Muthambi, Zuma represent the worst of the ANC

Faith Muthambi. (Esa Alexander, Gallo Images, The Times, file)
Faith Muthambi. (Esa Alexander, Gallo Images, The Times, file)

The way Faith Muthambi betrayed her struggle comrade Phumla Williams is pretty much the way the ANC leadership has betrayed those who dedicated their lives to South Africa’s freedom and their children.

I was tempted to say that the Muthambi we heard described before the Zondo commission this week was the real face of the ANC – callous, crooked, conniving, power hungry and greedy. 

But I know so many decent, patriotic democrats who are still loyal to the organisation that it would have been an oversimplification. These are the people who were betrayed the most. Like Williams, many of these people still carry the psychological and physical scars of torture, solitary confinement and years in the bush or underground.

We should not forget that there was always this nasty part to the ANC. It manifested in the gross violations of the human rights of cadres in Umkhonto we Sizwe’s military camps in Angola and elsewhere, abuse that included vicious assaults, torture, incarceration, murder and executions. The perpetrators were never dealt with – sound familiar?

Jacob Zuma was from that side of the ANC. Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu brought out the best in the ANC; Zuma the worst. He did it for nine years, virtually unhindered by his party’s leadership.

The sick joke is that it was this president, steered by three crooked brothers who had robbed the state coffers of hundreds and hundreds of billions of rand, who then came up with "radical economic transformation" as a demand for the immediate emancipation of black citizens and identified "white monopoly capital" as their enemy. 

The naked truth is that nine years of Zuma ended in South Africa being poorer, more unequal and more polarised than when he took office. Land reform came to a virtual standstill, and those farmers who were given land were abandoned by the state and most of them failed. State institutions were hollowed out or simply taken over. The very fabric of our society was shred badly.

Three criminals who ran a parallel state

South Africans are a fiercely proud people. And yet Zuma and his cohorts gave our sovereignty on a platter to three criminals who ran a parallel state. Three crudely ambitious brothers from India sat in their obscene compound in Saxonwold, where Zuma visited them every week, and decided over Cabinet and senior civil service appointments and huge state contracts – and oversaw the humiliation of decent people like Williams, Mcebisi Jonas, Themba Maseko and many others of whom we’ll hear soon.

The state capturers and their lapdogs’ treasonous behaviour is now unfolding before two judicial commissions, but we’re still stuck with the destructive political culture of greed and twisted populism they gave us.

Some figures from inside the Zuma/Gupta axis are still in public life and are brazenly acting as if they were always on the side of the angels; people like "media mogul" Mzwanele Manyi, Cabinet minister Nomvula Mokonyane, ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, his deputy, Jesse Duarte, BLF’s Andile Mngxitama and several prominent ANC leaders in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.

At least we’re assured that the Zondo and Nugent commissions of inquiry into state capture and SARS won’t be a repeat of the whitewash that was the Seriti commission into the arms scandal. The two commissions represent a turning point of sorts. Those of us who still had some, have now lost all innocence.

The shocking testimony of Jonas, Vytjie Mentor, Maseko and Williams will hopefully soon be followed by that of people like Anwa Dramat, the former Hawks boss who just yesterday had trumped-up criminal charges against him withdrawn, Mo Shaik and Gibson Njenje, who were hounded out from the intelligence service after they started asking questions about Zuma and the Guptas, and Cabinet ministers who were fired at the insistence of the Guptas, like Siphiwe Nyanda, Nhlanhla Nene, Barbara Hogan, Pravin Gordhan and Ngoako Ramatlhodi.

We know today that honest civil servants and politicians warned against the Guptas’ quasi-coup more than seven years ago already, and that it was still allowed to continue unabated right up to the end of the Zuma presidency.

We heard that even one of the most honest and straightforward Cabinet ministers, the late Collins Chabane, was forced to execute instructions from Saxonwold. We’re hopefully also going to hear from other Cabinet members who had acted similarly.

Questions to those who kept silent

Cyril Ramaphosa got rid of most of the worst culprits in the Zuma cabinet, SARS, the intelligence services and state-owned enterprises. But here’s a deeply depressing thought: all those ANC Members of Parliament who had shrilly and enthusiastically backed Zuma and covered up his sins are still in Parliament.

How can we trust those still in positions of power who had kept schtum when the integrity of our state was being violated and billions were stolen from the poor?

We should ask this question of particular individuals – like the jovial media darling "Uncle Gwede" Mantashe, during the Zuma years the party’s secretary general and today minister of mineral resources. We know from what we’ve heard so far from testimony before the two commissions that he was told about the abuses, but did nothing; if anything, he helped sweep it under the carpet. Remember how he dismissed the ANC veterans when they demanded action against Zuma and the Guptas; how he criticised Ahmed Kathrada for speaking out?

Unfortunately, President Ramaphosa cannot escape similar questions. He was Zuma’s deputy from 2014 until 2018, and only mumbled his objections after Gordhan was fired. What does this say about him?

There is broad national consensus that criminal prosecutions of the main suspects are now an urgent necessity; that at least the big skelms like Brian Molefe and key Gupta-lieutenants Salim Essa and Duduzane Zuma should be in court in the next few months.

The problem is clearly that the institutions that have to investigate and prosecute these crimes, the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), were part and parcel of state capture and today simply don’t have the capacity to handle serious cases.

It would be a really good move if our big auditing firms and legal practices seconded accountants and lawyers to the state to strengthen these institutions quickly. We simply cannot wait years before we see some of these crooks being led through the prison doors in orange jumpsuits.

Ramaphosa’s broom has swept well since he became president and the ANC will probably get well over half the votes in next year’s election. But it is becoming clearer by the day that the cancer of corruption, greed and abuse of power has now spread to all the organs in the body of the ANC. It is probably irreversible.

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