Tag Archives: Zuma

South Africa – untangling the twisted webs of corruption and conspiracy while wading through a lake of personal bitterness

Review of R.W. Johnson, How Long Will South Africa Survive? The Looming Crisis, London: Hurst and Co, 2015.

There is never a dull moment when you read a book or an article by R.W. Johnson.  The language is always pithy, the focus strong, detail well-researched and the conclusions leave you in no doubt as to where he stands – usually in a pulpit of his own construction bellowing his highly personal opinions on whatever subject gripped him.  This time it is Zuma’s and the ANC’s South Africa under the spotlight and he has very deliberately recycled the title of his 1977 book on the future of apartheid – a book not popular with those fighting apartheid because of its stark realism about the entrenched power of apartheid South Africa. For a decade it appeared to be vindicated by the staying power of the National Party, but then it appeared less powerful in its message when, within 13 years of its publication,  a combination of economic, international domestic and military factors led to the historic decision by De Klerk to unban the ANC and start the process of dismantling of apartheid and the political, civil but not necessarily full economic emancipation of the black majority.

The end of apartheid and the reasons behind it are revisited, very selectively. As always with Johnson there is much posturing and the adoption of positions that he then undermines page or two later.  So, on page seven we are told that as a challenge to white power “the Soweto uprising failed completely” – something with which I would disagree as it set radicalised young black South Africans and that many went abroad to join the ANC or became the leaders and foot soldiers of the UDF in the mid-1980s.  But then on page eight we are told “after the Soweto uprising nothing was ever quite the same again domestically” as the temperature “of the entire black resistance movement had risen and stayed at its new level”. Both can’t be right. But you get used to that sort of thing throughout the book.

Much of the book is a detailed – and at times obsessively and monotonously so – account of the webs of corruption, patronage and factionalism that are the core elements of the power in the ANC under Zuma. He rightly pulls no punches in describing the corruption, tenderpreneurship, appointment of incompetent cadres to key jobs and general political corruption of the Zuma ANC and public service – one might point to the promotion to key positions of the likes of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the ANC cats-paw as Chief Operating Officer of SABC ( see pages 113 and 144) or to the endless appointments and sackings of police, intelligence and  the National Prosecuting Authority heads.  Johnson describes the influence, access to contracts and insider information  of businessmen like the Gupta Brothers – now infamous because of the Guptagate scandal over use of an air force base during a family wedding. He unravels the webs of shareholdings, contracts and investments that ties Zuma and other leaders to each other and to powerful business interests.

Zuma’s wheeling and dealing within the ANC, between factions and with traditional leaders and rich entrepreneurs is set out with strong supporting evidence.  It paints a picture of a movement and a president mired in graft and intent on the retention and extension of his power through any means he can get away with.  Cabinets are reshuffled with incredible regularity to ensure he remains at the top of the pile and to punish those deemed to be insufficiently loyal or those who have endangered the political or economic interests of his allies and clients – like the Guptas.  Johnson describes  how, after Zuma’s victory over Mbeki at the Polokwane conference of the ANC, the “party’s great regional barons and mayors” who opposed Mbeki’s more centralised approach had come to the fore – the Mabuzas, the Magashules, Mkhizes and others.  These are the political allies and clients through whom he rules and from whom he gets support and other forms of payback.

Zuma is portrayed as a would-be Zulu King, which is beguiling but far less convincing. He certainly has an extensive Zulu support network and will retire in splendour – if not indicted and coinvicted for corruption when he leaves office – to his Nkandla complex.  But I think the emphasis  on Zulu tribalism driving much of what is happening in the ANC is an exaggeration when you consider the need, which Johnson again details himself, for Zuma to build alliances with leaders in Mpumalanga, Free State, North-West and Northern Cape as well as KwaZulu.  he needs alliances of party barons across South Africa and a crass tribalism based on his Zulu support base would not ensure his power. He is adept at using a variety of means to engender and retain support, and largesse towards leading Zulu powerbrokers and his home province ais among those means.  But tribalism would not win him friends outside the Zulu community and, having used alliance building to defeat and incumbent president, he is too wily to resort to a Zulu supremacism which would alienate four fifths of the population, so for me the argument that Zulu triablism is a driving force doesn’t ring true.

