A year of im­punity

De­spite sev­eral scan­dals and pres­sure to re­sign, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has sur­vived 2016 un­scathed, writes

CityPress - - Voices -

This is the year in which the Nkandla judg­ment summed up the state of our nation: A nation no longer eas­ily out­raged. Sadly, it has all been cen­tred on Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. The pres­i­dent has split pub­lic sen­ti­ment down the mid­dle and the nar­ra­tive has sadly been re­duced to good against evil, change against sta­tus quo and com­pe­tence against ut­ter medi­ocrity. Some high­lights of the year:

Zuma kicks off 2016 by triv­i­al­is­ing the in­ex­pli­ca­ble fir­ing of then fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene. De­spite the flight of cap­i­tal and col­lapse of the cur­rency, he reck­oned every­one was ex­ag­ger­at­ing the sit­u­a­tion. That gave an idea of a wounded pres­i­dent, an­gry that his min­is­te­rial ap­point­ment – and there­fore an at­tempt at con­trol of Trea­sury – had failed. The Pub­lic In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion con­firmed later that R100 bil­lion was lost to the econ­omy. No con­se­quences. Im­punity strike 1. Life goes on.

Zuma is found guilty of vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion. Shortly there­after, he calls an April Fools’ press con­fer­ence where he dupes the coun­try into be­liev­ing that he would take some re­spon­si­bil­ity for the mess that the Nkandla saga cre­ated. This was not to be. A half-hearted apol­ogy was of­fered and the ANC fol­lowed suit to ac­cept same. Im­punity strike 2. Life goes on.

The ANC loses three met­ros with a bud­get worth bil­lions dur­ing the Au­gust 3 lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions. All analy­ses pointed to the ANC’s loss of sup­port ow­ing to the scan­dals sur­round­ing gov­ern­ment in gen­eral and Zuma in par­tic­u­lar.

The Au­di­tor-Gen­eral re­ports on bil­lions be­ing wasted by mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment costs. While an­a­lysts were care­ful not to at­tribute th­ese ter­ri­ble losses to Zuma alone, it was clear that he was the ele­phant in the room. Zuma never both­ered to ad­dress the nation or even ANC mem­bers or sup­port­ers on his role in the elec­toral catas­tro­phe suf­fered by the ANC. In­stead, the ANC con­jured up a strange term – col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity – as the big­gest cover-up of our time. Im­punity strike 3. Life goes on.

Zuma is ac­cused of hand­ing over con­trol of the gov­ern­ment to the Gupta fam­ily. Rev­e­la­tions by for­mer ANC MP Vytjie Men­tor, deputy fi­nance min­is­ter Mce­bisi Jonas and for­mer gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tion boss Themba Maseko point to a glar­ing state cap­ture by the Gup­tas.

In what ex­ceeds any def­i­ni­tion of a white­wash, the ANC called on peo­ple to ap­proach it with ev­i­dence and moved swiftly to close down the probe ow­ing to lack of writ­ten ev­i­dence.

The Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor com­menced a par­al­lel in­ves­ti­ga­tion in March and by Oc­to­ber she was strug­gling to get any clear an­swers from the pri­mary ac­cused: the pres­i­dent. She re­leased an in­con­clu­sive, but ex­plo­sive, re­port: The State of Cap­ture. Only those blindly loyal to Zuma didn’t see this as an in­dict­ment. But still, no con­se­quences for Zuma. While the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) rushed to wel­come the re­me­dial ac­tion of a com­mis­sion of in­quiry, Zuma once again de­fied the ANC and an­nounced that he was tak­ing the re­port on re­view after he failed in court to stop its re­lease. Im­punity strike 4. Life goes on.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han is charged by the Hawks and charges are later with­drawn. Gord­han does not re­sign. When he presents his mini bud­get, Zuma is cap­tured by the world me­dia tak­ing a nap.

Em­bar­rass­ing rev­e­la­tions about the fights be­tween the Hawks and Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity (NPA) emerge. The Gord­han is­sue is egg on the face for the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Zuma does the un­think­able and pre­pares to sus­pend NPA boss Shaun Abra­hams, who had de­cided to lay charges against Gord­han. Im­punity strike 5. Life goes on, at least for Zuma.

Nu­mer­ous civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions call on Zuma to re­sign. Key ANC lead­ers throw their sup­port be­hind Gord­han, thwart­ing Zuma’s plan to fire him. ANC Do you agree that Zuma is get­ting away with too much? What should be done about it? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word IM­PUNITY and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 vet­er­ans make im­pas­sioned calls for Zuma to re­sign. As many as 101 struggle vet­er­ans sign a pe­ti­tion ask­ing for a con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence of the ilk of Moro­goro. They meet with Zuma and they change their tune, de­spite pub­lic calls made by many of them for him to step down. Im­punity strike 6. Life goes on.

The ANC NEC dis­cusses Zuma’s po­si­tion, with at least four Cabinet min­is­ters call­ing for him to re­sign. After a week­end of long knives, the NEC backs Zuma again, ex­plain­ing that the unity of the move­ment is more im­por­tant than dis­sect­ing the ele­phant.

Im­punity strike 7 – and this is a con­ser­va­tive es­ti­ma­tion of the num­ber of times that im­punity has reared its ugly head this year.

Whether it was the dis­missal of the Con­sti­tu­tional Court judg­ment, the ref­er­ence to small skele­tons by the head of the ANC Women’s League or the brazen with­drawal of South Africa from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court, this year made im­punity the gold stan­dard of our democ­racy in cri­sis. To re­verse this deep­en­ing cul­ture of im­punity is go­ing to take a mir­a­cle.

Tabane is au­thor of Let’s Talk Frankly and an­chor of Power Per­spec­tive on Power FM, Sun­days to Thurs­days,

from 9pm to 12am

PHOTO: SIPHIWE SIBEKO / REUTERS

CAP IN HAND Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma waves to his sup­port­ers as he ar­rives at the party’s tra­di­tional Siyan­qoba rally in Jo­han­nes­burg in July this year, ahead of the lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions that proved dis­as­trous for the ANC

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