THERE are those who have tarred ANC Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, with the Zuma brush. They believe that he sold his soul to get the number two position on the Zuma slate at the ANC’s Polokwane conference in December 2007.
They are very wrong. Motlanthe has always been and remains very much his own man. He made this clear at the conference itself when he was the lone ANC leader willing to stand up and call the baying masses to order. He reprimanded them. They listened and sat down.
Since then, he has distinguished himself from Zuma with a serious of public actions that appear at odds with Zuma’s vague policy stance.
For one thing he has spoken out unambiguously against the likes of Julius Malema when they have sworn to “kill for Zuma”. Zuma himself was a little vague on this, preferring to explain away the militancy.
For another, he has spoken out clearly and unambiguously in favour of protecting judicial independence, a concept foreign to the Zuma camp who are trying the cow the judiciary into relieving Zuma of the burden of a corruption trial.
And, he has put some real policy on the table, proposing a sunset clause for affirmative action, something which will not sit easily with some of Zuma’s backers.
What distinguishes Motlanthe from Zuma is a clarity about what is or is not acceptable to the ANC. He creates the impression that he is holding the party together for the broad purpose of transformation while others appear to be steering it in their direction to accomplish narrow ends.
ON WEDNESDAY the trade union federation, Cosatu, says it will bring South Africa to its knees over high food and fuel prices.
Who exactly will be hammered hard by this latest protest action?
Businesses will be “brought to their knees” — all businesses, not just those that retail food products.
In a climate where small businesses are struggling to survive, a day of lost production will cost the economy dearly.
The civil service, particular those arms involved in the delivery of basic services such as sanitation, water and electricity will be “brought to its knees”.
Commuters — those entering or leaving the cities for work, some of it paid by the hour or by the day — will also be “brought to their knees” as they struggle to find transport.
Schools, where pupils are approaching exam time and where a day’s learning could make a major difference to a child, will be “brought to their knees”.
Across the length and breadth of South Africa, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who are trying to make this country work will be “brought to their knees”.
Can any of them change food prices or affect the price of oil? No.
Will their absence from production for a day have any affect whatsoever on these prices? No.
Will they be harmed, suffer loss of income, or be inconvenienced? Yes.
In short, Cosatu’s action is evidence that this so-called “labour movement” has become the instrument of a directionless and irresponsible leadership.
Lashing out at the country in general over prices that are the product of global economic factors out of the reach of its citizens, is a grotesque abuse of the public trust.
This same leadership has spent the past two days “supporting” Jacob Zuma in Pietermaritzburg. We deserve better.
THIS afternoon, President Thabo Mbeki’s office issued yet another denial of allegations linking him to the arms deal.
The statement described allegations made in a Sunday Times article that Mbeki had received R30 million from MAN Ferrostaal as “a hotch-potch recycling of allegations that have from time to time been peddled against the government’s Strategic Defence Procurement Package.”
The statement goes on to quote an investigation conducted in 2001 by the Auditor-General, the National Director of Public Prosecutions and the Public Protector which concluded: “No evidence was found of any improper or unlawful conduct by the government. The irregularities and improprieties referred to in our report, point to the conduct of certain officials of the government departments involved cannot, in our view, be attributed to the President or the Ministers involved.”
But 2001 was a long time ago. Since then Mbeki has himself fired Jacob Zuma from the position of Deputy President after his financial advisor was found guilty of corruption related to the arms deal.
Zuma himself faces charges of corruption, suggesting that the 2001 report did not properly investigate the higher echelons of decision-making on the arms deal.
The investigation was not a public one which inspired confidence that all allegations had been properly dealt with.
The result has been that the cloud of suspicion continues to linger over the highest office in the land.
There is a very simple solution at hand: Government could convene a proper public inquiry headed up by a senior judge.
Inquiries such as these have been readily called on other matters where much vaguer allegations were made such as those that the former prosecutions boss, Bulelani Ngcuka, was an apartheid spy.
Mbeki must call such an inquiry with urgency
TODAY’S ruling by the Constitutional Court that documents seized in a series of raids by the (soon-to-be-disbanded) Scorpions are admissable as evidence against Jacob Zuma is a major victory for the prosecution. It will bring into play financial records, the contents of hard-disc drives amongst other things which will open up Zuma’s financial dealings to massive scrutiny.
