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Zuma - SA’s one-man wrecking ball

Subsequent to the publication of the opinion column below, the Presidency pointed out a factual inaccuracy in the piece as contained in the following line: “But the after-effects of his corrupt relationship (in the words of a judge) with his financial adviser..."

The devastation caused by Jacob Zuma will take years to rebuild, even if he were to leave office tomorrow, says the writer. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko. Credit: REUTERS

Judge Hilary Squires, the judge referred to – who sentenced Schabir Shaik for corruption and fraud – did not make any finding on the relationship between him and Zuma. The judge indicated he had not made the statement so often attributed to him, and went to great lengths to correct the misconception.  Our internal fact-checking process should have picked up this inaccuracy and we regret the failure on our part to do so. We have also alerted the writer to this. Independent Media and Prteoria News apologise to the Presidency and our readers for perpetuating a factual inaccuracy contained within this column. We apologise and retract this misrepresentation and will endeavour to be more vigilant in monitoring the accuracy of our articles and columns.

ORIGINAL COLUMN

Sars and the Hawks are the latest victims of President Jacob Zuma’s demolition of democracy, says Max du Preez.

The devastation caused by that one-man wrecking ball – Jacob Zuma – will take years to rebuild, even if he were to leave office tomorrow.

Sounds a bit harsh? Well, I don’t think the serious damage this president has inflicted upon our political culture and our key institutions deserves softer condemnation.

Zuma was never going to match the analytical and intellectual acumen of his predecessors. But he did represent a significant section of South African society that had been under-represented in the top echelons since 1994 and he was our first Zulu-speaking president.

If he had surrounded himself with able ministers and advisers and listened to them he could still have been an exemplary president. He was closer to the people than any of his predecessors and had a strong reputation as a listener and a peacemaker.

But the after-effects of his corrupt relationship (in the words of a judge) with his financial adviser, the debt he owed to those who put him in power and his obvious view that he was more of an African chief than the president of a modern democracy led him on a different path.

His only talent we did experience was that of a political street fighter and manipulator, a talent he had perfected as the head of intelligence of Umkhonto we Sizwe while in exile. He masterfully outmanoeuvered those who stood up to him and instilled a culture of fear in his party. He richly rewarded those loyal to him through a vast system of patronage and massively enriched his own family and clan in the tradition of Mobuto Sese Seko (former president of Zaire, now the DRC) and Robert Mugabe.

The golden thread running through his six years as president was his determination to stay out of court (and jail) with more than 700 charges of corruption, fraud and racketeering hanging over his head.

In the process he co-opted and corrupted the entire intelligence machinery, the National Prosecuting Authority, the police service and the SABC. Tenderpreneurship blossomed and corruption mushroomed with almost no consequences for perpetrators.

These tendencies moved a key member of the Tripartite Alliance, Cosatu general secretary Zwelenzima Vavi, to declare back in 2010: “We’re headed for a full-blown predator state where a powerful, corrupt and demagogic elite of political hyenas are increasingly using the state to get rich.”

The Nkandla scandal is the one that comes up first when citizens talk about corruption in government. And yet it is a relatively small scandal – that is apart from the fact that the president had lied to Parliament on not being aware of what was being built at his homestead and the fact that he forced his party to lie for him and savage an institution of the Constitution, the public protector.

Zuma’s blatant interference with the criminal justice system is a much bigger scandal. It undermined one of the central pillars of our democracy and stability. In recent weeks it became clear that two other key state institutions have fallen victim to Zuma’s machinations – two institutions that have been functioning better than most other thus far: the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and the corruption-fighting Hawks unit.

Zuma appointed loyalist Tom Moyane as head of Sars in September after he had retired as head of Correctional Services. His record at that department wasn’t a good one. Under his leadership the department was rebuked several times by the auditor-general and Moyane was instrumental in the release on medical parole of former police commissioner Jackie Selebi who was supposed to be on his deathbed three years ago.

Moyane started a high-level purge of senior Sars officials. The State Security Agency had prepared the ground for him by planting false stories on the journalists of a leading newspaper, who published them without further investigation. Most of the information so published has now been discredited.

And last week the head of the Hawks, Anwar Dramat, was suspended, ostensibly because of the deportation of a Zimbabwean four years ago. The real reason was that he refused to hand over files on Nkandla, Northern Cape ANC leader John Block and other high-level corruption cases to the police commissioner. He was fired because he was doing his job. Dramat confirmed this in a letter to the minister, saying his investigations into the affairs of “influential persons” cost him his job.

It is Zuma Demolition Inc at work.

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