There are seams of gold in the book, but to get to them you have to hack your way through a great deal of  bitter and opinionated dross.  A psychiatrist would have a field day examining the reasoning behind much of the abuse heaped on anyone Johnson dislikes from Archbishop Tutu, who he says as an inveterate headline grabber, to to “vulgar” communist Kgalema Motlanthe, and Rob Davies with his “mechanical rigidity”. People cannot just be criticised for policies, statements and actions but absolutely condemned ad hominem. Much of it is crass, as crass as his baboon comment in the London Review of Books when writing about African migrants in the Cape. One also has to wade through a limitless lake of bitterness about what has happened to South Africa sine 1994 – expressed in pained, personally affronted terms that suggest that Johnson’s vision of a liberal-democratic paradise that awaited the new South Africa has been systematically and deliberately destroyed. It is as though apartheid and its consequences – political, economic, cultural and psychological – never existed or if they did were never quite as bad as they were painted in comparison with the sheer awfulness of Zuma’s South Africa. It is as though the ANC had a clean sheet to start with that they have soiled and ripped.  South Africa has huge problems, is becoming more corrupt and less democratic but it is not beyond redemption and is not worse than it was under the National Party – in myriad ways it is better but there is much that needs to be exposed and fought.

This personal bitterness is mixed  with an unreconstructed Cold War mentality and obsession with communist control of the ANC during the liberation struggle and now.  This is high contested territory, but my view has always been, and is becoming strengthened as time goes on, that  it was the ANC tail that wagged the communist party dog and not the other way round.  The ANC used and benefitted from the organizational, tactical and theoretical skills of the SACP and from the Soviet backing it brought. The SACP gained influence, recruited or coopted ANC leaders into the party, including Mandela, but never gained total control or decisive influence. This is shown by the neo-liberal economic dogma at the heart of ANC economic policy, the unbridled pursuit of personal wealth and the use of instruments like Black Economic Empowerment not to distribute wealth, land and  empower the poor and marginalised black majority but to deracialise wealth and privilege at the top of the class structure – to open up areas of business, public service appointments and wealth accumulation to a new black elite of senior party members and their clients, not to radically restructure the economy along the lines of the Freedom Charter. As the allegedly attention-seeking Desmond Tutu said,  the ANC elite stopped the National Party “gravy train only long enough to get on”.

It is, I stress, a book worth reading for the light it sheds on the development of the networks of power and corruption, the stunning incompetence of government and the threat this poses to any vision of a more equal and democratic South Africa.  But you have to be prepared to shrug off the personal attacks and the bittern disappointment that leaos out from practically every page.


Keith Somerville, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies.





South Africa – ANC says media ganging up on it

Mail and Guardian

ANC cadres in government can expect a media training course to help them counter “escalating ideological and political attacks” against the party.

The ANC says the media has been ganging up on the party, and they want to make it compulsory for ANC cadres deployed in government to go on a media training course. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

In its discussion document on the battle of ideas, media transformation and diversity and accelerating digital future released on Monday ahead of its national general council on October 9 to October 12, the ANC expressed its unhappiness with the consistent negative coverage by the media on the party and the government under President Jacob Zuma.

The ANC government has over the past few years come under criticism on a number of issues, including the electricity crisis, the slow pace of economic growth, the killing of striking workers in Marikana by police and the spending of R246-million at Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla.

“The news media has been filled with raging attacks on the nature and character of the movement. Opposition parties who lost the elections have been provided with ample space to question the outlook of the mass democratic movement and substitute with their own visions. There is a ganging up on the ANC and the movement’s representatives by the media analysts, media commentators, the ultra left and ultra-right forces. All the media outlets, including unfortunately the public broadcasting outlets are dominated by the persistent attack on the NDR [National Democratic Revolution],” read the document.

But the ANC insists it has done a lot more positive things, which are deliberately ignored by the media. It want its cadres to tell the good story themselves.

To set the agenda in the national discourse, the party believes all its cadres “must be obligated to attend media coaching and training”. The party complains that its spokespersons remained largely lone voices, as there was no co-ordinated machinery that drew on the collective political and ideological base of the movement.

“As a result, the ANC has failed so far to set the agenda in the national discourse through the limited dialogues on all media platforms. The ANC has not effectively demanded its rightful share of the media space. In many instances the right to reply to baseless attacks have not been followed upon.

It is now usual to hear one-sided discussions, attacking the ANC, in print, radio and television platforms without ANC cadres and spokespersons participating. There is a need for co-ordination of the participation by ANC cadres on the different platforms where the ANC voice is in deficit,” reads the document.

The party is also proposing a review on government policy that mandates placements of advertising on national newspapers, saying this reinforces media monopoly.

“These so called national newspapers are not available in all local municipalities and rural areas. This policy therefore is not reflective of the real media landscape in our country, in terms of national coverage platforms.

