Rotating Cabinet will not address crisis – Zwelinzima Vavi

We are on a rollercoaster without a driver, and we are about to come off the rails, says former GS of COSATU

Zwelinzima Vavi statement on the so called about turn and the appointment of Pravin Gordhan

14 December 2015 

"The diminutive chains of habit are seldom heavy enough to be felt until they are too strong to be broken" Samuel Johnson

The Poor Get Poorer, and the Rich get Richer

The working class and black majority have been in a crisis for over 300 years of colonial and apartheid rule. Regrettably in economic terms, that crisis has deepened in the first 21 years of our democracy. It is a crisis largely ignored by many in the commercial and largely untransformed media. The poor it seems have to suffer in silence. Growing unemployment has robbed millions of our young people of a productive future. Poverty and inequality have deepened, and a two tier education and health system remain in deep crisis. While this is happening, millionaires are becoming billionaires!

Musical Chairs No Answer!

Simply rotating Cabinet positions will not address this deepening crisis. For workers it does not matter if it is Pravin Gordhan or Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister. All of them, from 1994 onwards have been using the same medicine in different bottles. That medicine is austerity, and it is lethal, and will not cure poverty or unemployment.  

The only conclusion you can draw from President Zuma’s latest Cabinet reshuffle is that South Africa is leaderless. We are on a rollercoaster without a driver, and we are about to come off the rails! The captains of the ship of state are about to run aground, and are completely discredited and enjoy no credibility or moral authority with those they are supposed to protect and represent.

In my considered view, the entire membership of President Jacob Zuma's Cabinet together with the members of the ANC National Executive Committee must take full responsibility for collectively betraying the trust of the working class and step down.

This is not a crisis caused by an individual, but by a collective, and responsibility for it must be placed on all those who helped create the crisis, including those who stayed quiet when they know in their conscience that what was happening was wrong, and damaging the working class and the poor.

Now it seems, the chains of habit have become too strong to be broken. The Cabinet and the NEC were there from the beginning and gave a stamp of approval when these chains of habits were not heavy enough, and they could have made a difference, however, they are now clearly too strong.

Twenty One Years of Making a Crisis

This is how South Africa over 21 years has been brought to where it is today.

1. All of us who actively campaigned for President Jacob Zuma to escape the 783 corruption, fraud and money laundering charges by assuming it was all part of a baseless conspiracy theory must accept responsibility for the crisis. We should have realized that this unprincipled and misguided love affair would end in tears. I have apologized for my role in this.

2. The biggest sin of the working class is that we uncritically joined an unprincipled coalition of the wounded. The working class despised President Thabo Mbeki for sidelining the working class and imposing on the country a neoliberal economic policy that we knew would not resolve our grievances. In the coalition of the wounded alongside us were tenderpreneurs and careerists who had their own grievances against Thabo Mbeki, and virtually no concerns for the interests of the working class. Never again must we blindly jump into any bandwagon without first critically analyzing what it means for working class power. There can be no revolutionary movement without a revolutionary theory and understanding of the class implications.

3. The Cabinet and the ANC NEC were together in 2009 when the Mail and Guardian exposed the Nkandla project that was budgeted at R27 million but ballooned to over R60 million. They did nothing. The cost then escalated to more than R246 million – and only when there was an outcry did they hypocritically abandon any responsibility and instead blamed defenseless public servants.

4. It is also the very same conglomeration that launched the attack on Chapter Nine Institutions, and especially the Office of the Public Protector and also called judges counter revolutionaries.

5. It is also they who kicked out perfectly reasonable remedial actions proposed by the Public Protector and gave the President a round of applause when he appointed a Minister to do a whitewash and unsurprisingly absolve the President of any responsibility.

6. It is also they who remained silent when the arrogant Gupta family landed a helicopter in the Johannesburg zoo or sought to bully neighbours into agreeing that they build a helipad on the roof of the house. Once assured of this silent approval of their is bizarre behaviour, the Gupta family grew more confident

7. The Gupta family then did the unthinkable! They landed a plane full of family friends attending their daughter's wedding in the heart of a military key point. This would have been regarded as a code red security breach in any other country. Again our hapless ministers convened a press conference to tell our people that they knew nothing about it and made defenseless civil servants the scapegoats. A certain Eric Kholoane accepted responsibility and was demoted and punished publicly, and rewarded for doing so by becoming Ambassador to the Netherlands.

8. In a typical unscripted blunder, when President Zuma told the country that the ANC was more important than South Africa, the protective circle of Cabinet and NEC around him tried to spin away the damage and came to his defense. When the President had an opportunity to withdraw this bizarre assertion, he laughed in the face of our people and joked "the ANC came first". What did our sycophantic ANC MPs do? They gave the President a standing ovation!

9. When the NPA was being domesticated and a capable Director was being bribed by the State with a R17.3 million farewell package, the ANC NEC did not raise a finger. When the Head of the Hawks who was a tried and tested revolutionary who cut his teeth in the ranks of MK was given a R3 million golden hand shake these men and women went into a stony collective silence. As we speak the agenda to domesticate critical institutions and organs of people's power is being completed.  The SAPS, Intelligence institutions, SAA, SABC, ESKOM, PetroSA, IEC, DBSA, etc., have been hollowed out and the very sinews of our young democracy are being undermined. COSATU, SACP, ANCYL and ANCWL are shadows of their former selves. The ANC itself is losing the last vestige of its moral authority. In fact many think it has lost its authority altogether.

We can go on and on to show countless examples where our Cabinet and ANC NEC has chosen to either keep quite or joined in the destruction of our had won democracy. President Zuma, the Cabinet and ANC NEC must go. The 2019 elections should be brought forward held on a completely new environment to address weaknesses that have emerged. These are:

1. The electoral system must be reformed to allow for at least 75% constituency based electoral system. This will go a long way of ending the ravages and destruction caused by the proportional representation, which allows controlling faction to dictate the terms of deployment. It is this deployment that has deepened a patronage system/networks and the culture of sycophancy and obedience.

2. The electoral system must be changed to allow that the electorate directly elects the President, Premiers and Mayors. This will make any party to know imposing a factional improved individual on society will lead to the punishment of the party. No individual will be able to hide behind the skirts of his or her party

Issued by Zwelinzima Vavi, 14 December 2015