/ 27 August 2014

Khaya Dlanga: In the public protector we trust

Khaya Dlanga: In The Public Protector We Trust

What concerns me about the fight between the public protector and the ANC is not the fact that they are arguing in public, but the effects this will have on the ANC in the long term; this great institution which has housed giants.

The leadership of the ANC does not seem to have thought this one through. They might win the battle, but will they win the war? They want to win this fight now, but the party is continuing on a long journey towards self-injury. It is playing right into the hands of its opposition, the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance. The ANC is its own worst enemy.

The battered image of the president in the wake of the Nkandla debacle has caused much disillusion among young people, and that disillusion is being transferred beyond the individual of the president and tainting the party as a whole. The lack of real answers about Nkandla have led to a perception that the party is shielding or hiding something by making the story about public protector Thuli Madonsela instead of about the R240-million spent on Zuma’s private residence. Are the ANC leaders preserving the party for themselves without thinking about what it will be like for us who will inherit it?

Instead of the constant obfuscations, the real issue is not being dealt with. How much is going to be paid back for unauthorised expenditure on Nkandla? When is it going to be paid? Who is working out how much needs to be paid back? If the presidency does not agree with Madonsela’s findings it should simply take the findings to court, and without delay. I don’t understand the personal attacks on the public protector at this point in time.

The consequences of the actions of our elders will result in us inheriting a bleeding, bloodied and almost unrecognisable ANC that will be in desperate need of resuscitation. Its image may be really difficult to repair. The problem with leadership is that it is often too far removed from the people it is intended to serve, it sits in an ivory tower. Occasionally visiting branches and issuing instructions is no way of truly understanding the minor tremors.

This skirmish by the ANC is worrying because the local government elections in 2016 are not far away. The ANC will fare worse when it comes to local government elections than it did in the 2014 national elections if it continues in this vein. It will be no surprise if the ANC does not win a majority in Gauteng. 

The ruling party doesn’t seem to realise that their fights affect elections. The ANC needs to be seen to be working with the public protector and not against her. It’s as if they are begging to lose the urban black voter. I repeat, 2016 is not far. That should be the focus now, not defending Nkandla. Nkandla is not going to win the elections. I beg the leadership to remember what is more important here. The legacy of the party is not one man’s residence, it is the people.

Another nonsensical point of view that needs to be addressed is that if someone voted for the ANC they cannot defend the public protector. That is absolute nonsense. It implies that ANC supporters are incapable of independent thought. One can be a member, supporter and voter of the ANC and still support the Constitution and the public protector, nothing says the two are mutually exclusive.

There are suggestions that Madonsela is abusing her powers of office. If she is, I’m sure she can be hauled before the National Assembly to answer the allegations and taken to court if she is seen to have violated the Constitution she is meant to uphold. The ANC leadership has accused her office of leaking a letter to the president to the press. She in turn says that it was leaked by a senior ANC official. The ANC is correct to insist that Madonsela reveal who leaked the document.

At this point in time, all we see are fingers being pointed by both sides and no proof. Madonsela will do well not to fight the ANC through the media. She will trip over herself. She needs to focus on the job. She needs to heed the advice Nelson Mandela gave Bill Clinton when he was facing the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Mandela told Clinton to ignore the distraction and focus on helping the American people. In this instance, the ANC itself is being distracted by the current spat.

The party seems to work harder protecting the president than it does protecting the people. This undermines the public’s perception of all the hard work that is done by many good and able members of the ANC in the legislature and may, in the end, leave a tarnished party image that will be tough for future generations to repair.