Jacob Zuma’s administration is schizophrenic. This description is consistent with the views in both of my previous assessments, although I did not use this particular provocative term.
The schizophrenia lies in the administration’s desire to pursue a progressive inclusive economic agenda, while simultaneously advancing a traditionalist, conservative social agenda.
The former is reflected in the industrialisation plan of the Zuma regime, the New Growth Path, the Infrastructural Development agenda and related plans. While some in business may chaff at the idea of the state intervening in the economy, I believe, it is necessary for creating an inclusive economic future.
The social conservatism manifests itself in the militarisation of the police, the attempts to curtail transparency, and the initiatives to empower rural elites vis-à-vis citizens. In the earlier years of this administration, the focus in this regard was on the militarisation of the police.
South Africans were two-minded about this. Tired of the scourge of violent crime, many were willing to give this a shot. The tragic murder of Andries Tatane last year, however, demonstrated the true horror that such militarisation can lead to.
This past year, however, the Zuma administration has moved up a notch its agenda of social conservatism. We have had the Protection of State Information Bill – the Secrecy Bill – written by the Minister of Intelligence to determine, what should be classified, how this should be done, and the penalties for those who expose this.
As some commentators have noted, the real victims of this will not be the press but the ordinary citizens who expose violations or are participating in the social protests.
This was followed by the Traditional Leadership Bill, which really empowers traditional leaders and disempowers rural citizens. It is effectively creating two sets of citizenship and two distinct forms of political rule, one for the urban and the other for the rural.
Many citizens in the latter will be subject to customary law and the political rule of the chiefs even when this violates the substantive intent of our constitution.
In previous years, the fulcrum of the political administration had been on economic transformation.
This year it has tilted to the social arena. Moreover, the economic transformation agenda seems mired in discussion, and its implementation has not yet taken off.
Given this, the overall flavour of the Zuma Administration has on balance taken on a deeper conservatism than any previous ANC government. In the absence of any further ominous trends, I would have reduced its formal assessment to 30 percent, down from 52 percent and 40 percent in years one and two respectively.
But there have been new developments with ominous consequences for our collective future. In the life of any political administration, there comes a moment when one event defines it for ever.
For Mandela it was the tea with Betty Verwoed. For Mbeki, it was his defence of Manto which manifested his Aids denialism. This moment has now arrived for Zuma.
Let me present the context first before I describe this moment. We have now had two commissioners of police, both of whom were cavorting with criminals when they were meant to be putting them behind bars.
Jackie Selebi was fraternising with Glenn Agliotti, a known drug kingpin, smuggler and criminal. Bheki Cele, we are now told, was not only implicated in the Building Lease scandal, but also had close ties to the criminal fraternity, and in particular to a convicted drug dealer Panganathan “Timmy” Marimuthu.
Moreover, not only did he fraternise with him, but crime intelligence is said to have employed him and his family on the public payroll and loaned him a state vehicle, all in an effort to lobby Bheki Cele for more resources. You could not get a better script for a Monty Python movie.
In any case, given this sad state of affairs, that the president contributed to by appointing Bheki Cele in the first place, one would imagine that he and his Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa, would proceed with care in the next appointment.
Not Zuma and Nathi Mthethwa! The minister, supposedly with the blessing of the president, proceeds to appoint Richard Mdluli to Crime Intelligence and we are told that he may even be considered for appointment as the next commissioner of police.
This is an individual that may have been involved in the murder of his rival in a love triangle. To plead the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” is nonsensical. We do not give awaiting trial prisoners – who have not been proven guilty yet – the keys to the cells. That is not a breach of principle. It is called responsible governance.
You cannot appoint someone with a charge like this hanging over his head as the most senior official in crime intelligence.
If Zuma or his minister knows something we don’t, then, given the circumstances, they are obliged to take us into confidence. If they do not, their decisions delegitimate the police service.
Let me put this in perspective. The fundamental reason why citizens give their allegiance to the state is that it is meant to protect their lives. This did not happen in the case of Oupa Ramogibe.
Instead, his family has been living in fear of the very people who were meant to protect them. Now the president and his minister, instead of correcting this, enable the chief architect to be promoted to an even more powerful position in the police service.
This is an abrogation of presidential and ministerial duty and responsibility.
For making gangsters our protectors, Zuma should be allocated a zero.
* Habib is Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Advancement at the University of Johannesburg
* Tomorrow Judith February rates and analyses