AFTER months of prevaricating, the ANC has finally charged its Youth League leader, Julius Malema, for his outrageous behaviour.
In a statement issued on Friday, the chair of the party’s disciplinary committee, Derek Hanekom, said Malema would be charged with “various violations of the ANC constitution, including bringing the ANC into disrepute through his utterances and statements on Botswana and sowing divisions in the ranks of the ANC”.
It is clear that the straw which broke the camel’s back was Malema’s stated intention to interfere in the internal politics of Botswana.
Malema said earlier this month that the neighbouring country was a threat to Africa because it was discussing a possible military base with “imperialists”.
“That puppet government [of President Ian Khama] is going to undermine the African agenda.”
He went on to call for Khama’s removal in a “democratic manner.”
“We know that Botswana is in discussions to open a military base for the imperialists and the present government of Botswana has the potential to co-operate in this manner,” he said.
That a leader of some stature in South Africa’s ruling party should announce plans to topple a neighbouring government is clearly totally unacceptable and the ANC is right to take Malema to task.
What is less clear is which of his other “utterances” will be dealt with.
Will the ANC have the courage to rein in Malema for his bombastic calls for nationalisation which have seriously damaged this country’s prospect of attracting foreign direct investment?
Will the party have the courage to call him to order over his outrageous racist statements which run counter to the party’s philosophy of non-racialism?
Having finally grasped the nettle, the ANC would be wise to go all the way, to mix a metaphor.
This is a fight to the death. If Malema survives unscathed because of weak prosecution or a reluctance to bring the full might of party discipline to bear, he will emerge stronger than ever.
He will then make a very damaging bid to unseat the party leadership at its Manguang conference next year, leading to more uncertainty over leadership and the direction this country is taking.
South Africa is a robust democracy, but the ANC must understand that the messages its senior leaders send out are taken to be the views of the governing party.
The consequences for South Africa of Malema’s attack on the fabric of society have already been severe. Let’s hope this action is not too little, too late.
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s decision to abstain from public discussion on matters of great public importance is reinforcing the view that South Africa has no decisive leadership.
Over the past several weeks, devastating criticisms have been levelled at several of the government’s most senior leaders.
The public protector, Thuli Madonsela, has released her final report on how key leaders wrongly consented to the signing of two dodgy leases to the tune of R1.78-billion for police buildings in Pretoria and Durban.
Her report makes it plain that, between them, the Minister of Public Works, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, and police commissioner General Bheki Cele flouted regulations, ignored tender rules and seriously abused the trust placed in them to use public money wisely.
In Mahlangu-Nkabinde’s case, Madonsela specifically directed the president to take action. In Cele’s case, she called on the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, to act.
Zuma has not only failed to act, but has offered no explanation of how he intends to deal with this matter, showing contempt for Madonsela and for the public.
There are other signs that Zuma is failing to exercise presidential authority.
Three of his ministers have decided to challenge the ruling of the Competition Commission on Walmart in what can only be described as an act of immature political defiance against a government structure.
That a foreign investor can one week be allowed by a regulator appointed and regulated by the government to invest, only to find that the government challenging its own decision the next, is deeply perplexing.
That the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, is not part of this action suggests that it does not enjoy the support of Zuma’s entire cabinet.
It is worth asking if the absence of leadership has become so grave that Zuma no longer has authority over all his ministers.
Zuma’s strength is his ability to bring together those who disagree. His weakness is that he is unable to take a position which might alienate one or another member of the coalition that brought him to power in Polokwane.
Thus the ANC’s youth leader, Julius Malema, is able to say or do almost anything without consequences.
Left-leaning ministers who see foreign investors as evil imperialists are allowed to go to court to challenge decisions made by government bodies.
And appalling financial decisions such as those made by Cele and Mahlangu-Nkabinde go unpunished.
Zuma had better wake up to the fact that he is putting his weakness on display. He will not survive as leader unless he shows he has the mettle for the job.
@This is a draft leader for the Sunday Times
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ON SAPA-PR-WIRE
LATEST PROPOSALS TO THE PROTECTION OF INFORMATION BILL
24 June 2011
The African National Congress has given very serious and careful consideration to many concerns expressed about certain provisions of the Protection of Information Bill [B6B-2010]. These concerns were expressed by members of the ANC, ordinary members of the public, civil society organizations and Members of Parliament, amongst others.
