NEITHER the South African economy or its body-politic, nor the ANC, is going to easily, or soon, recover from the damage inflicted by the nightmare of the Zuma/Gupta-era.
In the case of the African National Congress, in fact, it is doubtful whether it will ever recover.
How deep the wounds inflicted on the ANC have become, is evident from the latest ‘informed’ speculation that leaking of some 200 000 e-mail communications linked to the Guptas, came from within the organisation. And, we use the term ‘organisation’ deliberately, because under its policy/programme of “cadre deployment,” it hardly any longer qualifies to be regarded as a mere “political party”.
According to Mcebisi Ndletyana, an associate professor of politics at the University of Johannesburg, the e-mails were leaked on the eve of an ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting “by some in the party,” hoping it would lead to a recall of President Jacob Zuma. They were unsuccessful.
His forwarded reasons for the lack of success, illustrating the extent of the damage caused by the “Zupta” era: “The recall doesn’t just affect Zuma, but also involves numerous other individuals in the NEC. Some of the NEC members are part of the patron-client network, while others are simply indebted to the president for appointing them to positions.”
Perhaps there are still a few debts to be called in by Saxonwold
In the case of the latter – those indebted due to appointments – a recalled memory by ex-minister of finance, Trevor Manuel in an open letter to the recently appointed Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, is telling.
He wrote: “That memory goes back to an ANC NEC meeting in August 2011. There, the Fikile Mbalula we once knew, wept as he spoke. He explained he’d been called to Saxonwold by the Guptas in May 2009, and was told that he was being promoted from the position of Deputy Minister of Police to Minister of Sport.
“A few days later the President confirmed this change. The weeping was about the fact that he, Fikile, was happy that he’d made it into Cabinet but that it was wrong to have learnt this from Atul Gupta. That weeping was then, and this is now. Perhaps there are still a few debts to be called in by Saxonwold.”
Danger if not soon addressed
How difficult it might become to get rid of criminal capture of the state if not addressed properly, and expeditiously – and might explain something of the Gupta style of business – is reflected in an article by Andrew Mwenda, columnist in The Magazine.
In poor countries democracy tends to eliminate public-spirited individuals from politics and instead promotes the most cunning and deceitful ones
He argues that “in poor countries democracy tends to eliminate public-spirited individuals from politics and instead promotes the most cunning and deceitful ones. We have witnessed this in Uganda since 1996 but it is most exemplified in India…”
And, he then writes about India, that the politics of patronage, which he calls “Robin Hood politics”. ”It is also common in (democratic) India where hundreds of men facing serious criminal charges have enjoyed long and successful careers in politics – both at the national and state level.
“Today, criminals are so deeply embedded in India’s political life that democracy and electoral competition tends to strengthen, rather than lessen, their grip on power.”
In another article, retired professor and publisher of the blog Solar Plexus, Mike Berger, recalls how journalist Lester Venter in 1997 predicted how South Africa would in 20-years’ time, on the back of “continuing population growth especially in the poorer sections of the population coupled to stagnant economic performance would experience a youth bulge, widening inequality, more crime, corruption, and erosion of the social fabric – thus further amplifying negative social-political trends while sharpening racial and class divisions.
The parasitic network which has coalesced around the Zupta axis is having major ill effects on the broader South African society
“This spiral, predictably, would be accompanied by poor education, inadequate service delivery of all kinds set in the context of increasing globalisation with its concurrent emphasis on free trade, stable governance and a skilled, disciplined population,” Berger writes.
He then comments that recent “reports, leaks and analyses, by now familiar to most readers, strongly suggest that political corruption has evolved into a shadow, but real Mafia state, part of but, parasitic upon the constitutional state displayed to the world”.
Berger writes that it is clear “that the parasitic network which has coalesced around the Zupta axis is having major ill effects on the broader South African society,” with the three most egregious consequences:
- The systematic damage being done to the competence and integrity of our civil service and our regulatory institutions which threatens the foundations of our constitutional democracy;
- The undermining of South Africa’s already precarious economic viability inviting opportunistic demagogues feeding on mob social dynamics; and
- That within the ANC over the past 15 years a tipping point has been breached which renders the alliance incapable of mounting an effective immune response.
The fight-back has begun and will become increasingly bitter, divisive and dirty
He believes there is evidence that South African society is broadly committed to Constitutionalism and has manifested both resilience and the capacity for civil resistance. Over the longer-term all is not lost, if these attributes are successfully harnessed into a flexible strategic policy which broadly emphasises:
- legal resistance to racialised and parasitic politics, including defence of our key constitutional institutions;
- a physical infrastructure which simultaneously promotes economic opportunity, individual dignity and environmental protection;
- racial inclusivity and socio-economic transformation which does not undermine the public’s sense of fairness, individual responsibility and dignity;
- a continued emphasis on education and especially skills relevant to our socio-economic context;
- maximum government deregulation compatible with protection of the public from abuse and exploitation; and
- the promotion of opportunity and the cultivation of personal initiative and integrity.
In his concluding remarks, Berger writes that “the fight-back has begun and will become increasingly bitter, divisive and dirty …. Furthermore, the nature of media is to simplify and distort reality, and within a democracy a multitude of voices can deliberately divert excitable publics into political dead-ends and precipitous self-defeating actions.
“To conclude: while the Zupta network is an immediate problem that needs to be eliminated, if possible, but at least constrained, the underlying economic, historical, and political dynamics remain. There is no magic formula other than ongoing intelligent pragmatism and courageous, principled political leadership. Our future depends on whether we can find these insights and strengths within our society.”
This article first appeared in The Intelligence Bulletin, by the Intelligence Bulletin team.