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
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
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…
This weekend the Sunday Times reported how supporters of the ANC Youth League’s Julius Malema had begun a campaign against the promiscuity of President Jacob Zuma under the guise of an anti-Aids slogan “one girlfriend, one boyfriend”. More than one youth league leader spoke of the need for leaders who lived this message.
There can be no doubting that the league has decided it wants Zuma to be replaced as ANC leader at the 2012 conference, if not before.
But the decision to open up a new front against Zuma while still fighting in the trenches with the left, might be a mistake. Whoever they choose as a candidate to stand against Zuma will not have the backing of Cosatu, the SACP or those loyal to Zuma. That doesn’t leave very many standing.
And, you can be sure, Zuma will smile on the outside and be the reconciler, but the knife work will begin to diminish Malema’s influence, perhaps even remove him entirely from the organisation.
Malema may be the only one making the running in the party, but he does not yet have enough momentum to stand alone against the many enemies he is generating.
This is the full text of the apology that the ANC’s disciplinary hearing wants Julius Malema to issue to the organisation and the public at large:
I, Julius Malema, apologise to the President of the ANC and the Republic, comrade Jacob Zuma and to the membership of the African National Congress and the public in general for the statements and utterances that I made on 11 April 2010 at the ANC Youth League Limpopo Provincial Congress implying that the ANC Youth League has taken a position against the President of the ANC.
I accept that these statements had the effect of undermining the stature of the President of the African National Congress and of the Republic. It further may have had the effect of undermining the confidence of our people in the leadership of the ANC and of creating serious divisions and breakdown of unity in the organization.
I make this apology unconditionally as I accept that as a leader of the ANC and of the ANC Youth League my conduct and public utterances should at all times reflect respect and restraint. I accept one of the key principles of Congress leadership as outlined in Through the Eye of the Needle, a policy document adopted by the 51st and 52nd National Conferences of the ANC, that “an abiding quality of leadership is to learn from mistakes, to appreciate weaknesses and to correct them.”
I have learned from this mistake and therefore submit myself to the discipline of the ANC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ON SAPA-PR-WIRE
OUTCOME OF THE ANC NATIONAL DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE ON THE HEARING OF COMRADE JULIUS MALEMA
On the 3 and 11 May 2010 the National Disciplinary Committee (NDC) of the ANC convened to consider charges against comrade Julius Malema (the Respondent). The charges had been brought by the National Officials of the African National Congress (the Complainant).
On 3 May 2010, the NDC heard and ruled on procedural matters presented on behalf of the Respondent.
The final NDC panel that heard the case consisted of cdes Derek Hanekom (chairperson), Ayanda Dlodlo and FÈbÈ Potgieter-Gqubule. Read More…
THE Cabinet – which serves at the pleasure of president Jacob Zuma – has (would you believe it!) decided that he will not be sanctioned for failing to declare his interests on time.
According to government spokesman Themba Maseko, Zuma was not to blame. No, it was pesky “anomalies” in the executive code of ethics which caused the delay. Apparently these “anomolies” only affected Zuma and not his predecessors who filed their interests on time.
“The presidency and the minister of justice and constitutional development will review the code to address the gaps that have been identified in the public protector’s report,” he said.
This essentially means that Zuma can do what he likes because any finding against him by the Public Protector will go to Cabinet where it will be quashed. Not good.
TODAY the Sunday Times reports that the ANC’s youth league leader, Julius Malema, is expected to plead guilty at a disciplinary hearing on Monday.
Malema is being hauled over the coals for a series of outrageous statements, including his public support for Robert Mugabe and comments that former president Thabo Mbeki was more tolerant of blustering rhetoric than president Jacob Zuma.
Malema is staring down the barrel because he faces a really tough committee which includes Collins Chabane, a minister in Zuma’s office, who is a political rival from Limpopo as well as Susan Shabangu and Zola Skweyiya who have already publicly rebuked Malema for earlier comments.
The strategy of a guilty plea appears to have been devised by ANC treasurer general, Mathews Phosa, who is set to represent Malema at the hearing and it is a wise one because it may result in leniency.
The league has a second strategy up its sleeve: It will claim that it has already apologised for the statements before the ANC leadership and that the hearing is not necessary.
The ANC believes the hearing is an internal matter, but there is immense public interest in the outcome because it will indicate just how much weight Malema’s aggressive policy platform carries in the ruling party.
THE ANC has set the 5th of May as the date on which it will begin disciplinary proceedings against its errant youth leader, Julius Malema.
The charges revolve around Malema’s deliberate breech of an ANC instruction not to incite race tensions following the murder of Eugene Terre Blanche and his open support for Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
What is not immediately clear is just how committed the ANC is to imposing discipline on Malema.
A statement issued after the ANC’s top leadership met with the leadership of its youth league read: “The ANC has preferred charges against the ANC Youth League President, Cde Julius Malema. In this regard, we would like to restate that issues of discipline in the ANC belongs to the structures of the ANC and are therefore not matters of the public or the media.”
This request for privacy is wishful thinking by the ANC. The fact is that this matter is of great interest to all who wish to ascertain which path the ruling party intends leading the country down.
If it were to be phrased crudely, the question on the lips of the nation is this: Does our future belong to those who would like to nationalise the economy, support Robert Mugabe and stir up racial tensions or not?
The meeting between the leaders gave some insight into the answer to this question.
What is known is that the ANC’s secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, missed the bulk of the meeting with the league because he had to attend the graduation ceremony of one of his children.
The absence of Mantashe, both because of his official duties and his low tolerance for the likes of Malema, does not bode well for the disciplinary process.
Some accounts of the meeting suggest that the league mounted a defence of sorts — to the effect that Malema was speaking on behalf the the organisation and not off his own bat.
This would be an extraordinary step in any organisation as such discussion usually only takes place within the confines of the official proceedings.
Such a contribution ought to have been ruled out of order and reserved for the proceedings themselves.
When May 5 comes around, the country would like to see the ruling party re-establish order.
The ANC needs to decide on and vigorously pursue a value system that the majority of South Africans can buy into, one which is unequivocally against racism and intolerant of rabble-rousing populism.
This applies to the disciplinary hearing, but it also applies beyond the doors of Luthuli House.
The country expects government and the President to provide strong and clear leadership in an environment where there are challenges to the stability of the country.
For nearly a year now, the Presidency has played host to a Planning Minister, but no plan has yet emerged as Trevor Manuel appears caught in an endless cycle of consultations with parties who contest his authority.
Zuma must bring all of this uncertainty about the direction we are taking to an end by providing clear leadership and spelling out a vision for this country that we can all help achieve.