Given our history and the often horrific experiences we have had with our security services; and given the provisions of our Constitution which enjoins us to “recognise the injustices of our past”, the African National Congress wants to change the culture of secrecy.
The ANC believes that decisions taken by state departments and civil servants must be both justifiable and be able stand the test of accountability.
To this end the ANC, therefore, proposes that:
1. The scope of application of the Protection of Information Bill, insofar as it applies to the authority to classify information, such scope must be drastically reduced to apply only to the country’s security services.
2. An opt-in clause be provided for in the Bill which will allow organs of state or entities of state to apply to be allowed to classify information on good cause shown; 3. A retired judge be provided for in the appeals process; 4. The minimum sentences provisions in the Offences clause be removed, with the possible exception of the crime of espionage. Moreover, we must ensure that the penalties and sanctions in the Offences clause meet the test of proportionality; and 5. The Bill’s provisions must ensure that this legislation is not abused such that it is used to hide corruption and other serious offences.
The ANC believes that these proposed changes to this Bill will help meet the difficult and competing demands of national security within a rights-based, constitutional democracy such as ours.
The Office of the ANC Chief Whip
ANC Parliamentary Caucus
Parliament of the RSA
Cape Town, 8000
THE results of the local government election suggest that little has changed. The ANC lost a percentage point or two compared with it’s 2009 national election result and it held onto all the major metros it already controlled.
The DA gained, but more at the expense of other opposition parties, taking only marginal votes from the ANC.
But there are many more strands to this election than this superficial reading.
The ANC retained its influence by taking some dramatic steps to improve its image among voters. President Jacob Zuma went on record last weekend saying that he now “understood” why there had been such wide protests over service delivery.
This was a major acknowledgement following as it did on years of denial that was a serious delivery problem.
Zuma also hinted strongly that Sicelo Shiceka, the ineffectual minister charged with local government would go and the ANC dumped mayors who had failed, such as Johannesburg’s Amos Masondo, in favour of new faces.
All of these concessions resulted from the reality that the opposition DA has managed to re-imagine itself as a party which first and foremost cares about the delivery of services.
It was no longer a hollow claim made for propaganda purposes. The DA was able to point to a track record of success in Cape Town. It’s message lost some of its power as it dallied over the enclosure of toilets in Makaza, granting the ANC a desperately needed lifeline.
There can be no question that there will be an urgency in both ANC and DA-led councils to demonstrate probity and measurable delivery. The hot breathe of the opposition on your neck is, ultimately, the surest inspiration to properly represent the people.
The eradication of the smaller parties, including the IFP, Cope and the ACDP, by the DA, places South Africa on the path to a two-party electoral system. This will further focus electoral politics and bring more pressure on parties to meet their fulfil promises or face censure from voters.
The danger which now lurks is that parties might retreat into racial categories, with the DA representing minorities and the ANC representing the black majority. This would be tragic proof of the longevity of the apartheid paradigm.
It would ossify politics, limiting the opposition’s growth and it could push the ruling party increasingly into racial politics to bring out its base.
The rise of populist politicians who are not afraid to play the race card has already begun.
But the politics of delivery might yet prove more powerful than that of racial allegiance. Next time around, will failure be tolerated?
*This is a draft leader for the Sunday Times
IT was the week that the theatre of the absurd played itself out on television screens across the country.
In the dock sat the ANC Youth League’s Julius Malema. He was being questioned, goaded and baited by an assortment of angry men with a palpably poor grasp of South African history.
They wished to prove to the court that Malema had intended to incite violence by singing a traditional struggle song including the line “shoot the boer”.
They must have imagined they would have it easy. A few pokes of the stick and Malema would lose it, breathing fire at the judge, the judiciary, the courts and their clients.
They were wrong. There is the Malema of the mass gathering — the populist who knows how to stoke up the fires of anger — and then there is the cunning politician, who calculates, charms and expresses himself with candour and seriousness.
Much to the horror of the counsel for Afriforum — the organisation bringing a charge of hate speech against Malema — it was the charmer who sat in the dock.
Malema would not be goaded. He adopted a sympathetic, slightly patronising attitude as he explained to his interrogators the history and meaning of the ANC’s songs.
As a court case, it sucked. As a reality television show, it gripped the nation.
It might have been given the title: “Can You Keep It In: The show where people you loathe try to get you to lose your cool.”
Beyond the farce of the television experience were more layers of absurdity.
