At just before 11 PM on the 14th February, Jacob Zuma announced his resignation as President of South Africa, bringing to an end the most rotten and corrupt Presidency in South African History.
The move was typical Zuma. Just like he did in the Court Cases about the reinstatement of charges he faced and the Public Protector’s Report into upgrades at his home in Nkandla, Zuma fought and stalled as long as he could, only to submit before he would inevitably have lost. In this case, the ANC had decided to support a Motion of No Confidence put forward by the EFF. Knowing that this time he would be voted out, Zuma decided to forestall things at literally the eleventh hour.
I have no sympathy for the ANC. It shielded Zuma for years, as it has consistently done with delinquents in its own ranks. While it finally did the right thing, it took far too long to do it.
Thabo Mbeki is probably feeling a great deal of schadenfreude over Zuma’s resignation, given that he himself was made to step down from the Presidency by Zuma. Yet he shouldn’t gloat too much. Mbeki, through his actions, gave us Zuma and gave him the tools to rob the country.
Andrew Feinstein is a former ANC MP. According to him, when SCOPA (the Standing Committee on Public Accounts) was instructed to investigate the Arms Deal, Mbeki interfered with SCOPA’s investigation, rendering the committee unable to do its job. Zuma followed this precedent with the Seriti Commission, a laughable whitewash.
In the 1997 ANC Convention where Mbeki was chosen ANC President for the first time, Cadre Deployment was introduced. Cadre Deployment is the ANC policy of appointing ANC members to key posts in State Owned Enterprises and the Civil Service. It violates the separation between Government and State and Political Party and State, and has been declared illegal by the Courts. It also helped Zuma no end in his capture of the State. By appointing people he knew would do his bidding, he ensured that contracts would go to the Guptas, the family who were paying him off. He also wrecked the investigative capacity of the SAPS and SARS among other institutions.
When Vusi Pikoli, the then National Director of Public Prosecutions, laid charges against then National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, Mbeki ordered him to drop them. Pikoli refused. Mbeki then demanded Pikoli resign, and when he refused, suspended him and appointed the pliant Moketedi Mpshe in an attempt to protect Selebi.
Zuma again followed the template laid out by Mbeki. When Mxolisisi Nxasana proved to be an independent and competent National Director of Public Prosecutions, Zuma used chicanery, forced him to accept a Golden Handshake, and replaced him with Shaun Abrahams, who so far has been an absolute joke in the position. A recent Court Case ruled that the removal of Nxasana and the appointment of Abrahams were illegal and set them aside.
Mbeki was, and is, a very intelligent man. Unfortunately, like very many intelligent people he was and still is a very arrogant man who assumed he knew better than everyone else, even the experts, and disregarded evidence that refuted his beliefs. Shortly before the 2007 Polokwane Conference, he decided he would run against Zuma. Because he had surrounded himself with sycophants who told him what he wanted to hear, nobody told him just how unpopular he was and just bad an idea that was. A wiser, humbler man would have realised just how ominous this would have seemed to everyone else, and stood down.
Not so long ago, I learnt that in 2007, shortly before the Polokwane Conference, people approached Mbeki to persuade him to step down and have a compromise candidate run against Zuma. Mbeki refused, believing that he was the only person who had a chance at challenging Zuma.
Mbeki’s arrogance on this can not be overstated. The claim does not stand up to even rudimentary scrutiny. The thought that he was the only person in all the ANC who could overcome Zuma, given the number of card holding ANC members at the time, is astounding. Even if Cyril Ramaphosa was unwilling to put his name forward, it is unthinkable that people like Tokyo Sexwale wouldn’t have.
It is typical to look back to the past with rose tinted spectacles, but frequently unwise. Zuma built a monument to corruption, but Mbeki laid its foundations.