Blame, Blame and Zuma

2017-04-04 10:57

President Jacob Zuma is rightly the first person to blame when anything goes wrong in South Africa. He is also not the first person to applaud when some things go right. Zuma is a colourful individual. I have recently named him "a very inconsequential old man". Indeed he is. No other individual has tested our constitutional democracy more than he has personally and institutionally. Not even Nelson Mandela used the direct language Zuma now uses on black economic emancipation.

Zuma's name will remain in front pages of our history books for both the good and the not so good. Legal jurisprudence that have been developed by our various courts as a result of him testing the meaning of our various laws especially those that had been indispute are many. It is through Zuma we got to finally get to end the legal debate over the powers of the public protector for instance.

Today we are speaking about a different consequent however. The downgrade of South Africa's dollar denominated sovereign credit rating to below investment grade (junk) status by S&P over political instability in high towers. Still the 92% of South Africa's debt is not in the junk category and it remains attractive at this hour. There is a lot of the doomsdaying in the media and social commentary. The public should be careful with the panic and misinformation clouded in political bias from outside and within the ANC.

It is important to understand that the downgrade is not based on Zuma policy change or lack of fiscal prudence. S&P got shivers for their clients money based primarily on the infighting inside the ANC after the cabinet reshuffle which Zuma did as the Cape High Court found, "it was procedural and legally sound and within his powers to do. What did this court case by the DA add to the panic by foreign investors? Any?

What is also clear is that the ANC infighting is not beneficial to the country as it is a governing party by a huge majority. Foreign investors get extremely nervous and indeed money prefers calm and predictable environment. It will be a lie to claim South Africa is today politically predictable. It is influx and anything can happen including a presidential recall which will be extremely disastrous and likely bloody in the streets.

When Secretary General Swede Mantashe told the media that, the reshuffle cabinet list was likely done from "elsewhere" - he directly implied corruption and sinister forces influencing the president adding to the ongoing media narrative that the president seeks his counsel from his friends the Gupta family first. This rang like the South Korean debacle which has seen its president impeached and removed from office after it was discovered she relied on her private friend as a key advisor on state affairs.

Without a doubt this must have made foreign investors nervous as Mantashe is the nerve centre of the ANC.

Mantashe's words were immediately followed by deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa who stated his disapproval for the reshuffle and rumours of his likely resignation started circling in the media until his office denied it.

The bulwark of the ANC in parliament, a body which elects a state president, chief whip Jackson Mthembu weighed in and also strongly denounced the reshuffle suggesting it was likely corrupt.

This showed a divided ANC and one which was eating itself. Zuma triggered the unblanketing of the fractures and competition as the ANC elective conference nears this December. There is also clearly an unworkable term arrangement between being an ANC leader and country president. This has a lot to do with the noises we have today. The battle for power inside the ANC means power in government and thus patronage that comes with it. The ANC can no longer ignore the conflict between the serving term of its leader and that of country president. These have to be in tandem in length and period.

As all have come out to blame Zuma for exercising his powers to have a team he wants, as he also did when he on his own accord appointed removed Finance Minister three times in his cabinet, what we should not miss is that the blame for market panic also belongs to Ramaphosa, Mantashe, Mthembu and indeed all those who turned the Memorial Service of Ahmed Kathrada as a Zuma bashing to the world. Did all these people think S&P is not listening to them? Three top leaders of the ANC went out to tell the world that the ANC is not well and it is in massive disagreement. The implication was that the new Finance Minister and the rest of the new team are not to be trusted, they are in for crime and grime. S&P heard them all.

Nelson Mandela effectively ran through his term as president with all credit ratings agencies at below investment grade status. Thabo Mbeki got country out of that deep end but it took a lot of pain we are currently paying for. There was total lack of investment in all main aspects of the economy and Mbeki has to privatise a lot of SOE and state assets. From education to health the budget was belt tight. We got an Eskom that couldn't keep lights on for industry and homes. Pleasing debt is not an easy thing.

Now we have this credit rating and the next step from citizens should be to support Gigaba completely and fully and stop the rumour mongering and economic sabotage social media posts especially from ANC members who send the appearances of being in the know. Some of these members claimed various corrupt acts by Gigaba over nuclear built programme and others. This is ANC members deliberately using misinformation for factional reasons which are economically damaging to country. Surely such should be a crime.

The proper decorum for leaders is to put country first and not their December ambitions first. At this point, a simple message that would have welcomed Malusi Gigaba into to his hard ministry and offer him all the support he may need would have been what S&P swallow. None of that came but open political warfare.

The ANC ought to start taking South Africans and country more serious and be careful with words. One can not blame the dark western forces on this one - the ANC as a collective brought this downgrade to South Africa. Their utterance, non-utterances and massive ambitions may end up crippling the state and throw country into an inferno. It is not clear how those who are demanding an undignified exit of Jacob Zuma think would happen to his millions of very eager supporters, who view this as a witch-hunt.

Why is there no discussion about what happens then after wearing black? How do you explain Zuma's removal in these 9 provinces - on the ground. The masses remain with Zuma and stubbornly so. It is easy to blame him and him alone, but what of the others who fuel instability by either demanding to hold on to their political jobs or else, or those who are hell bent to rule come December 2017.

A divided ANC is not an asset to country. The messier the ANC is, the investors are correct to feel nervous that the country may flame up. The ANC must unite even if its itching for some. This is the only way South Africa will prosper. The only way.

He or she that will deliver the January 8 statement in 2018 has even a harder task to unite this ANC at war with itself. It may just be Malusi Gigaba and not your 'fav'.

@mbindwane

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