There was the absurdity of someone having to justify the singing of a song before a court of law in a country where freedom supposedly reigned.
There the was the absurdity of Malema and the ANC’s leadership — advocates of statutory controls over the media and the “protection” of government information — now offering po-faced arguments for the unfettered freedom of expression because, they argued, the nation was mature enough to handle it.
What is clear is that somewhere along the path to freedom, this nation has taken a wrong turn.
Julius Malema has made statements that are outrageous and hurtful. He showed poor political judgment by singing the “Shoot the boer” lyrics at a time when there were so many farm killings.
He has been widely criticised for doing so — even by the ANC.
But making the singing of a song a matter of law is a grave mistake. It opens the door for the courts to scrutinise and rule on the acceptability of public utterances.
Today it will be “Shoot the boer”, tomorrow it will be commenting that “the minister is a corrupt, idiotic buffoon”.
In an open society, matters of public taste belong in the court of public opinion.
The developing culture of regulation and litigation will suffocate free expression with ghastly costs in the long term.
We will become a society where what can or cannot be said is decided by who has the most lawyers and the most money. We don’t want to go there.
*this is a draft leader for the Sunday Times
Here’s the interview with Jacob Zuma that we carried in the Sunday Times today:
President Jacob Zuma’s presidency is facing major challenges, including the public sector strike and growing dissatisfaction among some of those who helped place him in power. Ray Hartley and S’thembiso Msomi spoke to him at his office in Tuynhuys
RAY HARTLEY: The climate around the strike has been one of heightened rhetoric and there have been some exceptionally strong statements. Are you aware of the statements that Zwelinzima Vavi made about the “predator government” – that we are being run by “corrupt and demagogic political hyenas”?
JACOB ZUMA: The right for workers to strike is very important and we respect that.
The problem is then in the conduct of the striking people. I think that is where the problem arises of strong statements.
In old democracies, there are frequent strikes and it is not a big deal because they are purely industrial strikes. I think it important to accept that ours tend to be political and that is why the statements become very aggressive, very political.
It is an issue that the unions themselves have got to look at because of the changed circumstances from the struggle to now. How do you conduct a strike from that point of view – lest you are looked at as part of the opposition one way or the other?
The other element which I think is very important is: how do the striking workers respect the rights of other sectors or other citizens of the country? Do I as a citizen have no right to go to the hospital and get treatment – because the workers are striking?
Do we, when we strike, have to allow a strike to become violent – not just violent but actually have the lives of people being taken away? Read More…
THE disintegration of the ruling ANC’s alliance with Cosatu and, to a lesser extent, the SACP, continues to gather momentum. Is it good or bad for the country?
The argument can be made that the end of the alliance would lead to a breakdown in social cohesion as the lid is opened on a
viscous vicious contest between left and right.
The past two weeks might well have given South Africans a bitter foretaste of a future of protracted labour action which becomes dangerously politicised. It is not hard to picture the full might of organised labour unleashed on the state without the restraint of the alliance.
But would it have to end badly?
There is the possibility that the release of these tensions, which have been kept behind closed doors with diminishing effectiveness, into the public domain might be just the tonic for our moribund political institutions.
An open contest at the polls between a left-leaning labour movement and a realigned center would offer South Africans the political choice that they are presently denied by the continuation of the Alliance.
The political competition that would result would force parties to sharpen their policies and throw out unelectable leaders. They would have to measure every word against its consequences at the ballot box.
This would have a sobering effect on the national political debate which has deteriorated into an amusing but ultimately pointless exercise in chauvinist name-calling.
The nation got a glimpse of how political competition would sober up politics during the last election when Cope launched an assault on the ANC’s core constituency for the first time. Politicians were measured and the name-calling was kept to a minimum lest it offend potential voters. What was missing was any serious difference in policy between the ANC and Cope, which mimicked the ruling party’s “broad church” approach.
It would be different if a labour party were to stand against the ANC. In such a scenario there would be a clear distinction between the social-democratic left and the centrist nationalists. Voters would be making a choice that could result in a real difference to the way in which the country would be governed.
The ANC would have to think twice about allowing leaders to use public platforms to advocate nationalisation and land seizure without compensation as Youth League President Julius Malema did this week.
Helen Zille’s DA, which is going from strength to strength in the Western Cape, has showed how voters will choose one party over another based on their governance records if there is the real prospect of a change in government.