We are talking about 93 000 documents that were seized and that have been placed under the microscope by the prosecution for several years now.
This just days before Zuma appears in court in Pietermaritzburg on Monday in what is likely to be the largest showdown between protestors and the judiciary in post-apartheid South Africa.
This trial will represent the last stand of independent public institutions against populist efforts to defend party officials from public scrutiny. The closing down of the Scorpions – which is to proceed despite more than 100 000 public submissions against the move to Parliament is a major step in this direction. It is hard to see how these raids would have taken place with the proper legal procedures being scrupulously followed were they not conducted by a specialised unit working hand-in-hand with prosecutors.
Finally there are reasons to be cheerful. There are the small things like the fact that the petrol price seems to have arrived at some sort of ceiling and may even start falling, and the fact that we beat the All Blacks at the House of Pain (Ok, that’s not a small thing). But then there are some bigger picture factors which are encouraging:
1. Some eight months after Polokwane, the sky has not fallen on our heads. President Thabo Mbeki and Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, appear confident that South Africa will hold its economic policy line. The voices of the left are sounding increasingly shrill. Silly rantings about the zero-rating of foods that are already zero-rated and calls for killing in the name of Jacob Zuma are not causing alarm so much as tut-tuts.
2. Zimbabwe is now involved in serious talks aimed at settling that country’s political crisis. It has only been a few days, so chickens ought not to be counted. But the fact is that Mugabe’s people and Tsvangirai’s people are right now seeking a way forward together. As soon as there is any advance on this front, the dividend for South Africa and this region will be phenomenal.
3. South Africa’s civil society is finding its voice once more. The likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu are speaking out fearlessly about what is wrong in the country and there is once more a sense that a democratic center is holding. There are other voices, such as that of former Education Minister Kader Asmal, who is spearheading a petition aimed at demonstrating support for our constitution.
And, new addition:
4. Inflation has been overestimated by two percent according to Investec. This means that we are in a whole lot better shape economically than we previously thought. This will have a positive effect on the interest rate climate and may even signal the top of that cycle.
Use it, don’t use it.
MEMO TO NEWS ED:
1. Let’s get to the bottom of last night’s cop shootout. Why did the Metro cops open fire on the police with live ammo? How many are dead/wounded? Is it true that the traffic police actively directed Joburg traffic into a gridlock by threatening motorists?
2. Police Commissioner in court today on corruption charges. Was Cabinet aware of this unfortunate timing when they renewed his contract for a year yesterday?
3. Why did Jacob Zuma threaten the judges of the constitutional court with a popular uprising against them? Why did he do this in a letter?
4. Latest on attempt by Cape Chief Justice to influence constititutional court judges in favour of Zuma. When will hearing into his behaviour take place?
5. Threats by head of SA’s biggest trade union, Cosatu, to kill for Jacob Zuma. Who does he want to kill? When will he start the killing?
“THE ugly incidents and scenes that have been visited on the people of Zimbabwe persuade us that a run-off Presidential election offers no solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis. The very legitimacy of a run-off election has already been severely compromised by the actions of both Zanu-PF militants and those state officials who do not even conceal their partiality in favour of the governing party.”
The words of Morgan Tsvangirai? Of Helen Zille? Or those of Gordon Brown?
Wrong on all three counts. These are the words that appeared in a statement released by the ANC yesterday.
They are words that will profoundly change the diplomatic climate surrounding Zimbabwe.
For the first time, Mugabe stands alone in Africa, the South African lifeline to legitimacy which has been maintained by President Thabo Mbeki finally severed.
For the first time, the world speaks with one unequivocal voice on Zimbabwe, acknowledging that Mugabe’s is a government prolonging its stay in power through unacceptable means.
The ANC statement was echoed by ANC President, Jacob Zuma, who said yesterday: “We cannot agree with Zanu-PF. We cannot agree with them on values. We fought for the right of people to vote, we fought for democracy.”
But the ANC’s words do not just provide hope to Zimbabweans, they finally break the great human rights drought in South African politics.
The ANC statement returns this country to its rightful place in world affairs — on the side of the people, in favour of democracy, believing in human rights and against the tyrants.
It represents welcome nourishment for a young democracy that has been starved of hope by years of Machiavellian diplomacy which has seen this country silent on human rights in face of world anger.
We must now return to our core values and stand by them whatever the short-term cost.
