, it was clear that he was the elephant in the room. Zuma never bothered to address the nation or even ANC members or supporters on his role in the electoral catastrophe suffered by the ANC. Instead, the ANC conjured up a strange term – collective responsibility – as the
biggest cover-up of our time. Impunity strike 3. Life goes on.

. Zuma is accused of handing over control of the government to the Gupta family. Revelations by former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and former government communication boss Themba Maseko point to a glaring state capture by the Guptas.

In what exceeds any definition of a whitewash, the ANC called on people to approach it with evidence and moved swiftly to close down the probe owing to lack of written evidence.

The Public Protector commenced a parallel investigation in March and by October she was struggling to get any clear answers from the primary accused: the president. She released an inconclusive, but explosive, report: The State of Capture. Only those blindly loyal to Zuma didn’t see this as an indictment. But still, no consequences for Zuma. While the national executive committee (NEC) rushed to welcome the remedial action of a commission of inquiry, Zuma once again defied the ANC and announced that he was taking the report on review after he failed in court to stop its release. Impunity strike 4. Life goes on.

. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is charged by the Hawks and charges are later withdrawn. Gordhan does not resign. When he presents his mini budget, Zuma is captured by the world media taking a nap.

Embarrassing revelations about the fights between the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) emerge. The Gordhan issue is egg on the face for the administration.

Zuma does the unthinkable and prepares to suspend NPA boss Shaun Abrahams, who had decided to lay charges against Gordhan. Impunity strike 5. Life goes on, at least for Zuma.

. Numerous civil society organisations call on Zuma to resign. Key ANC leaders throw their support behind Gordhan, thwarting Zuma’s plan to fire him. ANC veterans make impassioned calls for Zuma to resign.
As many as 101 struggle veterans sign a petition asking for a consultative conference of the ilk of Morogoro. They meet with Zuma and they change their tune, despite public calls made by many of them for him to step down. Impunity strike 6. Life goes on.

. The ANC NEC discusses Zuma’s position, with at least four Cabinet ministers calling for him to resign. After a weekend of long knives, the NEC backs Zuma again, explaining that the unity of the movement is more important than dissecting the elephant.

Impunity strike 7 – and this is a conservative estimation of the number of times that impunity has reared its ugly head this year.

Whether it was the dismissal of the Constitutional Court judgment, the reference to small skeletons by the head of the ANC Women’s League or the brazen withdrawal of South Africa from the International Criminal Court, this year made impunity the gold standard of our democracy in crisis. To reverse this deepening culture of impunity is going to take a miracle.

Tabane is author of Let’s Talk Frankly and anchor of Power Perspective on Power FM, Sundays to Thursdays, from 9pm to 12am


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