An uncomfortable Truth…

So, President Jacob Zuma has survived another attack on his presidency this past weekend. It appears that he still holds the majority within the NEC, and that the circle of patronage he has built around his relationship with the Guptas will continue unabated. Hence he has captured both the ANC and the State and the looting will continue….

But for how much longer?

There are 3 factors that influence the answer to that question. The first is the news that broke over this past weekend (Just before when the NEC was to debate the motion for the president to step down) of the extent of the influence that the Gupta family holds over cabinet ministers and SOE board appointments. The various email exchanges prove that the Guptas cast a gigantically ominous cloud over the president and his cabinet, a cloud which Zuma has allowed to envelope him. The fallout to this revelation has been swift, with the family issuing a blanket denial of wrongdoing, and the official opposition Democratic Alliance, quite rightly, laying criminal charges against the president and his cabinet. How the charges will be actioned by the National Prosecuting Authority remains to be seen, but this heaps even more pressure on the president, caused by the other 783 corruption charges that are still under review by the justice system. However, as the NPA has already been captured by the president, you can expect the investigation to be drawn out as far as possible.

The second factor is Zuma’s uncharacteristic threat to his detractors in the NEC not to ‘push him too far’. As reports indicate, the president sat quietly during the debate on Saturday as to whether the motion should be put on the agenda, and then again he was silent during the actual debate. This, of course, is classic Zuma behaviour when his leadership is called into question, both within the ANC and in parliament. However, after surviving the motion, he reportedly addressed the meeting very angrily, saying,

“I have been quiet because I don’t want to harm the ANC, so continue attacking me in the media and you will see.”

What’s more is that while addressing the meeting, he reportedly wagged his finger at his detractors. Now, those of us who are old enough to remember, that finger-wagging characterised PW Botha’s last days as president, before he was ousted as National Party Leader, which ultimately started the process of the dismantling of apartheid and the dawn of democracy. This angry outburst is very much unlike Zuma and shows that he is now feeling the pressure and is losing grip on his own plan to loot the state (which, we all hope, precipitates the beginning of the end of his disastrous tenure as president).

Finally, as reported very recently, he is hemorrhaging support within the ANC, with 62% of ANC voters disapproving of him. Quite naturally, this comes in the light of further evidence of ‘State Capture’ mounting against him, and the growing discontent with the lack of service delivery, rising unemployment and a dwindling economy. With the upcoming National Elective Conference this December, more senior members within the party are beginning to distance themselves from him. This also puts his plans of transferring power to his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma so as to continue the pattern of patronage and capture, while keeping him out of prison. While he, no doubt, will endeavour to fill the conference with sympathisers to his cause, it is clear that the party is growing more and more concerned with the national fallout coming from his incompetent presidency and his relationship with the Guptas.

The uncomfortable truth is that, while he continues to survive using his wily skills and extensive array of pawns within cabinet and the SOE’s, he is increasingly being painted into a corner, and eventually, something will have to give. Should he succeed in his succession plan at the conference, he faces the prospect of a complete desertion by ANC voters, and the ANC losing power in 2019. Should he not succeed, he faces the prospect of his party deserting him to the opposition and ending up in prison.

His only remaining trump card will be the secrets he holds on his fellow comrades. And if he plays that card next year, he will take his party down with him.

More and more, it appears that this might be his only hope…

#NeneGate 1 year on…

It’s been a year since #NeneGate happened.

President Jacob Zuma. in a stunning attempt to capture the treasury, dismissed the Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene, and replaced him with the relatively unknown Des Van Rooyen. It is now known that the latter had visited the Gupta family for 7 consecutive days before his appointment, and the president – his ties to the Gupta family being undeniable – knew this. On that fateful Thursday, the economy took its biggest 1 day hit since the dawn of democracy, even eclipsing the fallout of the September 11 attacks and the 2008 Credit Crisis.

Thankfully, the heavy pressure, from all players, that followed this turn of events caused the president to reverse his decision, and reinstate Pravin Gordhan as Finance Minister just 4 days later. The economy has since held its own, and we have managed to evade a sovereign downgrade in the last 12 months under the Finance Minister’s leadership. This, of course, over and above the constant attempts to remove him through spurious means.

But, 1 year on, #NeneGate gave us an insight into how desperately the President wants to capture the state, and it gives us an indication of what is to come.

For one, his audacious move showed his hand in attempting to capture every part of the state in order to satisfy his every whim. He must have known that replacing the competent minister with someone who has had a poor track record in local government would have badly affected the markets. Yet, he acted as if this was a perfectly justifiable appointment, given the replacement’s academic credentials.

