Volume 15, No. 31, 15 September 2016
Seek truth from facts, trust but do verify
An analysis of the ANCWL's statement applauding President Jacob Zuma on Nkandla payment.
By Lebogang Pule
On Tuesday 13 September the African National Congress Women's League (ANCWL) released a statement titled "The ANCWL applauds President Jacob Zuma for complying with the order of the Constitutional Court" as part of the corrective actions to remedy the wrongdoing that was committed on the security upgrades of the President's home in Nkandla. The statement makes several claims that, I strongly believe, must not be left without a shred of critical assessment into their validity. Otherwise history will judge us - and I am speaking as a young woman - harshly for being uncritical consumers of any content without examining facts.
First of all I believe that the ANCWL should not represent the views and interests only of its top leaders, or only of its members, but those of the progressive and revolutionary women as a whole, young and old. In particular, I believe that the ANCWL must do its best to reach out and represent the objective aspirations of a woman in society and strive to eliminate all forms of male domination regardless of its manifestation and routes of entry.
The ANCWL states that it "welcomes the decision of the ANC President in complying with the Constitional (sic) Court (ConCourt) order". Compliance with the judgements of the ConCourt is not a matter of choice. It is not subject to a decision. It is compulsory unless rescinded after due legal processes. The ConCourt did not rule that the President must make a decision to comply. It ruled that he must comply. Any other decision not to comply was unnecessary and would have been unconstitutional!
The ANCWL also claims that "In complying to the ConCourt order the President: ... Kept his long standing commitment that he would would pay an amount towards the Nkandla non-security upgrades once this had been determined by the correct authorities (sic)". To the extent the leaders of ANCWL who authorised the statement wanted society to believe that the President and the ANCWL fully embraced the ConCourt judgement, they would have recognised that the judgement categorically states that:
"Only after a court of law had set aside the findings and remedial action taken by the Public Protector would it have been open to the President to disregard the Public Protector's report. His difficulty here is that, on the papers before us, he did not challenge the report through a judicial process. He appears to have been content with the apparent vindication of his position by the Minister's favourable recommendations and considered himself to have been lawfully absolved of liability...
"This non-compliance persisted until these applications were launched and the matter was set down for hearing. And this is where and how the Public Protector's remedial action was second-guessed in a manner that is not sanctioned by the rule of law. Absent a court challenge to the Public Protector's report, all the President was required to do was to comply. Arguably, he did, but only with the directive to report to the National Assembly."
Based on these quoted passages from the ConCourt judgment, the ANCWL should not have made or repeated the claim that the President had a long standing commitment to pay. In addition, on 30 March 2014 engaging in a door-to-door campaign in Gugulethu, Cape Town, President Zuma in his own words said: "They did this without telling me... So why should I pay for something I did not ask for". The President appeared on ANN7 TV saying these words. He was also given coverage by other media houses. For example News24 covered the President in its story titled "I didn't ask for Nkandla upgrade - Zuma". The claim by the ANCWL that the President had a long standing commitment to pay therefore contradicts both the ConCourt judgment and the President's initial commitment not to pay.
Let us look at the matter from the ANC's own words.
On the Valentine's Day this year, 14 February 2016, The Sunday Times published a story titled "ANC outrage over Zuma's Thuli U-turn" and subtitled "President Jacob Zuma has angered senior figures in the ANC after ignoring advice from its national executive committee to take the public protector's Nkandla report on judicial review".
Before we proceed on this story, let us recall that the ruling by the ConCourt states that: "The President should then have decided whether to comply with the Public Protector's remedial action or not. If not, then much more than his mere contentment with the correctness of his own report was called for. A branch of government vested with the authority to resolve disputes by the application of the law should have been approached. And that is the Judiciary".
It can be seen from the undisputed story by The Sunday Times that the ANC had reached a similar conclusion which was not complied with until after the ConCourt judgement that is compulsory to comply with was made. The story states that the "ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe yesterday (on 13 February 2016) revealed that the NEC (ANC National Executive Committee) had in 2014 - just before the general elections - advised Zuma to take public protector Thuli Madonsela's ‘Secure in Comfort' report to court for review".
In the story, The Sunday Times states that the "Party spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the NEC had also advised that the inter-ministerial task team report on Nkandla be taken on review". "We made the decision as the ANC to take both reports on review. That advice was not followed," said Kodwa, quoted in the story. The Sunday Times story further quotes Kodwa saying "I really can't answer that", referring to the paper's question "why Zuma had ignored his party's advice".
Therefore the claim by the ANCWL has a minimum relationship to any form of reality. It is glaringly invalid from the points of view of the President initially saying he will not pay because he did not ask for the upgrades, from the point of view of the ConCourt judgement and from the revelation by the ANC relating to the President not taking the Public Protector's report among others for review by a court of law.
In its statement, the ANCWL states that: "In complying to the ConCourt order the President: "Reprimanded Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, his predecessor Geoff Doidge, and former police minister Nathi Mthethwa, who is now the minister of arts and culture." The reprimand of Nxesi is a controversial matter given that the Public Protector's report was clear on which ministers the President had to reprimand. The remedial action categorically states that the President must: "Reprimand the Ministers involved for the appalling manner in which the Nkandla Project was handled and state funds were abused".
