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CityPress - - News - SETUMO STONE setumo.stone@city­press.co.za

ormer ANC trea­surer-gen­eral Mathews Phosa’s raised pro­file since the re­lease of his an­thol­ogy of po­etry in June has sparked ques­tions in ANC cir­cles about his po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions ahead of the ANC’s 2017 na­tional con­fer­ence. He left the big stage in 2012 – when he lost the race for ANC deputy pres­i­dent to Cyril Ramaphosa – but now Phosa’s sup­port­ers and de­trac­tors are watch­ing for signs of his fu­ture in­ten­tions.

It is com­mon in the ANC that fre­quently be­ing in the public eye is viewed as an at­tempt to build “a path to power”, ac­cord­ing to an in­sider.

In 2017, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma is ex­pected to step down – although some in the party are push­ing to ex­tend his term for another two years in a bid to match the ANC term of of­fice with that of gov­ern­ment. Oth­ers are op­posed to that idea.

Although, in terms of ANC tra­di­tion, it should be taken for granted that Ramaphosa will re­place Zuma, re­cent talk about the pos­si­bil­ity of a fe­male pres­i­den­tial can­di­date throws the suc­ces­sion race wide open.

In Phosa’s var­i­ous ap­pear­ances on tele­vi­sion, ra­dio and in print since the book launch in June, he has com­mented on cur­rent top­ics, in­clud­ing Nkandla, Marikana, at­tacks on the ju­di­ciary and the media, and a range of po­lit­i­cal is­sues af­fect­ing Zuma’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. And most of his views have been scathing. Phosa says he is aware that “in­se­cure” peo­ple are closely mon­i­tor­ing his moves, but that would not stop him from pro­mot­ing his book, Chants of Free­dom.

“You can­not avoid these ques­tions, be­cause the jour­nal­ists will ask you,” he says.

He says he sup­ports the es­tab­lish­ment of the ad hoc com­mit­tee that will look into Po­lice Min­is­ter Nkosi­nathi Nh­leko’s Nkandla re­port, but the com­mit­tee’s rea­sons for ex­clud­ing Public Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela as a wit­ness are “flimsy”.

The ANC ma­jor­ity in the com­mit­tee has re­jected the pro­posal for Madon­sela to tes­tify on the grounds that the com­mit­tee’s man­date was to dis­cuss Nh­leko’s re­port.

But Phosa says Nh­leko’s re­port “does not hang on its own. It is based on Madon­sela’s re­port. It is an out­flow from that and, there­fore, if the out­flow cre­ates unan­swered ques­tions, you have to go back to the source.”

He says that, in law, fail­ure on the part of a lawyer to call a wit­ness would re­sult in an ad­verse in­fer­ence.

“If the Public Pro­tec­tor talks non­sense, then we [the public] will know, but on the ba­sis of a trans­par­ent hear­ing,” he says.

He says it would be “in­ter­est­ing to see how Par­lia­ment will re­act to ob­vi­ous wit­nesses who had not been called”.

The com­mit­tee was ex­pected to fi­nalise its re­port on Fri­day.

Phosa says he is dis­turbed by “loose talk” that ser­vice providers such as Pres­i­dent Zuma’s ar­chi­tect, Mi­nenhle Makhanya, should take the blame for Nkandla.

He says the min­is­ters in­volved had po­lit­i­cal over­sight re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and must be held ac­count­able.

He says min­is­ters go to Par­lia­ment to ask for money when they present their bud­gets, and when the money is mis­spent on their watch, they should be held li­able.

“It is a cul­ture of im­punity that we are cre­at­ing by look­ing for scape­goats,” he says.

He says the sit­u­a­tion “could only be re­versed when we say po­lit­i­cal heads must take re­spon­si­bil­ity and take the fall for what hap­pens in their line func­tion”.

He cited as an ex­am­ple for­mer South Korean prime min­is­ter Chung Hong-won, who last year stepped down af­ter tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the gov­ern­ment’s slow re­sponse to a ferry ac­ci­dent that left close to 200 dead and many oth­ers miss­ing.

Phosa says the prime min­is­ter “stepped down be­cause of the moral re­spon­si­bil­ity, and not be­cause he was driv­ing the ship”.

“It is not just a le­gal thing. There is ethics about it and there is moral­ity about it. It is about re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he says.

He feels that na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner Gen­eral Riah Phiyega does not have to be legally con­victed for her to say whether she takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for the 2012 po­lice shoot­ings in Marikana.

“The le­gal con­vic­tion is not a test for ac­count­abil­ity. It goes be­yond that,” says Phosa.

He adds that Pres­i­dent Zuma must take the lead in re­vers­ing the prob­lem of po­lit­i­cal heads be­ing made im­mune to ac­count­abil­ity: “He must tell his Cab­i­net that they will fall on their swords when they mess up.”

How­ever, Phosa is also op­ti­mistic that the ANC will “self-cor­rect”, and gov­ern­ment will ben­e­fit from that.

“It is a self-cor­rec­tive or­gan­i­sa­tion and it has never al­lowed it­self to die in its own shoes with what is wrong,” he says.

“It is like an ocean. It re­jects what it does not want at the end. It is very in­tol­er­ant of what is does not want. In time, it will do that. It may take time. It may walk slowly like an ele­phant, but it is very self-cor­rec­tive,” says Phosa.

About his own po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions, Phosa ex­plains: “I still en­joy my busi­ness life. My late mother al­ways said I look so re­laxed and so re­flec­tive when I am out of pol­i­tics.”

PHOTO: MUNTU VI­LAKAZI

POL­I­TICS AND PAS­SION Box­ing Fed­er­a­tion

Mathews Phosa was re­cently ap­pointed honorary pres­i­dent of the World

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