The ANC Youth League is right – Gord­han must go

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

FOR ONCE the ANC Youth League has it right. Pravin Gord­han must im­me­di­ately stand down as min­is­ter of fi­nance.

Well, I think that’s what the ANCYL is de­mand­ing. Its pub­lic statements are ha­bit­u­ally so in­co­her­ent and jar­gon-rid­den that, like those from the ANC Women’s League which also wants Gord­han gone, it is dif­fi­cult some­times to know what ex­actly they are try­ing to say.

For in­stance, a fort­night ago the ANCYL bizarrely de­scribed Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela as be­ing a “pop­corn” who is ad­vanc­ing a US agenda of regime change. In the same press re­lease, it in­ex­pli­ca­bly re­ferred to con­tro­ver­sial SAA chair Dudu Myeni, who con­sis­tently de­nies she is one of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s lovers, as Dudu MyeniZuma.

The ANCYL wants Gord­han out of the cab­i­net so the “econ­omy can sta­bilise”, ex­plain­ing that over­seas in­vestors are ab­sent be­cause of the “cloud around Gord­han’s head”. The ANCWL, in its own gob­bledy­gook re­lease, says the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA) de­ci­sion to pros­e­cute Gord­han “clearly in­di­cate that there is no in­di­vid­ual sub­jected to the ma­nip­u­la­tion of the law and law en­force­ment agen­cies to ul­te­rior po­lit­i­cal mo­tives”.

These re­sponses, seem­ingly com­piled us­ing a ran­dom word gen­er­a­tor, are pretty much the stan­dard po­si­tion taken by that sec­tion of the ANC which has suc­cumbed to state cap­ture. They ar­gue the mo­ment there is a crim­i­nal charge against Gord­han, he is hon­our-bound to re­sign.

But, with rare ex­cep­tions, this is a de­par­ture from stan­dard ANC prac­tice. What­ever the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s eth­i­cal po­si­tion might be the­o­ret­i­cally, those ac­cused of crimes – some­times very se­ri­ous ones – have mostly been al­lowed to con­tinue in their jobs, shielded by “in­no­cent un­til proven guilty”.

There is a no­table ex­cep­tion. Ja­cob Zuma was forced by for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki to re­sign as his deputy. This fol­lowed upon Zuma be­ing im­pli­cated in the con­vic­tion of his pa­tron, Sch­abir Shaik, on cor­rup­tion and fraud charges. Zuma also re­signed his par­lia­men­tary seat.

Although Mbeki dressed up the dis­missal of Zuma in high-toned moral­ity, it had lit­tle to do with the prin­ci­ples of good gover­nance. He had long wanted to be rid of Zuma. Un­for­tu­nately for Mbeki, the ploy boomeranged, lead­ing even­tu­ally to his be­ing re­placed by Zuma.

The moves by the state-cap­ture fac­tion of the ANC against Gord­han, us­ing the NPA as its pawn, are sim­i­larly po­lit­i­cally tainted. It is a group which is des­per­ate to be rid of this one irk­some man who stands be­tween them and the Trea­sury vaults.

There the sim­i­lar­ity ends. Zuma even­tu­ally was charged with 783 counts of cor­rup­tion, fraud and rack­e­teer­ing, all of which he has been des­per­ately duck­ing and div­ing to avoid fac­ing in court. In con­trast, the sin­gle charge against Gord­han is ex­ceed­ingly flimsy.

The mer­its of the case against Gord­han are ir­rel­e­vant. They are for the ju­di­ciary to de­cide. What is im­me­di­ately im­por­tant is to abide by an es­tab­lished prac­tice in suc­cess­ful democ­ra­cies – that pub­lic fig­ures charged with se­ri­ous of­fences should not con­tinue to oc­cupy pow­er­ful jobs.

Gord­han, a self-pro­claimed man of hon­our and virtue, should walk that talk and relin­quish his po­si­tion. In do­ing so, he will ren­der South Africa an in­cal­cu­la­ble ser­vice, for he will make it well nigh im­pos­si­ble for the ANC in fu­ture to shield ac­cused of­fi­cials and rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Nor does it mean sur­ren­der­ing the field to Gord­han’s foes. There is an adroit po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vre that would sat­isfy hon­our while stymy­ing the state-cap­ture gang.

The so­lu­tion is not to re­sign, but sim­ply to take leave of ab­sence un­til the is­sue is re­solved. The min­istry will then be left in the ca­pa­ble hands of Deputy Min­is­ter Mce­bisi Jonas.

Ob­vi­ously, this is not a long-term so­lu­tion. It needn’t be, for there are al­ready sig­nals aplenty that such an ar­range­ment would swiftly be­come re­dun­dant.

Le­gal ex­perts, ex­cept for NPA head Shaun Abra­hams, are vir­tu­ally unan­i­mous that Gord­han is un­likely to be con­victed. In­deed, it is un­likely the al­leged of­fence – ap­prov­ing an early re­tire­ment pack­age for a for­mer col­league and the man’s sub­se­quent reap­point­ment on a con­trac­tual ba­sis, which hap­pened only af­ter con­sult­ing the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion on the pro­pri­ety of do­ing so – is even a crim­i­nal of­fence.

The shaky le­gal na­ture of the Gord­han pros­e­cu­tion has quickly be­come ap­par­ent. Only a day af­ter an­nounc­ing it amid great fan­fare, Abra­hams was back-ped­alling fu­ri­ously. On Wed­nes­day he told Par­lia­ment he was “more than will­ing” to re­view the mat­ter if any­body asked him to.

Gord­han should, for now, step into the wings. When he soon enough re­turns to cen­tre stage, both his own po­si­tion and the prospects of even­tual good gover­nance in SA will have been im­mea­sur­ably strength­ened.

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