ANC misses chance to tell its own story

NEWS ANALYSIS

The ANC takes the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture very seriously, it seems. Its future as a viable governing party may well be what is at stake. Not only that, but also the integrity of South Africa’s systems of governance and accountability. As the sometimes alarming evidence gushes out of the mouths of witness after witness, it is clear how close we came — how close we may still be — to the precipice.

Recent events show this realisation may have belatedly dawned on the ANC, and the party is ready to defend the commission against a growing number of desperados who rightly see it, and the legal processes it will unleash, as the possible end of their many taxpayer-funded free lunches.

READ MORE: Zondo commission: ‘What did the ANC do?’

First, the ANC came out guns at the ready to fight off the threats of its own desperate spawn in the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who had staged “protests” outside the conference venue at Hill on Empire in Parktown, Johannesburg, during the two days of Minister Pravin Gordhan’s appearance at the commission.

The party’s leadership even slapped down their own members, who — fearing what the process means for them or their sponsors — have taken pot shots at Zondo’s investigation.

Then the party committed to making at least four submissions to the commission to give its own perspectives on state capture.

The first of these was by ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe this week. Mantashe limited himself to answering the various allegations made by representatives of South Africa’s four big banks when they came before the commission. More importantly, he was attempting to explain the party’s aborted attempts to intervene when the banks closed the transactional accounts of the Gupta family and its companies in 2016.

Mantashe will return with a second “counter submission” in the future, to address himself to criticisms raised by ANC veteran and former minister Barbara Hogan, especially regarding the operation of the ­party’s deployment system. Mantashe, it seems, has the job of giving these submissions in part because he was secretary general for 10 years, running the day-to-day business of the party. In fact, his ­tenure coincided neatly with the period of the development and implementation of the Gupta state capture project (2007-2017).

His deputy in office during that time, Jessie Duarte, will also appear before Zondo, although curiously Mantashe revealed that this would be to answer Hogan’s allegations that she (Duarte) was central to the state capture project. This seems to be a rather personal concern, and Duarte could have been invited to make a submission to Zondo in her own capacity (as many senior ANC figures have). That she is being allowed to mount her self-defence in the name of the party illustrates neatly the problem the ANC has with the Zondo commission and even beyond. Mantashe was there to explain and defend, Duarte will be coming to explain and defend. This is a party constantly on the defensive, so much so that it has grown comfortable with that stance.

The ANC does not really know how to be on the front foot on any issue. It will make four submissions to a commission that it resolved to establish, and three of them will be dictated by what ­others have said about it or its office-­bearers. I don’t imagine any other governing party tolerating this, certainly not in an election year.

One of former president Jacob Zuma’s most profound legacies, it seems, was to recreate the ANC as a party of reaction and defence, a backfoot player. It constantly cedes the initiative to the EFF, the Democratic Alliance, the media, the courts and even — as the commission is now showing — its own gatvol members.


By the time President Cyril Ramaphosa sits down to make what is billed as the party’s main submission, he will be doing little more than responding, explaining, deflecting, clarifying, rejecting with contempt, and categorically denying.

Indeed, the ANC must still answer the question why, having decided that a judicial commission of inquiry was a good thing, it didn’t then place itself first in the queue to give evidence. It is astounding that a party that has been in power for 25 years has never learned the value of telling its story first.

The result, predictably, is that, although the ANC is undoubtedly the author of the era of state capture, it is not the ANC’s narrative that we
listen to.

The country is glued to the testimony of an endless stream of disgruntled men and women, people with no mandate, who rather come with heavy burdens and axes to grind; wounded, belittled, bewildered and embittered, these comrades — whether they intend to or not — will bury the ANC under the corrosive heap of the Zuma project, only because they alone are willing to name the problem. Not Mantashe or Duarte or Ramaphosa, but Hogan, Gordhan, Mcebisi Jonas, Themba Maseko and Cheryl Carolus.

That is why, in the week in which the party of government, the party that gave us the commission, came to speak, it is not its words nor its testimony that we remember, but that of former Zuma minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi. Twice fired by his boss at the behest of the Guptas because he refused to do their bidding, Ramatlhodi went to the commission this week and named the problem.

READ MORE: Ramatlhodi: ANC NEC gripped by a ‘season of madness’ during Zuma-era

Freely admitting from the very outset his role in bringing Zuma to power — something Mantashe pointedly failed to do — Ramatlhodi told the commission that the most unforgivable thing about the former president’s destructive journey through the state was that he had “auctioned his executive authority” to the Guptas.

He did so with the ANC watching, “paralysed” and seemingly brain-dead.

One doubts that even Ramaphosa, when he makes his attempt to bat away responsibility, will have the courage — or the mandate — to put it quite that succinctly.

Vukani Mde is a partner at LEFTHOOK, a Johannesburg-based research and strategy ­consultancy

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Vukani Mde
Vukani Mde
Vukani Mde is a founder and partner at LEFTHOOK, a Johannesburg-based research and strategy consultancy.
Advertising

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him

Zuma turns on judiciary as trial nears

Former president says pre-trial correspondence is part of another plot

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members

Lockdown relief scheme payouts to employees tops R14-billion

Now employers and employees can apply to the Unemployment Insurance Fund for relief scheme payments
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday