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?

Finweek English Edition - - THE PESSIMIST’S GUIDE: OPINION - Ed­i­to­rial@fin­week.co.za Alices­tine October is a par­lia­men­tary re­porter for Netwerk24.

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

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