The new ANC, just like the old ANC

Andrew Donaldson says Cyril Ramaphosa is not in control of the party he supposedly leads



AMID the great wash of words this week on what the media here have amusingly referred to as the “chaos” in the House of Commons was this startling description, in a respected daily newsletter, of the British prime minister’s leadership qualities:

“Theresa May has a unique skill of being able to reach deep into the jaws of defeat, over the tongue of confusion, down the oesophagus of farce, past the lungs of hubris, through the stomach of incompetence and on into the large intestine of humiliation and the colon of chaos, where she can catch hold of whatever faecal matter she can before dragging it all the way back through the body politic and holding it aloft and declaring: ‘And this is why you should all vote for my deal.’”

I was suddenly quite homesick. For, far from being unique, this is common practice with the ANC as its selection of election candidates has shown. 

In fact, the scramble to the bottom, if we may put it that way, is so regular an exercise that the horrifying abnormalities encountered en route are taken for granted. The mutating gut polyps crenelated with corruption and the fatty deposits of patronage are so deep-rooted in the party’s being, they are now considered the host culture.

Should we be surprised, for example, that former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo is on the list?

Silly question. Mahumapelo was hounded out of office in May last year following widespread demonstrations and violent protests in Mahikeng. Soon afterwards, an official inquiry revealed that, under his leadership, the province had all but disappeared beneath a quagmire of poor governance practices‚ skills shortages, incompetence, corruption and dodgy supply chain deals.

For his troubles, Mahumapelo was parcelled off to the party’s provincial political school. Not to learn anything, mind, but rather to run it and presumably serve as a glaring example of how ineptitude and mismanagement are rewarded. Now the duffer has been handed a free pass to the National Assembly.

Malusi Gigaba will be back as well. We thought we were finally shot of Onan the Barbarian when he resigned as both home affairs minister and MP in November after he was found to have lied under oath in the Oppenheimer Fireblade business. But no, here he is, flies buttoned and grinning inanely at his reflection in the mirror, ready to bother us once more. 

And here’s the environment minister, Nomvula Mokonyane, a person of considerable interest wherever state capture is on the agenda. And the charmless minister of women in the Presidency, Bathabile Dlamini, wholly unconcerned by the grants crisis she precipitated and complaining of thirst.

And, hey, Faith Muthambi, former communications minister and asinine mbongi to Jacob Zuma. An ad hoc parliamentary committee declared her “incompetent” and guilty of misleading parliament, which is apparently a criminal offence. An all-round liar, she once spent R300 000 of taxpayers’ money to transport friends and family to watch her deliver a speech. Will these friends and family be back to witness her return to parliament?

There are others, like Mosebenzi Zwane, who, as the the minister of mineral resources, scooted off to Switzerland to arrange the sweetheart deal in which the Guptas picked up the Optimum Coal Mine for a steal. Literally. 

We could be here a while if we went through the entire list. So, moving on…

A wee bit embarrassed at their choice of candidates, the party has politely asked that they not be referred to as criminals. Or, as ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule explained, “Anybody who has not been found guilty by a court of law is on the list.”  

It’s a position that Cyril Ramaphosa has endorsed. Speaking to reporters in Orlando East, the president said the party leadership had no powers to remove these rotten apples as they had been chosen by what could be termed the lower orders.

“We are a broad movement,” Ramaphosa declared. “We are a party that does not impose representatives from the top. They were chosen from the bottom by the membership of the organisation, and we must respect the democratic process.”

The party leadership, he added, would wait for the criminal justice system to look into the allegations levelled against candidates like Mokonyane, Dlamini and Gigaba.

“The membership chose them knowingly, saying we will allow all the processes to unfold and if people are found guilty of criminal conduct or of misbehaviour, they will be dealt with through the criminal justice system.”

Which is a fairly noble position for the membership to take, suggesting, as it does, a healthy respect for the rule of law. 

Such respect is presumably why Ramaphosa has allowed Zizi Kodwa, the head of the president’s office at Luthuli House, and Danny Jordaan, president of the SA Football Association, to join him on the campaign trail. Just because both have been accused of rape doesn’t mean they are rapists. That’s for the courts to decide.

But, as some commentators have pointed out, elections are about courts of public opinion, not courts of law; in this regard, voters may have already ruled on the character of these dismayingly dubious candidates.

They will know that their presence here makes a mockery of the president’s pledge, in his January state of the nation address, to clean up the administration he inherited from Accused Number One.

“We recognise, as do all South Africans, that our greatest efforts to end poverty, unemployment and inequality will achieve little unless we tackle state capture and corruption in all its manifestations and in all areas of public life,” the president said. “The action we take now to end corruption and hold those responsible to account will determine the pace and trajectory of the radical social and economic transformation we seek.”

Fine words. But it appears the action taken to end corruption was not, as stated, to hold those responsible to account, but instead to reward them. And yes, that action will determine the pace and trajectory of the change the party claims to seek. 

Which is no change at all. 

For the voting public will now also realise this: Cyril Ramaphosa is not in control of the party he supposedly leads. He has been powerless in getting rid of the Zumanauts. The rent-seekers, the corrupt, the inept and others accused of wrongdoing are still with us, and the president must now pay some sort of dribbling lip service to their deployment high on the list of candidates. 

The excuses that it’s all due to the lower orders and rank and file membership are not only feeble, but stink of ignominy and shame. It’s terribly embarrassing.

But, on a more positive note, Ramaphosa is, according to a BusinessTech report, the 12th highest paid world leader, taking home an annual salary of some R3.9-million. This is about R1-million more than Theresa May gets.

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