But the severe backlash in the days that followed demonstrated to the president that his power is not unfettered, and that the citizens are slowly taking an active role in holding him and his party to account. This was further evident in the poor showing of the ANC in August’s local government elections, and the losing of 3 key metros to the Democratic Alliance.

However, it doesn’t appear to look like the president has learnt from this lesson. Just over 3 months after #NeneGate, the Constitutional Court ruled against him in the matter of the usage of public funds for non-security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead. Given the fact that he knew of these upgrades, any leader worth his or her salt would admit to this grave error and resign.

But not our Jacob. On April 1, he stood up in front of the nation and gave what at best can be described as a crass apology. He managed to find the nearly R8 million he has to pay back, but even how he managed to secure a loan that big is shrouded in secrecy.

And it is these events that give us an indication of what might come. Very recently, the president survived a motion of no confidence from the National Executive Committee of the ANC (which I wrote about here), and this will surely empower him to act mercilessly against his detractors within the ANC and embolden his attempts to capture the last remaining vestagess of the state, thereby ensuring his political survival.

He is sure to use the ANC annual anniversary celebration, the January 8 statement, to outline just how he plans to enrich himself using the ANC, and then use the remaining part of January to position his pawns in the executive to key positions, as well as ejecting his naysayers from the cabinet. Finally, in the run up to the State of the Nation address in February, he will ensure that state institution heads will toe his line, thereby confirming his supposedly iron-clad grip on the state, to the detriment of the poor.

The chorus of opposition, in civil society, in the opposition benches in the National Assembly, and the veterans within the ANC, will continue to rise, and bring the nation to a watershed moment. And over the next 12 months, these 2 forces will heighten the battle royal for the soul of the nation.

There is an apt saying from the Cape Flats, “When 2 killers meet, one must die”. Let’s hope that democracy prevails, so that the struggle ensuring a better life for all South Africans can continue.

If Zuma goes…

Currently the African National Congress’s (ANC) highest decision making body outside of its elective congress, the National Executive Committee (NEC) is meeting for the final time in 2016.

The meeting was scheduled to conclude yesterday, but due to a surprise motion to ask the president to step down, the meeting has gone into an extra day.

Now according to this report, 3 ministers led calls to either ask the president to step down, or for the NEC to remove him. All indications are that the motion was voted down. However, the fact that the meeting is still continuing implies that the issue still lingers.

Never before has the president being backed into this big a corner. His many failings (the Constitutional Court ruling against him, the 783 corruption charges that most likely will be reinstated, his relationship with the Gupta family, the implications of the Public Protector’s ‘State of Capture Report’ etc) point to him being in a more desperate situation than ever before.

This makes him wounded, and as before, doubtless he will paint himself as the victim of a conspiracy, claiming that he has done nothing wrong. (The precedent here is when he didn’t see anything wrong with the state paying for non-security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead). However, if his supporters in the NEC rally around him and the motion is voted down, he will go on the offensive like never before.

Let’s remember that this is a president who. for the duration of his term in office – and until he vacates the Union Buildings – has done nothing but try to exploit the state to his own ends to the detriment of the citizens of the country and the constitution he swore to uphold. And after the ANC’s dismal performance in the 2016 Local Government elections, he now is at the helm of a divided cabinet, and a clearly fractured NEC.

Everything points to the sad reality that he will not seek to bridge the divisions of the party and his cabinet, but rather to use it to his advantage to advance his goal of a total capture of state institutions. No doubt he pressured the current Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, to lay charges against her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, over the leaking of an audiotape of a four-hour interview she had with President Jacob Zuma with regard to her report. And this is only the latest in a long line of attempts to capture state institutions.

If Jacob Zuma survives today, and I think he will, but only just, he will feel emboldened and continue unfettered in seeking to destroy his enemies within the party. Most likely, he will start with a show of strength at the ANC’s January 8 statement, and follow it up with a cabinet reshuffle, thereby sidelining his detractors and strengthening his grip on the party and state.

His recent utterances in the Parliamentary Question and Answer session about the politicisation of sovereign downgrades indicate that he has no intention of stimulating the economy and he has little understanding of, nor willingness to, attract foreign direct investment. Add to this his constant fight to remove the Minister of Finance through spurious means, and it’s clear that the economy will deteriorate immensely, the longer he stays in power.

If, however, he is ousted, it will not signal the end of the capture of the state. Those clinging on to him for their spot at the trough will no doubt continue to defend their positions, which will lead to further infighting in the ANC, which will yield even more looting of the state.

All of this will come at the expense of job creation, economic growth and building of a capable state. This will put the country in a more precarious position, and a downward spiral, affecting the poor the most.

And whether he goes or not, the poor will not be better off, and it’s only a matter of time before this class stands up to him like never before. And that might be the point of no return for Jacob Zuma, and quite possibly, the ANC.