The DA would in all likelihood become a third “liberal” party in the national contest for power were the alliance to give way to open competition for power.
All of this remains academic as the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP continue to proclaim their loyalty to the alliance while privately plotting to diminish each other’s grasp on state power.
What is changing is the public perception of the alliance. There are few who continue to believe the love story when all they see is infidelity.
Several weeks have passed since our reporter was arrested, held without access to his lawyer for eight hours, awoken for interrogation at 2.30 AM and finally released on the orders of the High Court. Not one single person in the government has expressed regret at how this incident was handled. There has been not one whisper of sympathy from those who are in a position to take a stand on this matter. I find that sad.
It suggests to me that there is consensus in the ruling party and amongst those in leadership elsewhere in society that this sort of treatment of a journalist is acceptable.
But what makes me feel a terrible emptiness is the continuation of the legislative and administrative onslaught on the press by way of the Protection of Information Bill and the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal because this is being done despite an incredible public outcry.
Opposition to these measures has come from every single newspaper editor in the country, from the World Editors Forum and the World Association of Newspapers – bodies which speaks on behalf of editors from the South China Morning Post to the New York Times – from the country’s leading authors, from diplomats including the US Ambassador to South Africa, from vice chancellors of universities, from the General Council of the Bar, which questions their constitutionality, from opposition political parties, from the business organisation representing our top 50 corporations and from countless others in civil society.
Yet there is a steadfast determination to proceed with these measures.
This suggests that there is a dangerous hubris taking hold within the ruling party. It believes that it alone is the arbiter of what is right or wrong in public policy. That the intellectuals and the editors are opposed to the measure merely feeds this feeling of standing alone for a righteous cause.
We are told that “the people” want this change and the intellectuals are resisting it. Apparently out there people are angry at the fact that corrections are published on page four instead of page three of the newspapers. Apparently the people are angry that documents are being leaked. We are supposed to believe that day and night they are begging the ruling party to take action and that this is now a national political priority.
In fact, nothing of the sort is taking place. There is no grassroots anger at the media, unless you include that which occurs when populist leaders call for it at meetings.
All of this is sophistry of the worst kind.
What is being manufactured in the mind of the public is a popular uprising against intellectuals. What is being concealed is an attack by a wealth-accumulating elite on those who questions their bona fides as champions of the poor.
It is deeply worrying. It is sad and it leaves me feeling empty.
THE beauty of the ANC’s freshly released document, “Media Transformation, Ownership and Diversity” is the party’s refreshing admission that it loathes criticism.
But to get to the honesty you first have to negotiate the doublespeak. The invention of the term “doublespeak” has been wrongly attributed to George Orwell. But Orwell did invent the notion of “doublethink”.
Here’s the sentence in which it first made an appearance: “His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them …”
The ANC’s document starts out as a sermon: “All of us have a responsibility to defend media freedom and editorial independence from any form of compulsion, be it political, economic or commercial.”
But the next paragraph starts with the telling qualification, “However”, and it is downhill from there. Sentences such as this appear: “(A) Cursory scan on the print media reveals an astonishing degree of dishonesty, lack of professional integrity and lack of independence.”
And: “The abuse of positions of power, authority and public trust to promote narrow, selfish interests and political agendas inimical to our democracy. This points to the fact that the problem of what is called ‘brown envelope’ journalism. This type of rot is a much more serious problem than the media is willing to admit.”
And the remedy? The “ownership and control” of the media must be addressed. “Freedom of expression needs to be defended but freedom of expression can also be a refuge for journalist scoundrels, to hide mediocrity and glorify truly unprofessional conduct. Freedom of expression means that there should be objective reporting and analysis which is not coloured by prejudice and self-interest.”
The proposal is that a Media Appeals Tribunal be established. Such a tribunal, the ANC is at pains to stress, would be accountable to parliament “instead of the ANC with all its bias and firm views”. It is hard to share the ANC’s faith in the independence of its MPs.
The truth about the media is very different to that which this document offers. The lion’s share of South Africa’s radio and television stations, which the ANC acknowledges reach an audience more than double that of print media, fall under the ambit of the public broadcaster, which some view as all but an official mouthpiece of the ruling party.
South Africa’s press is robust, highly competitive and diverse and, in the case of this newspaper’s owners, Avusa, has a strong empowerment shareholding.
But that’s not good enough. The ANC wants the mirror to say it is the fairest in the land, every hour, every day.