The ANC with SA on a leash
The year 2016 has planted some blows that had us against the ropes for the most part of the year. Is 2017 going to deliver the knock-out blow, or will it provide a Damascus moment?
punch-drunk but still standing is how the average South African feels when saying goodbye to 2016, a year that had us against the ropes. Is 2017 going to deliver the knockout blow? We don’t know, but one thing is for sure: 2017 will probably not provide us with a Damascus moment. An utterly divided ANC will sheepishly have to present a united front when it celebrates its 105th anniversary on 8 January. It will also have to prepare itself for an alliance conference that alliance members have been demanding for some time. Cracks in the alliance turned into gaping wounds in 2016 with the SACP taking a strong line against the Guptas and alleged state capture and boldly turning their back on President Jacob Zuma.
And Cosatu’s leadership recently swayed under mounting internal pressure to come out in support of Cyril Ramaphosa as its preferred presidential candidate.
The ANC is expected to hold its policy conference in June, which essentially will be a proxy for the ensuing leadership battle. Under the pretense of policy issues, gloves will be off in an all-out fight to determine who will be the ANC’s next crown prince. There are important policy issues that need attention, such as our Achilles heel, economic growth. The ANC is pushing for 5% growth by 2019, an ideal some would describe as ludicrously optimistic. But that is not necessarily what will be keeping our ANC leaders up at night. On the contrary – the biggest preoccupation in the coming year will be who will sit at the head of the party’s table, and not South Africans’ struggle to put food on their tables.
The leadership battle and political survival are all that matter now. The resultant uncertainty will again play yo-yo with the rand and rating agencies will continue to circle our limping economy, adding to the woes of the already financially struggling South African.
Pressure will increase on Zuma to decide on the “investigation” into the banks that cut their business ties with the Guptas. He said earlier that the investigation should go ahead, but is also on record denying that Cabinet has endorsed this view. This kind of political schizophrenia could force our economy on its knees even further in 2017.
Political infighting increasingly played itself out in the courts in 2016. In 2017, Zuma will set the pace when he takes former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s controversial report into state capture on review because of her recommendation that a judicial commission be appointed.
This commission, which will be headed by a judge appointed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, will investigate allegations of state capture, but it is highly unlikely that South Africans, who have tasted blood as far as the Guptas and office-bearers who are in their pocket are concerned, will get their answers soon. National Director of Public Prosecutions Head of the Hawks
These judicial investigations usually take long and the outcome is often not what people hoped it would be. Marikana and the controversial investigation into the multimillion-rand arms deal are points in question.
A good chance of ‘political lawlessness’
The heads of the country’s law enforcement agencies will also be drawn into bare-knuckled fights for survival. A sword – Zuma’s sword, to be specific – is hanging over the head of Advocate Shaun Abrahams, National Director of Public Prosecutions, over his handling of the case against Pravin Gordhan. Should Abrahams escape the axe, he will still have to face professional institutions such as the Bar Council.
Zuma has his back to the wall as far as Abrahams is concerned and will have to make a decision under pressure of a court application to have Abrahams suspended. Should Abrahams be fired, he will be the fifth permanent head of the law enforcement agency since 1998 to leave. This instability could lead to a further erosion of public trust in the law enforcement agency.
The fate of the country’s national police commissioner, General Riah Phiyega, will probably also be determined early in 2017. Even the acting national police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, is under siege amid questions about how he could afford a multimillionrand house on his salary.
The fate of the head of the Hawks, General Berning Ntlemeza, is also uncertain. He too played a key role in the case against Gordhan and is facing a court case to have his appointment set aside after a court found him to be dishonest and prejudicial. The Helen Suzman Foundation, which brought the application, argues this makes him unfit for office.
This instability on all three levels of law enforcement can be like a death knell in a country where politics throw long shadows over law enforcement and where citizens feel increasingly unsafe.
On the social front, the bread could literally be swept off the table for 17m impoverished South Africans who depend on social grants. The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) will be handling the payment of R120bn in grants itself come April 2017 when the current service provider’s contract ends, but Sassa’s plans have thus far not inspired much confidence. Should Sassa not be up to the task, it could have far-reaching consequences for the poor, banks and retail stores where the grants are paid out.
The ANC, as the governing party, will not be throwing South Africans and the economy a lifeline anytime soon. The good news? Very few people are still idly sitting back expecting them to do it.
Advocate Shaun Abrahams
General Berning Ntlemeza