Slowly, slowly, the ANC is following Zanu-PF's lead
The ANC and Zanu-PF are cut from the same cloth – liberation movements that emancipated black people from colonial regimes. Though the two have taken different paths and developed in diverse ways, it is increasingly clear that they have more similarities than differences.
From the time it was voted into power, it has never hidden its desire to preside over a one-party state.
The party is intolerant of opposing views, crushing dissent and dealing harshly with those who have dared to try to oppose it, either from within or without.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), though it suffers from weaknesses that are leading to its demise, would probably not have survived even if it were united and focused. It’s hard to erase the 2007 images of a battered Morgan Tsvangirai emerging from a prison cell, his shirt tattered and his face beaten black and blue for trying to stand up to President Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwe’s premier used to appear before Parliament during the “prime minister’s question time”. But that was so 1980s. Responding to an MDC MP who asked in August why the president never came to Parliament to answer questions, Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa said that answering parliamentary questions was for ministers.
“This issue of you wanting to grill him here, we have removed that from the Constitution; you have to grill these ministers, and do so. Vaumburudzei ivava maministers [Just grill the ministers]. They represent him and have answers,” he said.
“There are two instances that the president can come to Parliament. First, it is when officially opening Parliament and when he feels like delivering the State of the Nation address on the state of the economy, or when he has something extraordinary that he wants to inform the house [of],” Mnangagwa told Parliament.
The ministers themselves don’t see any reason to appear in Parliament to answer questions and often send their deputies – who usually do not have the answers – to stand in for them. This has made Parliament an ineffectual body, unable to hold the state to account.
In South Africa, ANC MPs are fighting to protect President Jacob Zuma from having to appear before Parliament to answer questions about the spending on Nkandla. Instead, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has had to act as Zuma’s firefighter and deal with the opposition.
Zanu-PF has erased the lines between the party and the state. The state coffers are openly used to fund party business. Mugabe has also staffed state-owned entities with party cadres and military men who, in the past, pledged undying allegiance to the party.
To ensure that there is no objection to the party dipping into public enterprises, Zanu-PF has put military men at the top of most parastatals and on their boards.
The National Railways of Zimbabwe, the companies mining the Marange diamond fields, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe, Zimpapers, Kingstons (a state-owned stationery retailer), New Ziana (a state-controlled news agency) – all are led or overseen by retired major generals, brigadiers and colonels.
One only needs to flip through Zimbabwe’s newspapers each February, when it’s Mugabe’s birthday, to see the struggling state enterprises take out full-colour, full-page advertisements wishing him a long and healthy life in the most colourful language. For example, this year he was described as an “icon and pillar of inspiration”, a “beacon of excellence” and a “selfless leader” – all this from state companies that sometimes go for months without paying their employees, yet they can find millions to pay homage to Mugabe.
Last month, the state newspaper, the Herald, exposed the extent to which Zanu-PF is abusing the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa). Deputy Energy Minister Munacho Mutezo allegedly ordered the utility to transfer about R400 000 into a Zanu-PF Women’s League account in Manicaland for the league’s provincial conference.
The Zesa account was reportedly left with a balance of about R11. Zesa has been broke for some time and the country experiences constant blackouts that can last for up to four days.
Although the Herald is not serious about exposing corruption and is only doing so to help to fight factional battles raging within the party, its exposés show the level at which Zanu-PF is abusing state resources.
South Africa’s power utility Eskom has been rapped over the knuckles by auditors for dishing out R40-million to fund breakfasts by the New Age, which is owned by the Gupta family with its unsettlingly close links to Zuma.
The monetary scale of corruption in Zimbabwe is obviously less than it is in South Africa because Zimbabwe has a smaller economy, which, after years of pilfering and plundering, has been driven to its knees and there is little left to take.
It has become normal for Zimbabwe’s state enterprises to bankroll Zanu-PF events. Recently, following the elevation of Grace Mugabe in the party hierarchy, the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company, a state-owned entity, wrapped its buses in images of Grace and took traditional leaders and members of the women’s league to her Mazowe farm to pledge their support to her.
There is no trace of any money having been paid for these services.
As is the case with Zanu-PF, in South Africa it is not uncommon to hear of people who join the ANC to get rich quickly, often in the hope of scoring a tender. In 2007, Smuts Ngonyama, then head of the presidency, summed it up when he said: “I didn’t join the struggle to be poor.”
Similarly, Philip Chiyangwa, a flamboyant businessperson and former Zanu-PF Mashonaland West provincial chairperson and MP, quipped: “I didn’t join Zanu-PF to be poor.” He is Mugabe’s cousin.
Although Zanu-PF is an extreme case of a liberation movement that has gone off the rails and has allowed power and corruption to gnaw at its moral fabric, the ANC is on the same path. Media headlines linking the heads of state enterprises to Zuma are the early signs of another Zanu-PF in the making. From the SABC’s Ellen Tshabalala and Hlaudi Motsoeneng to Dudu Myeni of SAA, the common thread is their ties to Zuma.
Corruption has become so entrenched in Zanu-PF that it is no longer big news. Last year, during the divorce case of Ignatious Chombo, a housing and local government minister, it came to light that he was the owner of 98 properties, among them farms, businesses and residential homes and stands.
Chombo, a career minister, is also related to Mugabe. His wealth on a government salary is inexplicable. The same can be said of some of the cadres the ANC deploys.
Ministers and Mugabe’s cronies got the best farms under Mugabe’s land reform programme. Hence, Zanu-PF party cadres are loyal to Mugabe, not because they genuinely believe in his leadership but because they are interested in the wholesale looting of state resources.
Business investors in Zimbabwe know well it’s in their interest first to knock at Zanu-PF’s door before going through the investment authorities.
It could, of course, be argued that South Africa’s Constitution guarantees strong institutions that will keep the ANC in check, but one need only look at the public protector and the level of hostility emanating from Luthuli House over the protector’s rulings that are unfavourable to it.
Zimbabwe also has a Constitution, courts and even various arbitrators, but Zanu-PF has shown that strong institutions mean nothing in the face of a party obsessed with absolute control.
The type of policing used at Marikana is how trade unions across the Limpopo have been cowed.
The hiding of the Khampepe report by the ANC government, starting with former president Thabo Mbeki, and continued by Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma, must also be understood in a local context and not just in terms of how it affected Zimbabwe.
Mbeki has still not stated exactly why it was hidden. His explanation in the Mail & Guardian last week is not enough. The judges’ report was never an intelligence-gathering mission and the government’s attempt to hide it rings alarm bells. The ANC was willing to protect Zanu-PF and turn a blind eye to the subversion of a democratic process.
Though obtaining the Khampepe report is a victory worth celebrating, it is worrying because it raises questions about the lengths to which the ANC-led government will go to protect its majority vote. As said by the M&G, the report highlights how easy it is, in the name of political expediency, for leaders to abrogate human rights and actively abet those who undermine them.
The signs of the ANC morphing into a Zanu-PF of sorts are showing: the capture of the state by a small, connected elite; the entrenchment of acolytes in top posts; the collapse of state companies because of cronyism; the looting of state resources for personal gain; the growing intolerance of opposing views; and policing that opposes dissent.
Zanu-PF did not change into a dictatorial party overnight. It happened slowly, over time.
Teldah Mawarire is the Mail & Guardian‘s Africa editor