Come back, Thuli, we need you
‘Supra won’t go quietly,” says the headline in a Friday newspaper. The story is presumably about the coming demise of North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, who has been the target of violent protests in recent weeks. Protesters claim he is corrupt. The National Treasury has effectively taken over the province’s treasury and health department, and the ANC’s national working committee has decided that he should be removed as premier. That decision has to go through a few processes, including, last Friday, a direct appeal to resign as premier from President Cyril Ramaphosa. It is very likely irreversible.
It is easy, surveying our current politics, to become dismayed by the complexity of almost every single issue. Ramaphosa is trying to renew a party that is shot through with corruption and self-gratification.
But simply because we cannot foresee the outcomes of events already in motion does not mean Ramaphosa is failing. Look, he may well be failing, but the evidence isn’t there. What is there is evidence of a painstaking setting to rights of issues as they come up. Mahumapelo is just one. During the course of this year three or four provinces will elect new leaderships and those battles will also throw up new uncertainties as efforts to reform the ANC come under fire.
The thing is to not be spooked. The former Jacob Zuma supporters now looking to reestablish some semblance of power in the party are highly motivated, but you can bet the reformers are too. They will have their backroom teams plotting and planning a way forward just as the other side will. Just because Ramaphosa doesn’t say much doesn’t mean he isn’t working furiously at winning.
And while the bad guys still hold high office in some places, don’t underestimate the strength at national and provincial level of some of the people behind Ramaphosa — Senzo Mchunu, Bheki Cele, Pravin Gordhan, for example. They’re smart plotters too.
Don’t, also, underestimate the enormous power of due process. Zuma will stand trial on charges formulated a decade ago. Then he’ll be lucky to evade prosecution on the era of state capture dominated by the Gupta family under his presidency. And the list of people heading to court is long.
It is easy, too, to wonder whether Ramaphosa himself might not be holding up due process. When, for instance, will the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture ever begin? Money for the commission is no object, surely. Ramaphosa himself argued strongly for it. What could possibly be holding it up? It is not as if there’s no evidence to be getting on with.
It is now May. It would be truly ridiculous if Justice Raymond Zondo does not begin his commission’s work this month. Unless, of course, there’s another plan.
People say Ramaphosa is considering an early election, perhaps in October, while the opposition is weak. Would the co-ordinated appearance of senior state capture figures like Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko and Duduzane Zuma not help a campaigning ANC show that it was acting decisively against corruption?
I don’t know. What is certain is that after the commission has dealt with its witnesses, the prosecuting authorities will be free to act against them if they incriminate themselves, or even if they don’t. But with the best will in the world it is hard to imagine the head of the NPA, Shaun Abrahams, coping with this. Why has Ramaphosa not already removed him?
The answer is that he is battling to find a replacement up to the task of running scores of corruption, fraud and racketeering cases at once. There are probably not many people capable of doing so, especially as the prosecutions service lost good people under Zuma.
But two come to mind — former public protector Thuli Madonsela and the DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach, who was a senior figure at the NPA before being hounded out by Zuma’s appointees.
Breytenbach has experience of co-ordinating police and prosecutions investigations. But her having joined the DA would make her appointment as Abrahams’s replacement very difficult.
We know Ramaphosa has already asked Madonsela to do the job and that she has declined. But I would hope she reconsiders. She has already done national service, I know, but some people are required by society to go beyond the call. She would be a wonderful head of the NPA, and if ever a unit resembling the Scorpions were to be resuscitated it would ultimately report to her.
Ramaphosa should ask her one more time. And she should accept.