Let us recall that the first thing Nxesi did after he was appointed Minister of Public Works, in October 2011, three years after the upgrades were implemented, was to investigate the wrongdoing committed - at that time the project advanced already when he was not involved. The Public Protector's Report recognises this; it states that: "Three years later and a year after a complaint was lodged with my office, the Minister of Public Works appointed a Task Team of officials from the departments involved in the impugned upgrades at the President's private residence, to investigate specified matters in relation therewith. The Task Team's report was released to the public on 19 December 2013".
Addressing the SACP Mpumalanga Provincial Congress on Saturday 10 September 2016, Nxesi condemned factionalism and the distortion of internal organisational democracy in the broader ANC-led political movement. He particularly isolated the associated tendencies, including mistaking factional centralism for democratic centralism and seeking to replace the latter with the former.
This is the message the ANCWL must take to heart.
* Comrade Lebogang Pule is an intern on media content and political analysis at the SACP Headquarters in Johannesburg. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Johannesburg and writes in her personal capacity.
By Xonani Percy Mtombeni
Following the much-publicised loss of some of the big metros after what appears to have been the lowest electoral performance of the ANC since 1994, the ANC leadership and its alliance partners (SACP-Cosatu) have been embroiled in a public engagements, which left millions of South Africans wondering whether the alliance is about to vanish. Speculation is rife that the standoff between the ANC and its allies has less to do with the outcome of the local government elections but an attempt of two bulls flexing their muscles ahead of the ANC elective congress in 2017.
The fragmentation within the ANC prompted the ANC Youth League to call for an early elective congress. This call has since received backlash, with some within the movement stopping short of describing it as a factional exercise aimed at deflecting attention from the real issues that taint and continue to erode the standing of the ANC in society. The events of the past few weeks have simply portrayed the ANC as an organisation at war with itself.
Clearly, the contest for the 2017 elective congress has reached a tipping point, and all groupings seem prepared to employ whatever means at their disposal to influence the outcome and subsequently capture the state, viewed as an end-goal for economic survival. Ironically, all the groupings claimed to love the ANC and they want everyone to believe that their cause is aimed at protecting the ANC from some corrupt forces or Western agents or provocateurs who are hard at work to destroy the movement.
It is hard to understand why people who are united in their common love for the organisation will be at each other’s throats. What is more worrying is that in the midst of all the shenanigans unfolding within the ANC, no one cares about the harm this is having on the image of the party. The poor, which the ANC so proudly proclaims to serve, are forgotten. The only thing which seems to matter is to tear the organisation apart.
The latest group to enter the fray is #OccupyLthuliHouse, although its protagonists have publicly declared their intention to save the ANC from self-destruction, a course which at first instance sound noble. However, their actions are no less harmful compared to those it accuses of factionalism, and are failing to uphold the founding values of the ANC.
Of course, the leadership of ANC is consumed by palace politics ingrained in factionalism and this has weakened its ability to discharge its constitutional obligations. The outcome of the recent local government elections shows that although a sizeable majority voted for the ANC to govern, a significant number of other voters, notably but not exclusively in urban areas, withheld their votes against the ANC, citing corruption, arrogance and a self-serving attitude as their biggest concerns.
There is no doubt that the ANC is in pain and is bleeding, but it is unthinkable and unscientific that the incumbent leadership is entirely not guilty of all that came to be known as problems. It is critical, as SACP 1st Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Cronin correctly argued elsewhere, that we must move away from the abuse of ideological posturing to camouflage narrow sectarian agendas or play up of victimhood when we are unable to sustain a rational debate.
It is vital at this current juncture of the need to place our ongoing democratic transition on to a second radical phase for the ANC to disabuse itself from the notion that all members who revolt against the status quo are somewhat captured and those who embrace it are true members, free from any form of capture. ANC members should realise that the relevance of the movement lies on its ability to identify and solve the massive challenges that people are faced with. The ANC deeply preoccupied with factional battles carries no capacity to transform the economy and to accomplish its historical objectives.
Our opponents charged that the former liberation movement’s integrity and credibility will gradually decline because it is failing to address the many massive developmental challenges confronting society, with poverty, unemployment and inequalities worsening under the ANC government. They argue that this is because the former liberation movement does not welcome radical policy shifts, and is instead obsessed with protecting the interests of white monopoly capital. The burden to dispel this myth rests on all revolutionaries within the ranks of the ANC, irrespective of their political convictions.
The ANC is entrusted with a rare opportunity to lead our nation to prosperity. It should be understood that the authority of the ANC to govern rests on the social contract entered into with our people through their votes. If the ANC continues to exhibit signs of a repression, and to be swallowed by factionalism, it runs the risk of losing the confidence of the people at whose pleasure it leads the nation.
* Mthombeni holds B-Tech Degree in Journalism and is a Final year LLB student at Unisa. He is also a BEC member of ANCYL in Tshwane. He writes in his personal capacity.
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