The Elephant Is Not Turning: Who intervenes when the ANC’s collective conscience fails?

2016-03-29 16:11

The ANC Women’s League president and minister of social development Bathabile Dlamini recently made a startling admission to an SABC journalist. The admission was along the lines of the infamous former Premier of Mpumalanga Ndaweni Mahlangu, who said he thought it was “OK for politicians to lie”. Dlamini said: “all of us in the NEC have our small(ernyana) skeletons and we don’t want to take out all skeletons out because all Hell will break loose."

Her statement lay bare what many suspected, the ANC NEC were a bunch of turkeys that could not vote for Christmas for fear of being eaten. Holding Zuma to account for his problematic relationship with the Guptas would imply giving up their own ill-gotten gains and undue benefits. It would mean severing themselves from lucrative patronage networks which are proliferating at the speed of light across all spheres of government. Pot. Kettle. Black.

It has become the norm to quote former presidents when speaking of current affairs. This tradition is led by one of our former presidents who has found himself a new role as a Facebook writer who rewrites and edits entire chapters of history at will. One of our other former presidents, Kgalema Motlanthe;  once shocked many  when confronted about the slow pace of the ANC in dealing with corrupt leaders, “the ANC intervenes only when your conscience fails to guide you”, he said. He was alluding to the commonly held belief that the ANC is a self-correcting organisation but is like a large elephant that takes a long time to turn around when it realises that it is going the wrong way.

After viewing the spectacular failure by the ANC National Executive Committee to hold President Zuma to account for allegedly allowing the Gupta family to run amok, many around the country were asking themselves a simple question: “Who intervenes when the ANC’s collective conscience fails?”. The NEC, in their statement reaffirming their support for President Zuma seemed unaware that the “Zupta” saga had weakened the confidence of the nation in the party and also in the government it leads.

Over the last few weeks, South Africa has had to watch a string of allegations being made about how members of the Gupta family have made promises of getting people appointed to the cabinet in return for some favours from which they stand to benefit financially. They are even accused of having done some of these things in the presence of the president himself. This episode of the never-ending drama series we refer to as the #ZumaYears is a sad throwback to the days of one Schabir Shaik. Members of the Gupta family appear to control some decisions on cabinet appointments in the same way as Schabir Shaik controlled payments for President Zuma’s insurance, traffic fines, petrol and car wash bills.

We have had to endure Zuma’s uninspiring and frankly infuriating question and answer session in parliament where he failed dismally to address the questions directed to him about Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas admission that the Guptas tried to offer him the job of the then Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. That alleged offer was made a full two weeks before Nene was fired! Then Zuma said that he saw no reason to distance himself from the Guptas- the same people who were reprimanded by the ANC for “name-dropping” their way into getting a private plane with their guests to land at Waterkloof Air Force base, the same people who have previously hired one of his wives, the same ones who currently employ/partner with his son in clinching many controversial deals, the same Guptas…

Some are pinning their hopes of NEC action on a pending Constitutional Court judgement on the president and parliament’s treatment of the Public Protector report on the Nkandla scandal where funds in excess of R247m (at last count) were misspent on improvements and “safety features” that in all honesty are worth less than 10% of that astronomical figure. This hope is bolstered by the unexpected concessions made by the president through his advocate Jeremy Gauntlett. Gauntlett stunned all observers when he admitted that the Public Protector’s findings were binding, that the president is required to take remedial steps, that the president accepts his obligation to pay back the money, and perhaps more shockingly that he believed that parliament was wrong to ignore the report and that Police Minister Nhleko’s infamous “firepool” demonstration video and alternative report exonerating Zuma was “illegitimate, unreliable and unlawful”, and could be considered “heat and dust”!. This rattled the advocates representing parliament and the minister of police. Although it is widely expected that the ConCourt will find that the president did indeed violate his oath of office as the EFF and others have asserted, the ANC and its parliamentary caucus are not expected to treat the judgement with the respect it deserves.

One can almost imagine the predictable chorus of disdain towards the court if they find against Zuma and against parliament. “We did not vote for this judiciary” “the judiciary is over-reaching and meddling in politics” .We will see once more  the results of a parliament that has repeatedly failed to hold the executive and the president to account and an NEC which is too preoccupied with self-preservation to care about the welfare of the nation.

Parliament and the NEC of the ANC did nothing when Zuma claimed to have secured a bond to finance the Nkandla renovations (it doesn’t exist).They said nothing when he then said he didn’t know anything about the renovations. They were equally unmoved when Zuma defiantly declared in parliament that there was “no money that he was going to pay” . They were not moved as Zuma laughed his way through a televised assault by police officers on opposition MP’s who had disrupted his speech. No real movement when he fired Nene and plunged the country and it’s currency into chaos. They were not moved when time drilled holes into his “Brics Bank” defence for firing Nene. (the “urgent post” Nene was supposed to fill has failed to materialise). It would not be entirely surprising if nothing concrete is done by the powers that be to stem the tide of the latest sewerage that is overflowing onto the streets.

Perhaps we shouldn’t hold our breath, this jungle may be on fire but the elephant is not turning.

*Akani writes in his personal capacity.

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