Molifi Tshabalala
Molifi Tshabalala

Five reasons why Ramaphosa should not grant Zuma early parole

By Time of article published Jul 20, 2021

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The 79-year-old brought it upon himself, ANC top-six national officers implored him to subject himself to the state capture commission, but he refused

Molifi Tshabalala

ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Joel Natshitenzhe has been at pains to warn that ‘the beneficiaries of corruption and state capture will not give up without a fight’, alluding of course to former ANC president Jacob Zuma and his acolytes known as the RET forces.

They would do everything possible to evade imprisonment, even if it means taking the country down with them.

Cryptically, some among them have peddled a narrative that President Cyril Ramaphosa has captured certain judges and the judiciary as a whole without shreds of evidence to corroborate them.

The narrative, in part, flows from an allegation that judges were paid monies from his ANC presidential campaign – the CR17 Campaign.

As a result, their judgments favour the president and his acolytes, especially Pravin Gordhan, a public enterprises minister who is regarded as a de facto, on one hand and disfavour Zuma and his acolytes on the other hand.

One such judge is Letty Malopa-Sethosa, who allegedly received R150 000 from the CR17 Campaign in June 2019.

She presided over an urgent application brought by Ramaphosa to put the Public Protector (PP) Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s remedial order for him to take a disciplinary action against Gordhan in abeyance pending a review application of her report by the minister.

However, the PP had none of it.

She argued that Ramaphosa “protect(ed) his friend”, who the EFF charges is part of an Indian Cabal that undermines African leadership.

In her report, Mkhwebane upheld a complaint that, as a SARS commissioner, a position he held before his appointment as finance minister in 2009, Gordhan was not authorised to approve his deputy Ivan Pillay’s early retirement with a full payout.

Malopa-Sethosa ruled that the president “act(ed) rationally and reasonably,” thereby drawing the ire of former EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, whose party joined the matter as amicus curiae (a friend of court) in support of the PP.

“The judge could not even read her own judgment,” tweeted Ndlozi, insinuating that someone wrote it for her.

The EFF joined forces with Mkhwebane to cajole the president into unsealing details of his campaign donors.

On July 1 the Constitutional Court dismissed their application to bring the matter to finality.

Two days earlier, the same court sentenced Zuma, who served as ANC intelligence chief in the late 1980s, to a 15-month imprisonment.

The former president defied its order to appear before a state capture commission and answer questions put to him.

Calling for his release from imprisonment, hordes of people in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the two provinces where he has a great deal of Zulu ethno-nationalist support, went on a rampage, burning and looting malls, shops, trucks, and critical infrastructure in what smacks of an intelligence-driven economic sabotage.

In an apology for Zuma’s refusal to appear before the state capture commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu upped the ante on the narrative that the Judiciary has been captured. He implores Ramaphosa, who rose to power with an undertaking to fight corruption, to use any “permissible mechanism to release Jacob Zuma from prison”.

In doing so, the president would make a fivefold error of judgment. First, he would undermine his undertaking. Zuma’s imprisonment relates to serious allegations of corruption and state capture, from which he said the country has lost over R500 billion.

Second, Zuma’s imprisonment has affirmed that nobody is above the law. His release before serving a third of his sentence would downplay this affirmation.

Third, he would put pressure on judges not to sentence him to imprisonment in his other cases.

Fourth, he would set a wrong precedent, which would undermine the rule of law.

Once other prominent political figures, such suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, EFF president Julius Malema, and Shivambu, who have been charged with assaults, corruption, and other crimes are sentenced to imprisonments may also go on a rampage to demand for their release.

Fifth, Shivambu contends that Zuma “does not possess any threat to the current regime and establishment”.

A disgruntled intelligence agent, be it in the employ of an intelligence agency or not, poses a threat. He would do everything to avenge.

It is well-known that Zuma is disgruntled. The old-man is angry at everyone he perceives as his adversary.

He is even angry at Ramaphosa, although the president cannot be blamed for his incarceration.

In fact, the 79-year-old brought it upon himself.

ANC top-six national officers implored him to subject himself to the state capture commission, but he refused.