To transform the way government communicates, to its citizenry, the party proposes the development of a National Government Communications Policy to provide a framework for communications at different spheres of government.

“The national government communications policy should provide for the use of all official languages and all platforms to reach all citizens”.

The party has reiterated its view that the existing self-regulatory mechanism [Press Ombudsman and Press Council] remained ineffective and that it needed to be strengthened. The document raises concerns about the continuing dominance of the media by the big four namely Naspers, Times media Ltd, Caxton and the Independent Group, which has changed ownership to Sekunjalo.

“The print media is still dominated by four big players. These companies also dominate the entire value chain of the market especially printing, distribution, advertising and research. This integration and the very market structure is perhaps the biggest barrier to market entry and potentially show possible anti-competitive behavior. Other mainstream media players include the M&G Media and TNA media”.

South African Editors Forum [Sanef] chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela said the organisation was humbled by the fact that the governing party was leading a discussion among its members on media issues.

“Whatever the direction or conclusion of the discussion, it should be within the parameters set by the Constitution. We hope there will be due regard to the important role the media plays in society more broadly and in enhancing the quality of our democracy. The quality of our democracy is measured not only in holding regular clean elections and socioeconomic empowerment, but also on how the state respects the media’s right to remain critical without worrying about advertising threats.

“There is a real danger that some threats – whether they materialise or not – could result in financially distressed outlets resorting to journalistic niceties in their coverage. To paraphrase UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, ‘let journalism thrive’. We hope the governing party will assist us in making this call a practical reality. We look forward to the outcome of their debate,” said Mkhabela.

South Africa – Malema says he will see Zuma in court


“Let’s meet you in court,” said Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema at the close of this afternoon’s question-and-answer session with President Jacob Zuma in Parliament. 
Malema got the last word after Zuma, who was asked when he was going to pay back the money for Nkandla, referred to the parliamentary process that is currently under way. 
Although speaker Baleka Mbete had not “recognised Malema”, he stood up and said: “It is very clear that we are never going to get an answer. Let’s meet in court.” 
In his reply, Zuma also answered that the Public Protector’s report had stated that he should instruct the minister of police to determine how much he should pay back for “security upgrades” at his home in Nkandla. 
This was despite the Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, pointing out last week that her report did not say this. 
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane corrected Zuma, saying that Madonsela’s report required him to determine, with the treasury’s assistance, how much he should pay back. 
The sitting took place with members of the controversial Parliamentary Protection Services standing guard outside the doors of the National Assembly. A DA member commented that he recornised two of the new recruits – former SAPS members – mostly dressed in white shirts and black pants, from a previous sitting of the house, when the EFF MPs were forcibly removed. 
After Malema asked his question and Zuma said that the parliamentary investigation was still under way, EFF members repeatedly rose for points of order even though Mbete had not recognised them. 
Opposition MPs – especially United Democratic Movement MPs, whose leader Bantu Holomisa was unable to speak due to the constant interjections – became visibly fed up with the EFF’s behaviour.

South Africa – two Nkandla tours but no answers

Mail and Guardian

Both parliamentarians and selected media have now been inside Nkandla, but no group has emerged with answers to the most important questions.

Both tours have to date failed to address Madonsela’s finding that Zuma was guilty overexpenditure on the Nkandla project. (Madelene Cronje, MG)


On Sunday, the gates to the presidential homestead in rural KwaZulu-Natal were cracked open just wide enough to admit a small group of journalists to what the presidency considers the publicly-funded areas of the core compound.

The group included no representatives of the Mail & Guardian, nor any from City Press, the two newspapers most responsible for bringing the spending of public money there to public attention since December 2009.

As was the case when MPs were granted access last week – the first access ever granted to anyone not in the employ of the state or a Chapter 9 institution – the official media tour did not include the actual residences of the Zuma family, instead being limited to outside areas and structures built from scratch by the state. Through that omission it neatly avoided problematic features such as the (state-funded) air-conditioning units noted by investigators from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) in a report first made public in September 2014.

The media tour also did not include any answer from President Jacob Zuma on burning questions, such as why he initially told public protector Thuli Madonsela he was willing to repay taxpayers for the cost of building a larger cattle kraal (which he requested because the size of his herd had increased) then tacitly recanted.

Both tours – and the ongoing deliberations of Parliament’s ad-hoc committee on Nkandla – have to date failed entirely to address Madonsela’s finding that Zuma was guilty of an ethical breach for failing to protect state money from wild over-expenditure on the Nkandla project. Nor have any of the events and discussions addressed the findings of the SIU that Zuma’s personal architect and his agent in his dealings with the state on Nkandla was responsible for an enormous waste of taxpayers’ money – some of it money diverted from allocations where it would have contributed to regenerating city centres and protect against the disaster of dolomitic sinkholes.

