President Jacob Zuma File picture: Nic Bothma/EPA
President Jacob Zuma File picture: Nic Bothma/EPA

President Zuma has proved to be a law unto himself

By OPINION Time of article published Feb 26, 2017

Share this article:

Jacob Zuma's habit of appointing those on the wrong side of the law to positions of power makes them beholden to him, writes Molifi Tshabalala.

In the book, Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred, Mark Gevisser says former president Thabo Mbeki was worried that Jacob Zuma vied for the presidency in order to avoid prosecution. He says Mbeki was “worried that Zuma and his backers had no respect for the rule of law and the South African constitution”.

As Zuma is at the twilight of his second term, it is propitious to ascertain whether Mbeki’s worries were justified.

The question comes to mind: “Has Zuma avoided prosecution?” No. The DA has succeeded in its concerted efforts to force the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to reinstate 783 corruption charges against him.

Hence, he has thrown his weight behind his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to succeed him as the next president.

Through Dlamini Zuma, he - and by extension, the Guptas - would not only run the country from the grave, but also pull the strings within the NPA to avoid prosecution. Incidentally, capturing those who are on the wrong side of the law is Zuma’s main political expediency. By appointing them to positions of power, he makes them beholden to him.

Deputy NPA head Nomgcobo Jiba is a quintessence in this regard. In December 2007, the NPA suspended her and instituted a disciplinary process against her for dishonesty, unprofessional conduct and bringing the organisation into disrepute.

Her suspension related to her investigation of former state prosecutor Gerrie Nel. The following month, the police arrested Nel and charged him with fraud. The charge didn’t stand in court due to insufficient evidence. It emerged that Jiba’s vendetta against Nel stemmed from his role in a fraud case against her husband, Booker Nhantsi, convicted of theft for stealing a client’s money. Zuma granted him a presidential pardon.

In appointing Jiba as deputy NPA head and pardoning her husband, Zuma captured her. For a while, after the Supreme Court of Appeal nullified Menzi Simelane’s appointment, she acted as NPA head. Logically, Jiba had a say in the NPA’s fight not to reinstate the charges against Zuma.

The same applies to Dlamini Zuma, Brian Molefe, who is said to replace Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, and others who frequent Saxonwold, where Vytjie Mentor said the Guptas offered her a ministerial position.

Dlamini Zuma cannot be in a muddy place and play clean. Zuma cannot anoint her without something to make her beholden to him. In due course, the truth shall come out, especially if she becomes the president.

The Guptas have captured Zuma, who, in turn, has Dlamini Zuma, Molefe, the ANC Youth League and the ANC Women’s League, as well as people like Jiba and Hlaudi Motsoeneng at institutions such as the NPA and the SABC, respectively.

State capture is a form of corruption prevalent in transitional democracies. In South Africa, it started in 1948 when the National Party assumed power through apartheid, a brainchild of the Afrikaner Broederbond, which owns and controls a largest share of the means of production.

In the run-up to and post-1994, the Afrikaner Broederbond captured some ANC members.

At the heart of the Guptas versus white monopoly capital is a corporate capture of the two degenerative factions in the ANC - the Cyril Ramaphosa faction, which includes Gordhan, represents and advances the interests of white monopoly capital and that of Zuma, which represents and advances the interests of the Guptas.

The ANC is on auction for the highest bigger. Zuma’s plan to avoid prosecution through Dlamini Zuma will backfire if the ANC fails to win the 2019 general elections by a ground-holding majority. Nationally, it stands at 54% following last year’s local government elections.

It is unlikely that the ANC will get more than 50% in 2019. With 46%, it has lost Gauteng, which is the main determinant of national power, followed by KwaZulu-Natal. The ANC is governing the Eastern Cape, Free State and five other provinces with drastically reduced majorities.

In 2019, history will repeat itself. The DA will form a coalition government with the African Christian Democratic Party, Cope and other smaller opposition parties to vote the ANC out of power with the EFF’s support. The ANC’s challenge is not only to arrest a continual loss of support, but also to mend its relationship with opposition parties. Only the African Independent Congress (AIC) came to its rescue in Ekurhuleni and Rustenburg.