Although Ramaphosa and his Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster ministers cannot take the nation into the State’s confidence on a nature and an extent of the economic sabotage from intelligence at their disposal, it is clear that the country is caught up in a treacherous intra-ANC factional crossfire.

“Looting is (just) a smokescreen,” said Police Minister Bheki Cele, addressing journalists in Mamelodi, north-east of Pretoria, Gauteng, where he had gone to assess the damage at the malls.

“It’s far beyond that, in terms of criminality happening,” he continued.

According to Cele and Ayanda Dlodlo, a state security minister, the police averted a power station, the ANC headquarters in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, and hospitals to name but a few from being set on fire.

Dlodlo confirmed that the State Security Agency (SSA) is investigating its former agents as prime suspects behind the economic sabotage.

The agents are linked to Zuma.

According to a High-Level Review Panel on the SSA report, SSA was further factionalised and politicised under Zuma to a point that, apart from the Constitution of the country and relevant laws, the agents had sworn their allegiance to him.

No wonder SSA Special Operations (OS) unit, headed by Thulani Dlomo, who is linked to the economic sabotage, had conducted several counter-intelligence projects to advance and protect Zuma’s factional and personal interests, thereby using state resources to meddle in intra-ANC factional politics.

In Eight Days in September, Frank Chikane says the SSA has a network of corrupt elements, including intelligence agents from the old and new orders as well as abroad.

Chikane, who served as secretary and chairperson of the National Security Council (NSC) director-generals’ committee, warns: “The reality is that these elements could corrupt our intelligence services to an extent that foreign entities or their agents or national proxies could take over (the) government.”

Regarding intra-ANC factional politics, he illuminates, “I have also seen the frightening spectre of factions within the party battling to control or corrupt elements of the intelligence services to ensure that they served their party factions or individuals, rather than the security interests of the state and people of South Africa”.

An intelligence community is Zuma’s, as Stephen Ellis posits in External Mission, “key institutional base”.

Therefore, he cannot just be released from prison without first conducting a national security risk assessment.

This requires a determination on whether the masterminds behind the economic sabotage received any foreign intelligence support to undertake such a sophisticated operation or not.

In the foregoing book, Chikane says when foreign governments have economic interests in a particular country, their foreign intelligence services “compromise or recruit up-and-coming leaders to ensure that by the time they take the reins of power they are already at their service”.

In his testimony before the state capture commission, an inspector-general of intelligence, Setlhomamaru Dintwe, revealed that he was asked to approve a grabber’s procurement as a 54th ANC National Conference approached.

The eavesdropping device was required because backpackers from a foreign country were scattered in Soweto, south of Joburg, Gauteng, to influence ANC leadership contests, testified the inspector-general.

However, he did not specify from which country.

Based on his testimony, it is clear that the government is aware of foreign intelligence operations to influence political developments in South Africa, but it might have decided to keep them top-secret to preserve bilateral relations with the country in question, presumably Russia, one of our BRICS partners.

Russia has an unfulfilled economic interest in South Africa. Rosatom, a Russian state corporation, was tipped to snatch a nuclear build programme (NBP) to produce 9 600 megawatts.

At a 10th Annual BRICS Summit, held in South Africa a few months after Zuma’s recall, Ramaphosa informed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that his government would re-consider the NBP, estimated over R1 trillion, when the economy is doing well.

In June 2020, while the country was in a third recession since April 1994, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy issued a request for information on a nuclear new build programme to produce 2 500 megawatts.

It remains to be seen whether Rosatom would snatch the tender or not.

The narrative that the judiciary has been captured constitutes information warfare.

In the realm of information warfare, the information does not necessarily have to be accurate, complete, and current to mention but a few; rather, it should just suffice to discredit an adversary or accomplish a mission.

When the truth comes out, the adversary must be discredited or the mission must be accomplished to the point of no return.

To quell the unrest, the JCPS has been “monitoring all social media platforms …tracking those who are sharing false information and calling for civil disobedience”.

Russia, which appears not to enjoy good bilateral relations with South Africa under Ramaphosa, has proven itself to be adept at sowing divisions in the US over the past two presidential elections through information warfare.

Molifi Tshabalala is a political writer

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