Talk in the corridors of power is that Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini did not take kindly to a decision by the ANC integrity commission to summon her to appear before it for bringing the party into disrepute because of her inept handling of the social grants fiasco.
She was so angry when she received the commission’s letter that she questioned the credibility of the commission’s chairperson, Andrew Mlangeni. ANC insiders say she asked how he dared to summon her when he had his own skeletons in the cupboard, claiming the Rivonia triallist was living in a house bought by the controversial Gupta family.
Mlangeni this week dismissed the claims as unfounded and malicious.
By attacking Mlangeni, perhaps Dlamini was following up on her warning that everyone in the ANC’s leadership has their “smallanyana” skeletons in the cupboard.
By now it is public knowledge that Dlamini appeared before the commission at Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia last Saturday. But the fact that she questioned Mlangeni and the integrity commission’s motive for summoning her is indicative of someone who believes she is untouchable because of her close relationship with President Jacob Zuma.
Her conduct is also in keeping with the kind of arrogance she displayed when dealing with Parliament, the media and the Constitutional Court.
In January, Dlamini, who is also president of the ANC Women’s League, publicly endorsed former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the next ANC president a few days after her party’s national executive committee (NEC) appealed to its members to refrain from discussing Zuma’s successor.
She was obviously aware she would face no consequences for disregarding the party’s directives because she knows she is in Zuma’s good books.
It is now known that her decision to endorse Dlamini-Zuma on the eve of the ANC’s January 8 celebrations did not enjoy the support of the entire NEC of the women’s league.
Dlamini is not the only government leader close to Zuma who has thumbed their noses at party structures, even after they were found to be on the wrong side of the law.
Take Zuma’s decision to include Communications Minister Faith Muthambi on the interministerial committee on comprehensive social security to deal with the social grants crisis just weeks after the damning report by Parliament’s ad hoc committee that investigated the crisis at the public broadcaster. The report blamed Muthambi for some of the SABC’s poor governance and suggested that Zuma “reconsider” the “desirability” of her being in the Cabinet. It found Muthambi interfered illegally in SABC board matters and undermined the Broadcasting Act. Instead, Zuma rewarded her.
And former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng refused to step down despite the public protector’s adverse findings against him, including the fact that he lied about his matric qualification, because he was a close Zuma ally.
Unsurprisingly, the president’s supporters now want him to reward Motsoeneng, who is partly to blame for the SABC’s financial woes, by appointing him to the Cabinet as the rural development minister. They regard him as the ideal leader to implement radical economic transformation, especially the expropriation of land without compensation.
They are also lobbying for him to be elected as a member of the ANC’s powerful NEC when the party convenes its elective conference in December.
And, because of Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza’s close relationship with Zuma, he remains in his post despite a high court judgment that his appointment was invalid. Police Minister Nathi Nhleko this week wasted no time in announcing his intention to appeal the court’s decision, which set aside Ntlemeza’s appointment. The judgment damned Ntleko for dismissing as mere opinion a judge’s finding that Ntlemeza was dishonest. Nhleko was also happy to say Zuma’s Nkandla swimming pool was a fire pool.
On Ntlemeza’s watch, the Hawks have been criticised for having allegedly investigated Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan regarding the so-called rogue South African Revenue Service unit, a move widely seen as an attempt to isolate Gordhan.
Last year Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane falsely claimed that Cabinet had resolved to recommend an inquiry into the blacklisting by banks of Gupta-owned businesses by major banks. Zuma told Parliament he had reprimanded Zwane but gave no details.
Zuma’s supporters, including the ANC’s youth and women’s leagues, have accused Gordhan of frustrating “radical economic transformation”. But several senior ANC leaders believe Zuma’s call for it is nothing more than a strategy by his supporters to loot government resources.
Zuma’s supporters want the president to fire the finance minister and replace him with Dlamini-Zuma or former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe.
Molefe, who has become Zuma’s trusted ally over the past few years, was recently sworn in as an ANC MP, despite the public protector’s report, which detailed the relationship between him and the Gupta family, which links to Zuma. Molefe is tipped to take over one of the economic cluster ministries when Zuma reshuffles his Cabinet.
The South African Communist Party (SACP), under the leadership of Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, has predicted that Zuma is likely to target most of the communist party ministers when he reshuffles his Cabinet sometime this year. The SACP, which supported Zuma to be elected ANC president in Polokwane in 2007, has now become one his most vocal critics.
It also called for Zuma to step down after the damning Constitutional Court judgment, which found that the president had failed to uphold his oath of office by not complying with the public protector’s request for remedial action on the money misspent on his Nkandla homestead.
It might well be that the president does not approve of the behaviour of some of the leaders close to him, but his failure to act against them has fuelled perceptions that he turns a blind eye to any wrongdoing by those who are loyal to him.
Unless he does something about his incompetent ministers, he will be remembered as a president who failed to act and tolerated mediocrity.