Come back, Thuli, we need you

Sunday Times - - Stinsight - Peter Bruce

‘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.

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