The ANC is ignoring its own moral police
The ANC is disregarding its own integrity commission, which it ceremoniously set up more than two years ago to deal with issues related to corruption and damage to the party’s image.
The ANC has adhered to only one of the recommendations of the commission, which is made up of ANC veterans.
It was set up after concerns were raised in the party that some of its senior leaders and officials were being fingered for alleged corruption and wrongdoing, which was costing the party votes.
The commission, established in March 2013, was meant to be the first port of call for all corruption allegations made against any party member. But the ANC has admitted that there has been resistance to implementing the commission’s decisions.
“Only one recommendation of the integrity commission has been implemented to date and all the others have been ignored,” states the party’s national working committee report, which was presented to the party’s national executive committee (NEC) two weeks ago.
The commission is chaired by the Rivonia trialist and former Robben Island prisoner Andrew Mlangeni, and struggle stalwarts such as Ahmed Kathrada, Frene Ginwala and Gertrude Shope serve on its secretariat.
Ginwala, a former speaker of the National Assembly, said the integrity commission was a “contested terrain” within the party. But, although the complete co-operation of ANC structures could not be achieved overnight, there had been some improvement in recognising the work of the commission.
“When you suddenly bring in a body [like this], people have to take it seriously.
Now, not overnight will people confess to accepting a bribe, for example. But our mandate is to protect the name of the ANC,” she said.
ANC NEC members who attended the meeting two weeks ago said it was widely known that structures within the ANC did not take the commission seriously and regarded its decisions as recommendations, which were not binding.
One said the reasons for the resistance to implementing the integrity commission’s recommendations included that the country’s Constitution protected the individuals’ right to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty.
“People still have their rights as enshrined in the Constitution to defend themselves, especially if they believe they are innocent,” the NEC member said.
But, he added, another challenge was that, “basically, the organisation [the ANC] depends on the member’s conscience to resign. Some believe they still can prove themselves [innocent].”
In 2012, as part of its Mangaung congress resolutions, the ANC resolved to set up the commission and stated: “More urgent steps should be taken to protect the image of the organisation and enhance its standing in society by ensuring, among others, that urgent action is taken to deal with public officials, leaders and members of the ANC who face damaging allegations of improper conduct.”
The resolution added: “The ANC can no longer allow prolonged processes that damage its integrity.”
Mlangeni, who said he had not attended recent meetings because of ill health, added that the ANC was not obliged to implement all recommendations made by the commission.
“Recommendations are recommendations. If the ANC decides not to implement them, it means they are not accepting them. It does not bother us at all.”
He said the commission was “not higher than the ANC NEC. It is the NEC, which is the highest decision- making body between conferences, that must decide whether or not to implement our recommendations.”
But there concerns are emerging in the party that the commission is being used by ANC leaders to fight factional battles.
Another NEC member said some party leaders did not respect the commission’s decisions because there was a perception that some leaders were being protected from the commission’s findings, especially where it recommended that leaders should step down.
“You can’t expect to apply this thing selectively. Some leaders are protected and others are not,” the NEC member said.
In September last year, the Mail & Guardian reported that the commission had said that the Northern Cape ANC chairperson John Block should step down as the province’s MEC for finance because he had brought the party into disrepute.
He is on trial for allegedly benefiting from kickbacks when the Trifecta group of companies entered into several lease agreements with Northern Cape government departments, in which fees for rentals were grossly inflated. Block allegedly influenced the provincial departments to favour Trifecta.
At that time, NEC sources predicted that Block would not step down because he enjoyed protection in the province.
Axed communications minister Dina Pule (right) was disciplined for bringing the ANC into disrepute. But other party bigwigs have escaped censure. (Lulama Zenzile, Gallo)
The only recommendation the ANC implemented was the one that forced disgraced former communications minister Dina Pule to resign from Parliament after it was found that she lied to the House. She was also made to remove her name from a list of prospective ANC MPs for the current Parliament.
Pule was sacked as minister after it was found that she used her office to improperly benefit her boyfriend in a R6-million telecommunications conference contract.
Ginwala said there was also contention over whether ANC leaders deployed in public service should resign from office when they faced charges, or to do so only once they had been found guilty.
“We are not a disciplinary committee. Our job is simply to look at those who are giving the ANC a bad name and make recommendations to the leadership,” she said.
The first NEC member said the integrity commission was given a difficult job because “it doesn’t have that capacity to do independent investigations and verifications. They would have to rely on the state and, at the moment, there’s no such working arrangement between, for instance, the police and the ANC, or the public protector and the ANC.”
The NEC member described the integrity commission as “a small puppy with teething problems” that would hopefully “get stronger with years”.
“As we grow older there will be more resoluteness. Imagine in future, when the integrity commission has got people like [David] Mahlobo [the state security minister]. The more we grow is the more we’ll get people with government experience who have worked with law enforcement agencies to be on the committee,” the NEC member said.
