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Zuma is using every trick he used while being head of intelligence of the ANC in exile in Angola and Zambia, says Max du Preez.
Pretoria - It would be foolish to simply blame Jacob Zuma for all the ANC’s mistakes and failures, but it is true that after he took over the leadership, the former liberation movement’s worst instincts replaced its earlier democratic culture.
It’s become almost a cliché, but it has never been truer than right now: Nelson Mandela brought out the best in the ANC, and Zuma the worst.
The ethos of the Robben Island graduates, of the progressive democrats in exile and of the United Democratic Front is dead. Hard men interested only in power and privilege, the Stalinists and the raw nationalists, now dominate the party. I say this without hesitation: the president of the ANC and of the country is not the embodiment of South Africa’s 20 years of democracy. He is using every trick he used while being head of intelligence of the ANC in exile in Angola and Zambia.
Zuma has plunged the ANC back into its darkest era, when commanders in exile issued the orders and cadres even remotely suspected of being hesitant or questioning were victimised, even jailed, tortured and executed. Some key military leaders abused their positions to engage in smuggling cars and drugs.
Zuma has surrounded himself with a small group of strategically placed men in charge of state security, policing and justice and secured the undying loyalty of the Communist Party to instill a culture of fear in the ANC and to make sure he and his faction would not be defied or challenged.
In the process the criminal justice system was perverted and abused and the powerful State Security Agency employed to make sure that Zuma and his inner circle stay in power.
May I remind you that on 8 January 2008 the former Gauteng head of the Scorpions and now the hero-worshipped state advocate in the Oscar Pistorius trial, Gerrie Nel, was arrested by 20 armed policeman, locked up and accused of defeating the ends of justice. The man behind this move was one of Zuma’s top rottweilers, general Richard Mdluli, the disgraced former head of Crime Intelligence.
Nel was released and the charges withdrawn when it became clear it was about political power and nothing else. Mdluli also had a hand in the harassment of former senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach – in fact, he laid charges against Nel and Breytenbach five months ago, alleging they were planning to assassinate him.
This is how the State Security Agency (SSA), consisting of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Secret Service, explains its mandate: “… to provide the government with intelligence on domestic and foreign threats or potential threats to national stability, the constitutional order, and the safety and well-being of our people”.
But this is not where the SSA’s main focus is under Zuma. They should rewrite their mandate to read “to provide the government with intelligence on threats or potential threats to Jacob Zuma”.
We have recently seen evidence that NIA operatives and former operatives were active in vetting candidates for the ANC’s elections lists and that NIA was monitoring SABC employees.
The Minister of State Security and key Zuma protector, Siyabonga Cwele, is in charge of a budget of some R3 billion. Yet not one of his many operatives and agents picked up that his wife was an international drug smuggler (now serving time in jail), that the Gupta family landed a plane full of family guests at a National Key Point, the Waterkloof Air Base, or that Rwandan agents were active in South Africa to harass and assassinate opponents of the Kigali regime.
Struggle veteran and former cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils said last week of the ANC: “There is such control all the way from the top that there is no breathing space.” Another Struggle hero, Raymond Suttner, wrote this week about the new culture in the ANC: “Unless we reclaim the right to debate, to bring politics back into politics, to debate emancipatory principles and ethics, we are likely to be condemned to endure continued cycles of the current morass.”
The reckless war that the ANC is waging to limit the damage that the public protector’s report had inflicted on Zuma is another example of how his survival has become more important to them than the preservation and advancement of the institutions of our democracy.
“All is fair in this game to preserve the power of the president,” Professor Susan Booysen wrote recently. “The Zumaists are literally executing a scorched earth strategy on public institutions to help preserve their ringside seats at the trough.”
The ANC will win again on May 7. Civil society will have to use every democratic tool and every inch of democratic space to keep them in check.
And where do you fit into this mess, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa?
* Max du Preez is an author and columnist.
** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers.