Deputy Defence Minister Kebby Maphatsoe
Deputy Defence Minister Kebby Maphatsoe
Penny Sparrow had the DA red-faced.
Penny Sparrow had the DA red-faced.
The EFF’s Julius Malema got into a shouting match with Speaker Baleka Mbete.
The EFF’s Julius Malema got into a shouting match with Speaker Baleka Mbete.
President Jacob Zuma
President Jacob Zuma
The SABC’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng
The SABC’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete
Durban - Politicians and their organisations emerged from 2016 bruised and limping, but this year is expected to be more strenuous and politically challenging.

The past year got off to a rocky start for the DA after its member, Penny Sparrow, was caught in a racial storm for referring to black beachgoers in KwaZulu-Natal as "monkeys".

While the former real estate agent apologised for her racist remarks and later expelled by the organisation, it sent the official opposition into a tailspin.

Then came the State of the Nation address in February, when President Jacob Zuma again faced the wrath of the EFF MPs who disrupted his speech again.

It started when EFF MPs engaged Speaker Baleka Mbete in a screaming match after she had ruled no points of order would be considered during the address.

EFF leader Julius Malema argued the ruling was aimed at protecting the president and said Zuma was not supposed to address the nation because he was an illegitimate president.

“Zuma is no longer a president who deserves respect from anyone. He has stolen from us, he has collapsed the economy, he has made this country a joke, and after that he has laughed at us. We cannot allow Zuma to do as he wishes in this country,” Malema shouted.

The EFF and Cope staged a walkout from the National Assembly, allowing Zuma to continue with his address.

However, it would be a few weeks before the president would come under the spotlight again; this time the groundbreaking Constitutional Court judgment over his non-compliance with the public protector’s remedial action over the Nkandla non-security upgrades.

He was found to have failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution, and later apologised for the “frustration and confusion” the matter had caused.

Zuma was ordered to pay back close to R8million for the non-security upgrades at his private home.

The ANC welcomed his apology over the matter, and a few months would pass before his own comrades would demand he should consider stepping down from his leadership of the ANC and the country.

Zuma’s woes appeared to worsen when in April the Gauteng High Court,Pretoria, gave the green light for a review of the decision to drop 783 fraud- and corruption-related charges against him, relating to the so-called spy tapes saga.

The court said the decision by then acting National Director of Public Prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe to withdraw the charges was irrational.

The charges were withdrawn by the high court in Pietermaritzburg in April, 2009, paving the way for Zuma to become president of Africa’s most industrialised economy.

The Supreme Court of Appeal wants Zuma’s lawyers to argue in court for the right to appeal the spy tapes ruling. Analysts, however, have said if the president was found guilty on any of the 783 charges against him, he could go to jail for a long time.

Addressing party supporters at eDumbe in KwaZulu-Natal in November, Zuma was quoted as saying he was not scared to go to jail: “People think democracy is done at courts. They never mention the will of the majority they always talk about courts.

“They never even speak to us about democratic debates because they know we are good at debates. They think by going to courts they are intimidating the ANC. We are not going to be intimidated even if it means I get arrested today I am used to it.

“I have spent a lot of time in jail; you cannot threaten me with jail time. I am not scared of jail - I have been there.”

The past year also saw political leaders criss-crossing the country in search of votes in the build-up to the watershed municipal elections in August. The elections saw the ANC losing the three metros of capital city Tshwane, Joburg and Nelson Mandela Bay to a coalition of opposition parties.

Zuma critics within the ruling party reportedly wanted the president to step down over the poor showing, which saw the ANC electoral support dropping from 62 percent to 54 percent.

The ANC national leadership took “collective responsibility” for the outcome and welcomed the will of the people.

The election campaigning, however, occurred against the backdrop of simmering crises within the SABC, which saw senior journalists at the public broadcaster crossing swords with their bosses - notably former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng over the editorial policy.

SABC board members, except its chairman Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe, would later quit over the crisis.

A parliamentary inquiry into the broadcaster laid bare the rot in the management, with Motsoeneng and Communications Minister Faith Muthambi shirking responsibility over their roles in the morass.

Motsoeneng, who has been accused of running the corporation like his personal fiefdom, was dealt a further blow when the courts found his appointment as the SABC head of corporate affairs to be unlawful and barred him from reporting for duty.

In October, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was charged with fraud on the eve of his Medium Term Budget Policy speech, charges which the opposition parties and the business sector described as "frivolous".

The charges, which were later dropped, pertained to Gordhan, a former Sars commissioner, approving an early retirement and re-employment procedure for his former deputy Ivan Pillay.

There were fears at the time that international ratings agencies, which were monitoring the political and economic climate would downgrade the country’s sovereign rating to junk status before 2016 was over.

This was not the case, however, thanks to behind-the-scenes interventions by government and its interactions with business and labour leaders, and those of the ratings’ agencies.

As October drew to an end, a nude photo purporting to be of Deputy Minister of Defence Kebby Maphatsoe surfaced on social media, leading to the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association chairman saying he would take his wife and daughter for counselling as they had been left “traumatised” by the ordeal.

Social media users took to Twitter to poke fun at Maphatsoe and characterised him as the “naked chef” in reference to his role during the Struggle in which he largely served as a cook.

In November, the ANC national executive committee, the highest decision-making structure between conferences, emerged from its marathon meeting and announced it had rejected calls by some NEC members, who are also cabinet ministers, that Zuma should resign.

The ruling party, following engagements with the ANC stalwarts and veterans, also announced it had agreed to a consultative conference to be held this year to debate challenges facing the former liberation movement.

Last month, the president approached the high court in Pretoria to set aside the remedial action recommendation by the public protector that a commission of inquiry be established over the state capture report.

Zuma criticised the report by former public protector, advocate Thuli Madonsela, saying: “This report has been dealt with in a very funny way. Very funny, in my view. It affected me and many others. No fairness at all.”

And on December 11, the president updated the nation on the steps taken by various departments in implementing recommendations of the Farlam commission which was set up to investigate the Marikana massacre.

Zuma revealed, among other things, that charges had been laid against police generals who led the operations when 34 striking Lonmin miners were gunned down by police in Marikana, North West, on August 16, 2012.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga told Independent Media: “Very few people will dispute the fact that throughout 2016 the ANC was on the defence. The defining features were the mounting tensions within the party and the disputes around contestation for the municipal elections. It was under tremendous pressure, it had to explain the Concourt judgment on Nkandla and the State of Capture report.”

He warned, however, that the ANC’s internal weaknesses could give the wrong impression that the opposition was getting stronger but “that’s not the case”.

Mathekga said this year’s January 8 statement by Zuma would be closely watched by political observers to determine the route the party would take to address the country’s socio-economic challenges.

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Sunday Tribune