But then we did water the whole thing down at the UN …
WHILE the ANC and its president Jacob Zuma have gone some way towards restoring this country’s pride, the same cannot be said for our morally lame diplomats at the UN
They finally agreed to a fairly strongly worded UN resolution calling on Mugabe to “stop the violence, cease political intimidation, end the restrictions on the right of assembly and release the political leaders who have been detained.”
But only after excising a clause stating that “until there is a clearly free and fair second round of the presidential election, the only legitimate basis for a government of Zimbabwe is the outcome of the March 29 election.”
THE statement by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema that the youth league was “prepared to take up arms and kill” those threatening the presidency of Jacob Zuma would not normally be taken that seriously.
After all, the youth league’s leaders are no stranger to rhetoric and like all good populists they know that sometimes you have to go that extra mile to draw attention to yourself.
What is alarming is that Zuma sat passively by while this inflammatory rhetoric was uttered.
He did not rise to contradict it, to steer Malema in the right direction or to correct it in any way.
The message was clearly that Zuma had himself a little private political faction in the making that he was happy to indulge.
This absence of leadership in a moment when it was in dire need ought to worry the ANC.
Malema has spent the last 24 hours trying to distance himself from the remarks, “clarifying” what he meant.
But with every step forward, he appears to take two steps back.
In a podcast with Moipone Malefane of the Sunday Times (which you can listen to by going to http://multimedia.thetimes.co.za , he explained exactly who would be killed:
“We are prepared to kill these tendencies that manifest themselves in the form of trying to undermine the leadership of the black majority rule.
“We are talking about these consistent attacks and undermining of the leadership of the ANC not by court, by forces of darkness who want to project the leadership of the ANC as the most corrupt people who will never lead any successful government.”
This “clarification” has made things worse. By this definition, members of the opposition benches of Parliament or anyone else who dares criticise is ripe for execution.
Zuma must come out against this rhetoric and do so publicly. Unless he rather likes it.
IN October last year, eight high profile advocates from the Cape Bar publicly called on Cape Judge President John Hlophe to quit.
They said in a letter that was published in the Cape Times: “We believe that there cannot be public confidence in the continuation in office now of Judge Hlophe.”
They were speaking after the Judicial Services Commission took the disgraceful decision to cease a probe in Hlophe’s unseemly receipt of money from the Oasis group.
They wrote their letter of protest after former Constitutional Court Judge Johann Kriegler took the unprecedented step of writing in the Sunday Times that Hlophe’s was guilty of improper conduct and should not continue to serve on the bench.
These powerful voices from the legal fraternity, including advocates Jeremy Gauntlett, Peter Hodes, and Schalk Burger fell on deaf ears.
The Judicial Services Commission ignored their plea — and that of Kriegler, a highly respected senior judge and the man who ran South Africa’s first democratic election as head of the Independent Electoral Commission.
They failed in their duty to act and act decisively to remove this stain from the fabric of our society.
Now we are reaping the crop of weeds sewed by the JSC’s failure.
Had they acted with haste to deal with Hlophe last year, they would not now face having to respond to a complaint from the Constitutional Court that Hlophe tried to irregularly influence members of its bench with regard to a matter related to ANC President Jacob Zuma.
The tiny weed that could have been snatched from the ground last year has grown into a monstrous bush that must be rooted out at some cost to the nation.
This time the JSC must act quickly to show it is not a dog and pony show for the ruling party.
CAPE judge president, Judge John Hlophe, has disgraced the judiciary and must step down immediately.
What did he do?
According to a statement released by the Constitutional Court: “Judge John Hlophe has approached some of the judges of the Constitutional Court in an improper attempt to influence this court’s pending judgement in one or more cases …”
The cases related to the legitimacy of search and seizure raids carried out by the Scorpions on properties belonging to ANC President Jacob Zuma and the French arms company, Thint.
More from our story:
The statement did not reveal which of the 11 Constitutional Court judges had allegedly been approached. The cases in question were heard by the court between March 11 and March 14 and related to search and seizure raids at properties belonging to Zuma in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal and at the Durban office of his attorney Michael Hulley on August 18 2005.
This claim, made by the highest court in the land, suggests that this man totally unfit to run a tuck shop, never mind the Cape judiciary.
That no politician from the ruling party has spoken out against this shocking conduct is evidence that this sort of mafia-style interference is acceptable.
Shame on you.