YOU have to feel for chief government spokesman Themba Maseko.
Yesterday it fell to him to announce, explain and justify Cabinet’s decision to back the National Police Commissioner, Jackie Selebi, despite the fact that a search warrant and an arrest warrant against him have been authorised by the courts.
And, it is despite the fact that the acting head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Mokotedi Mpshe has suggested he should take a leave of absence while his case is investigated.
Maseko said: “Confidence in the commissioner still exists in government until such time as concrete evidence is put on the table. The review (by Mpshe) will be a very important step in that direction.”
And, he added: “The principle the president is making here is that allegations will be made against government officials, (but) he must apply his mind and reassure the country that he does not just wake up and take decisions based on unsubstantiated allegations.”
Which is curious given the President’s preparedness to take the drastic step of firing his then deputy, Jacob Zuma, based on a court judgement against someone else and the (at that time) possibility of future prosecution.
He was right to take action against Zuma and he would be right to take the more limited action of asking Selebi to take a leave of absence during the current investigation.
It would signal that he accepts that it is a serious matter for a senior law enforcement official to find himself under suspicion by a security agency.
The decision to back Selebi so unquestioningly appears defensive and is a strong signal to Mpshe that the President expects his commissioner to escape unscathed from the Scorpions investigation.
Mbeki showed leadership when he had to stand firm against Zuma. He inspired confidence with his decisiveness. The Selebi matter calls for more of the same.
South African politics is very simple when you have all the facts …
Zuma and Shaik exchanged encypted faxes and cheques. Ngcuka investigated Shaik and Zuma. Shaik went to jail. Ngcuka resigned. Mbeki replaced Ngcuka with Pikoli. Ngcuka went into business. Mbeki appointed Mrs Ngcuka as his vice-president. Mrs Ngcuka was placed in charge of infrastructure spending. Ngcuka became chairman of a construction company. Pikoli investigated Zuma. Zuma ran for President. Selebi did not investigate Zuma. Agliotti bought Selebi a very expensive shirt. Selebi did not investigate Agliotti. Kebble funded the ANC. Masethla got a fax from someone. Mbeki fired Masethla. Zuma and Masethla become friends. Kebble was killed and Pikoli arrested Agliotti. Agliotti phoned Selebi because they were friends. Pikoli investigated Selebi. Mbeki stood by Selebi. Masethla went to court. Mbeki ran for president. Selebi continued to wear Aigner shirts. Pikoli obtained a warrant for the arrest of Selebi*. Mbeki suspended Pikoli. The Scorpions case against Selebi was placed under review.
See? Simple, really … NOT!
THE ANC leadership has called on the party’s members to unite behind whatever leadership decisions are made at its December conference.
The caution to members is an unusual step which suggests that the leadership is alarmed by the prospect of a deeply divided party emerging from the conference.
The conference will approach the matter of who will lead the ANC with less certainty than ever, setting the scene for embittered losers to chart a new course.
ANC tradition has always ensured a smooth succession years in advance of a handover with leaders agreeing behind the scenes not to fight openly for the top job.
But this time around, it appears that President Thabo Mbeki, his ANC deputy Jacob Zuma, businessman Tokyo Sexwale and others are preparing to go to the wall over the presidency, forcing a vote on the conference floor if necessary.
The effect of such a rapturous break with tradition would be to test the loyalty of those who think their candidate is being denied his (or, indeed, her) destiny.
Most vocal are the members of the self-styled political militia who are campaigning for Zuma. They have more or less made it clear that if the “unstoppable Tsunami” which is washing Zuma onto the shores of public life is interfered with, they will fight to the end.
The ANC’s Youth League — latterly a home for the politics of self-indulgence — went so far last week as to state that even if Zuma were in the dock on corruption/fraud/theft charges, it would continue to campaign for him.
What is absent from the whole leadership fracas is any proper discussion about who would best lead the country or how they would approach salving the country’s political wounds.
Perhaps such niceties have become irrelevant as politics and ambition merge into a rapacious green-eyed monster.
TWO quite alarming headlines appeared in this week’s Sunday Times.
The first read “ANC wants media to be controlled” while the second read “Press ’enemy of the people’ — SABC”.
The first story threw light on the conclusions of a commission at the ANC’s policy conference in July, which wants the party to review its policies in the media at its December conference.
In short, the commission wants a review of the adequacy of media self-regulation; it wants an investigation on whether remedial measures are necessary to promote the constitutional right to dignity and privacy; and it wonders aloud about “The need or otherwise for a media tribunal to address these matters”.
The report is under discussion by party branches.
The second story reports on the decision by the SABC to withdraw from the South African National Editors Forum after its defence of the Sunday Times exposes on the drinking and thieving of the Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.
In a letter announcing the decision, the SABC’s boss, Dali Mpofu said: “We cannot remain quiet while our mothers and democratically chosen leaders are stripped naked for the sole reason of selling newspapers.”
Leaving aside the matter of whether or not Mpofu is the right man to publicly discuss the “stripping naked” of mothers of the nation, it is an extraordinary statement.
Curiously, neither the ANC nor Mpofu appeared to be the slightest bit ruffled when graphic descriptions of the ANC’s deputy president stripping naked, having unprotected sex, showering and the like were aired.
The SABC worked overtime to bring the latest sordid details to the nation.
There’s a saying used to describe a boxer with a glass jaw, which captures this mood: “They can give it, but they can’t take it.”