Instead, the tours and deliberations have brought focus on the poor state of repair of state infrastructure in and around Nkandla and the often shoddy workmanship of the initial construction.

For the ANC, apparently hellbent on protecting Zuma from personal liability, this has served to undermine the narrative of comfort and luxury bought for Zuma and his family at state expense, even though the actual living conditions of the family have never been on show.

For the opposition, the Democratic Alliance in particular, the poor construction and upkeep have presented an opportunity to hark back to its primary election message: that the state under the ANC is incapable and wasteful. With Nkandla unlikely to sway voters in upcoming local government elections and with Zuma not in contention in the national elections that will follow, the opposition has shown a distinct liking for this broader criticism of the government, even at the price of turning Zuma into a perceived victim of graft and state ineptitude rather than a recipient of largess.

That leaves only Madonsela’s office insisting that Zuma must take some personal responsibility and make at least token amends and that only through what Madonsela has herself described as soft power, limited to persuasion by public shaming.

And it leaves unaddressed the structural problems of a system in which a President is responsible for policing his own ethics, and where half a decade of state misspending and overspending can pass without any public representatives being held to account.

South Africa – Accountability Now lays corruption charges against Zuma and Masutha


2015-07-21 08:47

Justice Minister Michael Masutha (GCIS)

Justice Minister Michael Masutha (GCIS)

Johannesburg – Charges of corruption and defeating the ends of justice have been laid against President Jacob Zuma and Justice Minister Michael Masutha over the R17m payout to former National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Mxolisi Nxasana, Accountability Now director Paul Hoffman said.

The civil complaint was laid at Ocean View police station in Cape Town on Monday, Hoffman said.

The charges are in terms of Section 9 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

Accountability Now is a registered NPO that works to keep political leaders accountable for their actions.

He explained that the Constitution says the NDPP must act independently and without fear or favour. There must also not be any interference in the functioning of the NDPP.

In May a commission of inquiry into Nxasana’s fitness to hold office was called off at the last minute by Zuma’s office and it was later reported that Nxasana had received a R17m settlement to leave.

No reason was given for Nxasana’s departure and he has since been replaced by advocate Shaun Abrahams.

Corrupt activity

Accountability Now believes the settlement is allegedly a corrupt activity and could be a contravention of Section 9(2)(d) of the Act.

This is because it allegedly shows favour to Zuma by vacating office rather than pursuing charges relating to his home in Nkandla, or the charges that were dropped against Zuma after his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik was convicted of corruption for facilitating a bribe to Zuma from an arms company.

Shaik is on parole.

The organisation included allowing ”certain well connected wedding guests” to land at Waterkloof Air Force Base – a reference to guests landing at the base in a private jet to attend a Gupta family wedding – and ”defeating the ends of justice by spiriting [Sudanese President Omar] Al-Bashir out of the country” to its complaint.

Bashir managed to leave the country after an African Union summit, in spite of an order to all border posts preventing his exit pending an application to have him handed to the International Criminal Court to face accusations of crimes against humanity and genocide.

South Africa – Police minister Nhleko says Nkandla security needs checking and could cost more

The ANC and its ministers, led from the top by the avaricious and amoral Zuma, are quite unbelievable in their mindless trampling over the country and use of its resources as their personal property, KS


Mail and Guardian

Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko has said that security at the president’s residence needs to be reassessed, which could result in further costs.

So-called security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's residence have so far cost taxpayers R246 million.

Security at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence needs to be re-evaluated due to the public scrutiny it has come under, Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko said on Tuesday.

In addition, the cost of the upgrades could still increase as the investigation had forced some of the work to be halted, he told Parliament’s ad hoc committee on Nkandla, in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg.

The committee, which includes members of the ANC, DA, ACDP and NFP, is expected to visit Nkandla on Wednesday. It is studying Nhleko’s report—released on May 28—in which he said Zuma did not have to repay any of the R246-million spent on so-called security upgrades at Nkandla.

“This is exactly nwhat we are saying—that the security experts must go back to assess the extent of the vulnerability and how the president has bee exposed,” Nhleko said.

“We won’t know how much it will cost before this exercise is done. But [with] the security issue, we will arrive at a different conclusion because of the re-evaluation.”

‘We all know how this is going to play out’

FF Plus Chief Whip Corne Mulder pointed out that public protector Thuli Madonsela had made recommendations for Nhleko to act on.

