Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled against an appeal by Zuma and the NPA of a ruling by the High Court that overturned the 2009 decision of then National Director of Public Prosecutions Moketedi Mpshe to drop 783 charges against Jacob Zuma. The High Court had ruled that the decision to drop the charges was irrational and that they must be reinstated.
You might think that I would be happy to see this. After all, I have complained before about the wholesale looting of South Africa by politically connected individuals.
Instead, I’m furious.
Furious that the corruption has reached the point that it has. Furious at the lost opportunities caused by it. Furious that it was allowed to reach this point. And furious that many of those in a position to do something not only did nothing but actively protected and defended Zuma or were complicit in creating the very environment that enabled him and the Guptas to bleed South Africa dry.
The ANC has shielded Jacob Zuma from accountability for years. In the most recent no confidence motion against him, the ANC Members of Parliament who spoke before the vote raged against the motion, labelling it an attack on democracy and the ANC, instead of an opportunity to remove a clearly corrupt and compromised individual. After the news about upgrades to Zuma’s home at Nkandla being paid for by public money broke, some of the most ludicrous explanations (firepool) were made for them. And at the 2012 ANC Elective Conference when Zuma stood for reelection to ANC President despite earlier stating he would only serve one term, the ANC, instead of voting him out, returned him to the position.
What is even more astonishing is that the ANC shields him despite the fact that he is clearly damaging it. Its share of the vote has fallen from 65% in 2009 when he was first elected President to just 54% in the 2016 Municipal Elections. And there is a very good chance that the ANC’s share of the vote in the 2019 National and Provincial Elections will drop below 50%. Even ANC members have mentioned this possibility.
Cadre Deployment is the ANC Policy of appointing political loyalists to key non-political positions. It was how Zuma was able to gain control of institutions and the Guptas were able to gain lucrative contracts from Government. It is also how he managed to block investigations and criminal charges as both the Police and National Prosecuting Authority have been captured.
The policy of Cadre Deployment was decided upon in the 1997 ANC Conference. Not even 10 years later it had shown itself to be a failure, with Eskom forced to introduce Load Shedding to save the entire electricity grid from going down and other State Owned Enterprises making huge losses every year. Despite this, it is still in force today with the ANC not willing to consider abandoning it.
One of the fiercest critics of Jacob Zuma is Trevor Manuel. Manuel was South Africa’s Minister of Finance from 1996 to 2009, and Minister in the Presidency for National Planning from 2009 to 2014. After losing his job in 2014, he began criticising Zuma.
Manuel’s condemnations of Zuma, correct though they are, reek of hypocrisy to me. He was perfectly happy to go along with things while he was a Minister and only spoke out after he lost his place at the trough. What is worse is that when he was a Minister he was himself party to corruption and incompetence.
In 1998, South Africa began a process to buy new military equipment to replace the obsolete equipment then used by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). “Arms Deal” has since become a byword in South Africa for corruption. When Patricia de Lille, then a Member of Parliament for the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), made claims of corruption around the Arms Deal, Manuel screamed at her, calling her a “useful idiot”. For years, Terry Crawford-Brown fought to get the Arms Deal overturned. Manuel viciously attacked him all the while. Enough has now come out from investigations overseas to confirm that there was indeed massive corruption and bribery going on with the Arms Deal. In fact, the charges against Zuma all relate to the Arms Deal. Manuel, in pointing a finger at Zuma, has three pointing back at himself. He also never spoke out about the damage and expense inflicted by Cadre Deployment.
Another hypocritical critic of Zuma is Frank Chikane, Director General of the Presidency for Thabo Mbeki. In his book “The things that could not be said”, Chikane inadvertently made one of the most damning admissions I have ever read.
When then National Director of Public Prosecutions Vusi Pikoli brought charges against then National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, then President Thabo Mbeki ordered him to drop the charges. Pikoli refused. Mbeki then demanded Pikoli resign and when he refused, suspended him to protect Selebi. It was all ultimately for nothing, as Selebi would be found guilty on several charges.
Chikane’s explanation for Mbeki’s actions was shocking. He stated that Mbeki viewed Pikoli as a deployed cadre whose first duty was to obey instructions from political higher ups, and not someone whose job it was to prosecute offenders based on the merits of a case. In addition, Prosecutorial Independence is guaranteed by South Africa’s Constitution. Chikane made clear he shared Mbeki’s views that Cadre Deployment trumps the Constitution. He is thus in no position to lash Zuma’s actions.
Zuma is not the problem but a symptom. His Presidency is the culmination of years of undermining the independence of state institutions, protecting criminality and placing political loyalty above even the Constitution. All of these things began long before he took office. While he deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail, the harshest opprobrium should go to those who created and nurtured the environment which allowed him to inflict the damage he has. Including his critics.