But the same source raised concerns about the issue of false allegations.
“If these [false allegations] are well orchestrated through campaigns, including in the media, the ANC won’t have any leaders left.”
“The challenge is that the burden of proof in the country is on the accused, so people can make all sorts of allegations against you, even if it’s not true. But people are encouraged that, when they know that they’re guilty, they must engage [with] officials and resign. We believe members of the organisation must speak to their souls.”
ANC national working committee member and head of the party’s communications subcommittee Lindiwe Zulu rejected suggestions that the commission’s recommendations were implemented selectively because of factionalism.
“It’s unfortunate that some people [in the ANC] see it that way. We don’t operate that way. There might be instances where there are strong voices for the recommendations to be implemented and some of those are done because of individual interests.
“But there have also been some concerns from comrades who say we must think hard before we implement the recommendations. If there are people who are not convinced about the recommendations, it will be up to the ANC leadership to decide,” she said.
Zulu added that members of the commission had also raised concerns with the ANC leadership about the failure of the NEC to implement its recommendations.
“It’s unfortunate that [only] one recommendation was implemented but it is not as easy as you think. The mere fact that we decided to establish the integrity commission should show you how serious we are with fighting corruption,” she said.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe confirmed that not all the recommendations of the integrity commission were implemented and said there was a need to clarify its role within the ANC.
“This is new terrain we are entering into,” he said, echoing Ginwala’s sentiments.
Integrity versus discipline
Mantashe said party structures needed to understand that the integrity commission was not a disciplinary committee, in which the principle of innocent until proven guilty applied.
“It is expected that, if I am brought before the integrity commission, it must appeal to my own conscience to step aside,” he said.
It was only when individuals didn’t voluntarily step aside that the ANC would “nudge you to leave” .
But ANC veteran Ben Turok, who co-chaired Parliament’s ethics committee that investigated Pule, said it seemed as if the integrity commission had been silenced, or had become silent.
“We all know there are serious violations of integrity going on. There is a culture spreading of looting and helping yourself, and all types of cronyism behaviour. We are all alarmed by it and, quite frankly, the integrity commission ought to be doing something.”
He said that, as long as a public servant or politician faced a serious charge, they ought to step aside and not depend entirely on the court process, which was often long and drawn out.
“If it is a serious charge and not gossip that person must be asked to step aside and the integrity commission must be taken seriously.”
The ANC chairperson in North West, Supra Mahumapelo, who represents the province on the NEC, said, regardless of the baby steps the integrity commission was taking, “we need it ever [more] than before”.
“The integrity commission’s objective is to ensure that we have got morally upright members and leaders. Its existence does not necessarily mean every leader will automatically become the cadre that we wish for, who will be exemplary to the society.
“We must continue to popularise and support the commission. And, just like the church, there will be people who will rise against the integrity commission,” Mahumapelo said.
The commission’s work gets even tougher when ANC members are in powerful positions. In the past, the commission found that NEC member Tony Yengeni had brought the ANC into disrepute, but he still occupies a top position.
Yengeni, who served a prison term for a case relating to the arms deal, was arrested for drunken driving for the second time in Cape Town in 2013. He appeared in court on Monday and the case was postponed to next month.
Some NEC members are said to have also suggested that President Jacob Zuma be investigated by the commission at the time of the release of the public protector’s report on the upgrades at his Nkandla home.
Nothing came of that, despite the public protector finding that he improperly benefited from non-security related upgrades to his palatial home.
Other ANC leaders who are seen to be protected include the ANC’s chief whip in the Gauteng provincial legislature, Brian Hlongwa, who is accused of tender fraud amounting to more than R1-billion.
Buffalo City Mayor Zukiswa Ncitha and four other top East London officials are on trial for fraud for allegedly using public money meant for the funeral of former President Nelson Mandela. Ncitha has not resigned and there has been no pressure on her to do so.
Although Gauteng’s provincial integrity commission dealt swiftly with former MEC Humphrey Mmemezi and successfully got him to resign in June 2012, he made a comeback in December of the same year as an ANC NEC member, a position he still holds.
Zulu added that the ANC needed to do more in order to ensure that the work of the commission was taken seriously.
“The fact that we established the integrity commission is because we were facing a situation [in which a number of members were facing corruption allegations].
“Whatever structure the ANC establishes must be taken seriously, otherwise what will be the point? As an organisation, it is important to take these structures seriously. We don’t set [up] structures for the sake of showing [off]. We put structures [in place] so that they can assist us and that people can have confidence in the ANC,” she said.
The commission held a workshop last week at which provincial integrity commissions were set up and guidelines were standardised, although Gauteng already had such a structure in place.
The ANC’s national working committee is set to have a meeting with the commission to clarify the role it should play in the party.