Ousted Rasool looks back

Nic Dawes spoke to ousted Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool about his record and his future.

You’ve said you want to take responsibility for your mistakes and hope others will do the same. What do you want your party opponents to do? It does look as if you’ve lost and they’ve won.
[The national ANC leadership] assured me they want to heal the ANC. There will be some tests of that.
Of Comrade Lynne [Brown] on how she puts her cabinet together. Of whether there will be restraints on corridor warriors who distribute dossiers [of allegations against Rasool], as has happened today.

It’s clear that for many of your supporters the battle is just beginning. The provincial conference will be tough.
The national leadership have said “no provincial leadership will be complete without you”, but it is very important that I must not become the martyr around which people deepen divisions.

I have to try to manage the expectations of those who want me to play that role.

Are you trying to turn your political defeat into a moral victory?
I’ve had far too many troubles to cast myself as a moral crusader, but I needed to ask how I have changed from my ideal conception of myself.

Even if for three or four years I thought I was right in defending myself in various ways, I now had to recognise I was part of the problem.

I thought in exiting I should set an example to others that you can still use “ANC” and “honour” in the same sentence.

Did you cross the line in some of your battles? I’m thinking, for example, of allegations that journalists were improperly influenced.
I’ve never done things that are illegal or corrupt, but I think I’ve got to reflect on some of the choices I made. You should never allow individuals to distract you from your primary ethical base and I have to reflect on whether I allowed that.

Are you worried that the incoming government will aggressively pursue complaints made in the provincial legislature about your governance record and relationships with business people?
I’ve said: “Go and lay charges against me”, but without having the courage to either lay charges or take me to a disciplinary committee [they are circulating these allegations again].

It shows that they aren’t just out to defeat me, but to destroy me. It’s not enough for them that I’m resigning, they had to go and put in the knife.

It shows that in my rediscovering reserves of dignity, they feel diminished. In a perverse way there is vindication for me in that.

There will be a major cabinet reshuffle soon. Will some of your cabinet resign pre-emptively?
Like me they will have dignity challenges when it’s been made very clear that people want you out —

Part of the stability of government comes from the constitutional power of the premier to appoint.

I wouldn’t want Lynne Brown to be in a situation where she appoints the MECs she wants and the ANC appoints the ones it wants. There is a very consistent logic as to why the Constitution gives the premier the power to appoint; when you tamper with it you create multiple centres of accountability. She must be able to run this government.

For a while it seemed there might be scope for collaboration between Helen Zille’s DA-controlled city and your government. Do you regret the way that relationship fell apart?
I thought at first Helen and I had given the people of the Western Cape something to like. I trace back the moment of rupture to when she became leader of the DA. Before that she did not feel the need to own what her opponents in the DA like [Western Cape leader] Theuns Botha did, but afterwards she did.

The Erasmus commission [on allegations of spying by the DA] showed that. I thought it was her opponents that crossed the line.

I was tactically naive to think we could do a commission and come to agreement about how to deal with the culprits. I got the impression that she needed to strike a blow for her party and show that the city isn’t going to take any shit from the ANC.

She made a mistake and cut me off completely.

People think she is affable, but she is pig-headed.

Nic Dawes