“We all know how this is going to play out. You came to the conclusion that the president was not liable for the upgrades. The truth, minister, is that your appointment depends on this because you are looking into the same person that appointed you.”

Nhleko replied that Mulder did have a point, but that judges, for example, were also appointed by Zuma and were not expected to make rulings in his favour.

“I think it’s childish and unethical to think that just because you are appointed by someone that you can’t be critical of them. In the report that I have produced, I stated clearly how I came to the conclusions.

“If these features are said to be security, I need to question why they are. That is the exercise we are doing here. The fact is that there is authority in place that said what must be done.

“My oath of office requires me to be honest in terms of my work.”

Nhleko said the amphitheatre and soil retention wall, visitors’ centre, “firepool”, kraal and culvert, were all security features and maintained Zuma did not have to pay for these.

This contradicted Madonsela’s own findings, released in March 2014, that Zuma should pay for those features not related to security, like the pool and the amphitheatre.

Sacred kraal

Nhleko also told the committee that a kraal in the Nkandla homestead could not be moved due to Zulu culture.

Thus a new animal enclosure that included a culvert and a chicken run had to be built in a remote part of the homestead so the animals would not trigger the motion detector beams, Nhleko explained.

“In Pretoria we had a problem at Mahlamba Ndlopfu [Zuma’s official residence] and the OR Tambo house. We had a problem with cats. The system triggered false alarms and security personnel became despondent because of the false alarms,” he said.

He said they consulted a retired University of KwaZulu-Natal lecturer, a Mr Ntshangase, on whether the kraal, which also houses chickens, could be moved.

“He told us that a kraal was a sacred place, a place where meat is eaten, a place to bury a loved one. He told us that it was rare to move a kraal and you must have an exceptional reason to move a kraal.” – News24

South Africa – NUM endorses Ramaphosa and Mantashe to succeed Zuma

Mail and Guardian

Regional leader Mpho Phakedi wants Cyril Ramaphosa and Gwede Mantashe to become the next president and deputy president of the ANC and the country.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. (AFP)

Mpho Phakedi, the provincial secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers’ largest region, PWV [Gauteng], might differ with deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s new e-toll dispensation, but he believes the former unionist-come businessman is the right man to lead the ANC and the country after President Jacob Zuma’s term in office ends.

The NUM regional leader also said he would support ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe to take over as Ramaphosa’s deputy when the party holds its elective conference in 2017.

Both Ramaphosa and Mantashe previously served NUM as general secretaries. The two ANC leaders delivered speeches at the NUM national congress at the weekend.

Phakedi’s PWV region played an instrumental role in the election of Free State provincial secretary David Sipunzias NUM’s new general secretary on Saturday – a move which is expected to shift the balance of forces within the labour federation Cosatu ahead of its special national congress this month.

Zuma’s successor
Some within the ANC prefer African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to replace Jacob Zuma as president. Those that have been mentioned for the position of deputy president include ANC policy head and minister in the presidency Jeff Radebe, ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize and Gauteng ANC chair Paul Mashatile.

Cosatu and its affiliates have in the past played a significant role in influencing the leadership direction in the ANC. The federation supported Zuma’s election during the ANC’s national congress in Polokwane in 2007.

Phakedi said while he differed with Ramaphosa on the issue of e-tolls, he regarded him as one of the greatest leaders the ANC has ever produced.

“He [Ramaphosa] is one of the most matured leaders within the ANC. His experience in business and the trade union movement comes as an advantage for him. It has been the tradition of the ANC that the deputy president takes over as president. Ramaphosa and Mantashe still have a huge support within the NUM. I don’t see anything wrong with Mantashe becoming deputy president,” said Phakedi.

Ramahosa became ANC deputy president in 2012 after then-deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe declined the nomination for the position and contested Zuma for the position of president instead.

Since being appointed as Zuma’s deputy after last year’s general elections in May, Ramaphosa has taken over some important roles in government. These include the responsibility to fix problematic parastatals like Eskom, the South African Post Office and South African Airways. He was also tasked to deal with the controversial e-tolling system, which has divided the ANC-led alliance.

Ramaphosa announced the new dispensation for the implementation of the e-toll system last month, which included reduced tariffs for motorists and discounts on outstanding e-toll bills.

Phakedi and other unionists want a total scrapping of the e-toll system.

Ramaphosa’s detractors are hoping his political career will be tarnished by the outcome of the Marikana report.

Lawyers for the wounded and arrested Marikana workers want Ramaphosa to face criminal charges for his role in the August 2012 Marikana shooting.

Zuma has promised to release the Marika report before the end of this month.