The phrase, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” describes a difficult situation that President Jacob Zuma finds himself entangled in, as a social grant crisis unfolds, much to a panic by 17 million recipients as to whether they would get paid come 1 April. Zuma has to choose whether to fire or keep a minister whose support he needs for his survival political strategy.
In January 2012, as the ANC prepared for an elective conference wherein Zuma vied for a second term, a major crisis of non- and late-delivery of textbooks to schools in Limpopo hit the country. As it emerged, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga knew about the looming crisis four months before the government had placed a provincial education department under a national administration.
Expectedly, Zuma stood by her, despite a growing chorus of calls to fire her. He could not afford to fire her. As then ANC Women League (ANCWL) president, she carried a weight of the league’s support for his re-election as ANC president. At the conference, the ANCWL carries the same weight as a province.
Perhaps, it was Zuma’s turn to return the favour to Motshekga. In the latter stage of his protracted corruption case, Motshekga stood by him. In 2009, then as MEC for Education in Gauteng, she chose to go to Bloemfontein – where the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) set aside Judge Chris Nicholson’s judgment that Thabo Mbeki and his cabinet had influenced the NPA’s decision to reinstate the corruption charges against Zuma – over a meeting of the Council of Education Ministries (CEM) in Pretoria. As if that was not enough to lay bare how she undervalued her portfolio, Motshekga said one does not need an educational qualification to become a president, referring to Zuma.
Once more, Zuma cannot afford to fire Social Development Minister and ANCWL President Bathabile Dlamini over the social grant crisis in a run-up to the ANC’s elective conference in December. She is waging Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign to become the next ANC president. As I explain in the article, “President Zuma has Proven to Be a Law unto Himself,” Zuma would not only run the country from the grave, but also pull the strings within the NPA to avoid prosecution with Dlamini-Zuma as the number one citizen. She would just be a ceremonial president.
By firing Dlamini, Zuma would tilt the balance of power to Cyril Ramaphosa’s faction, comprising Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, and Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu, to name but a few. In contrast, his faction, which includes the Dlamini, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, and State Security Minister David Mahlobo, to name but a few, as well as the ANCWL and the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), wants him to fire Gordhan. Therefore, by firing Dlamini and leave Gordhan, Zuma would sow a seed of disunity within his faction. He cannot afford to turn his faction against him at this crucial time.
Similarly, he cannot afford to fire Gordhan and leave Dlamini. This would also tilt the balance of power to Ramaphosa’s faction and intensify calls for his resignation and/or the ANC to recall him. The once mightier Zuma is not anymore. More so, given that the Ramaphosa faction, led by Hanekom, has already tabled a motion of no confidence in him. The motion failed, but further weakened him to the core following the Nenegate.
Before 9 December 2015, a day Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister and replaced him with an economic nonentity in Des Van Rooyen, a blunder that plummeted the rand against the U.S. dollar and other major currencies, he could fire and appoint both ministers and deputy ministers willy-nilly, but not anymore. He is skating on thin ice.
In December 2016, delivering an ANCYL lecture on economic freedom, Zuma laid bare a failure by his faction to support him following the Nenegate. “I can tell you sitting on my own being pushed to reverse the decision,” he said. He asked the members whether they would defend him if he “takes another decision”. Clearly, Zuma would have to think twice before he fires Gordhan.
In all fairness to Dlamini, her firing or resignation would not address the incompetence of the current administration, as the fish rots from the head. I have lost count of how many commissions of inquiry and ministerial and/or presidential task teams that Zuma has appointed since taking over the reins in 2009, not to mention how long it takes to ‘apply his mind’ on their findings and implement their recommendations.
Simply put, Zuma is running the country with incessant commissions of inquiry and ministerial and/or presidential task teams to investigate the incompetence of the current administration and corruption. No wonder, while the commission of inquiry into university fees is underway, there are calls to institute commissions of inquiry into maladministration and corruption at Eskom, the SABC, and the South African Security Service Agency (SASSA), to name but a few public institutions embroiled in maladministration and corruption. Incidentally, the commission of inquiry into state capture is still on the way.
The social grant crisis has brought four issues to the fore. First, the ANC’s failure to establish a central tender board, as promised in its 2014 election manifesto. Perhaps, the centralised system would have spared the 17 million social grant recipients from Dlamini’s incompetence.
Second, an interregnum has crept in as degenerative factionalism within the ANC deepens in the run-up to the forthcoming elective conference. Dlamini had over two years to address the social grant crisis. Instead, she focused on factional interests so much that she forgot the Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract, which the ConCourt nullified it in 2014, expires on 31 March this year.
In his book, My Second Initiation, co-authored with award-winning journalist Mandy Wiener, former NPA National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Vusi Pikoli says, “All political parties go through phases in their life cycle, through infancy, growth, maturity, and degeneration, with old leadership being replaced by newly elected members.”
The ANC is in the latter phase, namely degenerative factionalism, with factional interests at the centre of it all, from clientelism to privatised incentives. The outcomes of it are manifestly playing themselves out in the public, from decisional stalemate to instability and from political corruption to grotesque usage of state resources, all of which impinge on the party’s reputation.
Third, the state lacks capacity to provide public services. As a result, ropes in private service providers to provide them. This sows a seed of private-public sector corruption. One has to give it to the EFF in this regard. As one of its seven non-negotiable cardinals, the EFF wants to build a state capacity for government to provide public services in order to end the private-public sector corruption.
Four, the ANC’s hypocritical scrimmage on the white monopoly capital and the so-called radical socio-economic transformation have once more come to the bare. It talks left, but walks right. The CPS is the subsidiary of U.S.-based Net1 UEPS. It is not a black-owned company, not even the Gupta-owned. Yet Dlamini fights tooth and nail to continue on enrichment of the same white monopoly capital. Talk of hypocrisy at its best.