AN ANC veteran who supports President Cyril Ramaphosa but is growing tired of the slow pace of the Thuma Mina project, recently told me something that made a whole lot of sense.
“The president cannot afford unity. Who do we want to unify with? The crooks? Unity for its own sake is untenable. We can’t have unity between the corrupt and the anti-corrupt.”
The veteran made the case for Ramaphosa to step up the pace of getting rid of corrupt comrades in the ANC and elevating the “good” ones to crucial positions. If he drags his feet, Ramaphosa will “paralyse good people”.
Since the ANC’s Nasrec conference in December 2017, the lie has been peddled that unity will be good for the party and by extension, the country. The logic, if you can call it that, behind the unity rhetoric is that the ANC will tear itself apart if it continues with bruising leadership battles between two factions, and that it is a good thing that the top six officials ended up being from both the Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma camps.
This is, of course, nonsense. Anyone who supports Ramaphosa and believes that he is the right man for the moment to steer South Africa back onto a path of order and economic growth, will agree that he needs all the support he can get to back his cause.
The fact that Ace Magashule, the former premier of the Free State who is implicated in a litany of corruption scandals, is running Luthuli House as the secretary general of the ANC, is a major headache for Ramaphosa.
Let’s take Bosasa boss Gavin Watson’s death as a case in point. On the one hand, Ramaphosa has rejuvenated the National Prosecuting Authority under advocate Shamila Batohi to fast-track cases like the delayed Bosasa prosecution and other cases that implicate ANC politicians and backers. My understanding is that Watson would have been added as an accused in the corruption case against former Bosasa executives.
On the other hand, the ANC, through its press statement sent out after Watson’s tragic death last week and through Nomvula Mokonyane’s eulogy at his memorial service last Friday, elevated Watson to a national hero. Mokonyane is back at Luthuli House, after Ramaphosa dropped her from his cabinet and she declined to go back to Parliament.
With Ramaphosa allies Senzo Mchunu and Zizi Kodwa gone from the ANC headquarters after their deployment to the executive, the president’s support in the top echelons of the party has been diminished. His deputy, David Mabuza, and ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe, as Mineral Resources minister, have also been assigned executive duties.
Magashule, who is shamelessly undermining Ramaphosa’s leadership whenever he gets an opportunity, has brought back Mokonyane and Malusi Gigaba, another Ramaphosa casualty, to bulk up Luthuli House. Between Magashule, his deputy Jessie Duarte, Mokonyane and Gigaba, Ramaphosa is risking losing control over the party.
The ANC’s comments about Watson in the wake of his death have been hugely problematic for a party that pretends it is doing its best to fight corruption.
The truth of the matter is that people like Magashule, Mokonyane and Gigaba have been implicated in corruption and state capture, and will use the ANC’s platforms for self-preservation. Speaking on behalf of “genuine ANC members”, whoever they may be, Mokonyane’s speech at the Watson memorial was so devoid of truth that you would be forgiven for thinking she lives in a parallel universe. In Mokonyane’s world, Watson was an innocent bystander in the Bosasa saga; a victim of the racist media who “never loved” the Watson brothers for their participation in the struggle.
The furthest she would go about the litany of allegations against Watson, was to say “his creator” will deal with what he and COO Angelo Agrizzi were up to.
“Who are we to judge?” she said to loud applause. In Mokonyane’s world, a criminal justice system and the rule of law have no place in SA. They are an impediment to businesspeople like Watson, who were freedom fighters in a previous life and are therefore above the law.
Of course, Mokonyane herself is implicated in receiving bribes from Watson over the years. She promised last Friday to “tell my story” one day. Ramaphosa should take her up on this offer before he continues to seek unity in the ANC.
• Adriaan Basson is editor-in-chief of News24 and author of the forthcoming book Blessed by Bosasa.