However, the coalition government remains precarious until it returns Matatiele to KwaZulu-Natal from the Eastern Cape. The AIC has given the ANC until 31 March to commit itself to the process.

Returning Matatiele to KwaZulu-Natal would entail an exhaustive process. Before going to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the National Assembly has to pass the bill, which the ANC would require a two-thirds majority. Logically, the DA and its coalition partners, as well as the EFF, would vote against the bill.

The ANC’s failure to return Matatiele to KwaZulu-Natal would impinge on its reputation for a future coalition government.

The DA and the EFF have a common enemy in Zuma. They will pull strings within the NPA to prosecute Zuma. In September 2008, Zuma and his backers laid bare their disrespect for the rule of law and the constitution when they recalled Mbeki based on their presumption that he was guilty until proven innocent, albeit he was not party to the case. His recall amounted to a bloodless coup.

Besides respecting the ANC’s decision, a former director-general in the Presidency says Mbeki resigned to spare the country from destabilisation. He could not go into details due to legislation that governs confidentiality.

Moeletsi Mbeki shed some light on what could have destabilised the country if his brother had refused to resign.

“The army chiefs called for them to be arrested but my brother said no,” he said.

Given that Zuma’s election as ANC president had created two centres of power. A second example that justifies Mbeki’s worry is a revelation by Vusi Pikoli, who in his book, My Second Initiation, co-authored with Mandy Wiener, says Zuma’s backers visited him to ascertain whether he would reinstate the charges against “the man”. At that time, Mbeki had suspended him and instituted an inquiry into his fitness to hold office.

“They said that even if (the Ginwala Inquiry) were to recommend I be fired and the matter went to Parliament, they would simply instruct MPs not to follow the recommendation,” reads the extract.

Pikoli says he refused to go and meet “the man”. Interestingly, caretaker president Kgalema Motlanthe fired him and the ANC MPs rubberstamped his decision, albeit the inquiry had declared him fit to hold office.

A third example that Zuma and his backers disrespect the rule of law and the constitution is a R246million Nkandla security upgrade.

They pleaded ignorance that the Public Protector’s remedial recommendations were binding. Yet, before the Nkandla matter, Zuma complied with them without any problem.

Most disturbingly, Zuma and his backers do not understand the enormity of the Constitutional Court’s judgment that he failed to uphold his oath of office.

He should have resigned or the ANC should have recalled him immediately. Instead, he apologised and the ANC reaffirmed its support for him.Zuma wilfully misled Par-liament.

He misled it that former public protector Thuli Madonsela did not interrogate him in her state of capture investigation, to justify his decision to interdict her from releasing the report. In vain, Madonsela spent four hours pleading with him to answer the simplest questions.

Ironically, after Motsoeneng and the SABC board staged a walkout during a parliamentary inquiry into the SABC board’s fitness to hold office, the Presidency urged them to respect the process.

The SABC also undermined Madonsela’s remedial recommendations.

It appointed a so-called independent law firm to exonerate Motsoeneng while the law is clear that the Public Protector’s findings are subject to court review.

The deployment of the police and soldiers inside a parliamentary precinct and bypassing Parliament to withdraw South Africa from the International Criminal Court are other examples of how Zuma and his backers disrespect the rule of law and the constitution.

The last one is Molefe’s deployment to Parliament with a dark cloud of corruption over his head. Appointing him as finance minister would create another investor uncertainty. People should not confuse “radical economic and social transformation” with corruption.

Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas’s dismissals as finance and deputy ministers respectively would not lead to a radical transformation of the economy, but open the floodgates for the self-servant faction to loot state coffers. For them, it is now or never.

It may be their last opportunity to enrich themselves in case Dlamini Zuma loses to Ramaphosa or the ANC loses power in 2019.

Money is not a tool for transformation, but a key enabler to bring about it.

The most effective tool to bring about transformation is a legislative framework.

* Tshabalala is an independent political writer.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent

Share this article: