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Another corruption buster bites the dust – Helen Zille

Helen ZilleGood presidents have difficult second terms. Bad presidents have disastrous ones.

Unfortunately, we have a particularly bad president. Eight months into his second term, Jacob Zuma has confirmed every single doubt there may have been around his suitability – and his ability – to lead this country. He has demonstrated, time and time again, that he has neither the will nor the moral fortitude to put his country before his own vast interests.

We have now reached a point where, in the words of Leonard Cohen, “Everybody knows”.

All but his most loyal sycophants have given up pretending that the emperor is not actually standing there in the buff. As the scandals pile up, the excuses, justifications and counter-accusations trotted out daily by his spin-doctors have become so threadbare that they hardly elicit debate any more.

So what do you do when there is nowhere left to hide? When spin and “good stories” are treated with disdain by all but your loyal “captured” media, what is Plan B?

In Jacob Zuma’s case, Plan B is simply to avoid facing justice by rigging every single investigative institution in his favour.

He knows he’s going to get crucified in the court of public opinion as evidence of his corrupt dealings snowballs in 2015, but he’s pulling out all the stops to ensure that this doesn’t happen in an actual court of law too.  He knows he won’t have to pay back the money, or go to jail, if he can just stay out of court.

If it feels like there’s been an exponential increase in media reports of political manipulation, it’s because these incidences have been accelerating at a frightening pace.

In recent newsletters, I’ve written about his brazen attacks on both SARS and the Hawks – institutions that are crucial in bringing high-level corruption to book. His attempts to remove independent thinkers at the heads of these institutions and replace them with loyal cadres, presents the biggest threat yet to our 20 year-old democracy.

These attacks on both the Hawks and SARS have a further (very much-intended) consequence: the cynical dismantling of yet another important graft-busting institution in the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT).

Many of you wouldn’t have heard of the ACTT, but it’s very important that you hear about them now, as Jacob Zuma moves against them too. Launched in 2010, the ACTT is effectively South Africa’s highest profile corruption-fighting body, tasked with fast-tracking high-priority corruption investigations.

It’s a multi-disciplinary team, including representation from the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI – also known as the Hawks), the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) and the Commercial Branch of SAPS.

This Task Team is chaired by the head of the Hawks, Lieutenant-General Anwa Dramat, and his Deputy Chair is the Head of the SARS anti-corruption unit, Clifford Collings.

Of course, both Dramat and Collings have now become victims of high level purges at the Hawks and SARS, having been either suspended (Dramat) or “moved sideways” (Collings) by Zuma loyalists. With Dramat and Collings out of the way, there is effectively no more Anti-Corruption Task Team.

In Collings’ case, his sideways demotion (he’s now been put in charge of the SARS warehouses) by the new SARS Commissioner and Zuma ally, Tom Moyane, renders the internationally-acclaimed anti-corruption arm of the revenue collector impotent. (It is reported that Moyane used the late delivery, by a few days, of his new R600 000 Audi Q5 as a reason to relieve Collings of his duties).

Collings was purged along with fellow SARS executives Ivan Pillay, Peter Richer and Johan van Loggerenberg, leaving high-level investigations into, amongst others, the ANC’s tax bill, as well as the tax bill of the President himself, on hold. It’s a pretty safe bet to assume that no one remaining at SARS will be in the mood to continue with these investigations.

Dramat’s suspension as Hawks head also appeared to have worked, as he was reported to be considering an early retirement, feeling disheartened and powerless. But Friday’s court victory for the Helen Suzman Foundation in overturning his suspension could see him return to his post with renewed determination to carry out his responsibilities.

The Police Minister (who clearly has an unlimited taxpayer-funded legal budget) has launched an appeal against this ruling, but it is hard to see another court reaching a different conclusion on this. If Dramat remains successfully reinstated, it will be a significant victory for the Hawks, and indeed for independent policing in our democracy.

Launched in 2010 to much fanfare, the Anti-Corruption Task Team has been trotted out regularly as proof of the government’s “zero-tolerance” attitude towards graft. Jacob Zuma has lauded the ACTT in his State of the Nation debate replies and Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, has gone to great statistical lengths to explain to us just how successful they have been.

But the ease with which he pulled the plug on them in the space of just a few weeks, exposes Jacob Zuma’s hypocrisy when it comes to tackling corruption.

At this stage, all these complex stories of political meddling in our crime fighting and other vital institutions start to become a blur, so it is perhaps useful to recap just how far Jacob Zuma’s reach has spread in his capture of each of these institutions.

Scorpions:  Shortly after becoming president, and having temporarily escaped more than 700 counts of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering against him, Jacob Zuma had the Scorpions disbanded. He replaced them with the Hawks, which he conveniently placed under the control of SAPS (whereas the Scorpions operated independently under the NPA).

NPA:   The head of the NPA – the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) is appointed by the president. So it is hardly surprising that this post has seen some of the worst “political” appointments in the history of our country. These include Menzi Simelane, Mokotedi Mpshe (who withdrew all the corruption charges against the president without giving a rational reason) and the current Deputy Director, Nomgcobo Jiba. The current NDPP, Mxolisi Nxasana, is firmly in the president’s firing line for daring to reinstate murder and kidnapping charges against disgraced former Crime Intelligence Head (and staunch Zuma Ally), Richard Mdluli.

Hawks:  Emboldened by a Constitutional Court ruling that the Police Minister can’t fire or suspend him, the Hawks head, Lt-Gen Dramat, requested a number of files – including that of the Nkandla investigation – to be handed over to the Hawks. The Police Minister went ahead and suspended him anyway and put a Zuma ally in his place. This suspension has since been overturned, but the lines in the sand have been drawn.

SARS: In a sweeping purge, four senior SARS officials, including the Commissioner, were suspended or shifted aside to make way for the Zuma-friendly Tom Moyane. The SARS anti-corruption wing was also left crippled by this purge.

ACTT:  The suspension of the Hawks head and the dismantling of the SARS anti-corruption unit has meant that the country’s highest profile investigating body, the Anti-Corruption Task Team, has been rendered useless.

When you add to this list the names of the president’s “security cluster” of cabinet ministers – hand-picked Zuma loyalists through and through – it becomes very clear just how far he has gone in shielding himself from prosecution.

The Afrikaans expression, “laer trek” springs to mind. His unquestioning sycophants have constructed an almost impenetrable laager around him, deflecting the blows and adding a crucial layer of daylight between the president and any decisions taken to eliminate threats.

So we are led to believe it was the Police Minister who decided to suspend Dramat, not Jacob Zuma. And it was Tom Moyane who decided to get rid of the SARS officials, not Jacob Zuma. And it was anyone but Jacob Zuma who authorised the Gupta jet to land at the Waterkloof Airforce Base, and who ordered the lavish upgrades to his Nkandla home.

This shielding of the president isn’t limited to the crime-fighting units either. In an effort to control the narrative about him, he has “captured” a sizable chunk of the media too. In addition to the Gupta-owned ANN7 and The New Age, the transformation of the SABC from State broadcaster to ANC broadcaster through the deployment of cadres like Hlaudi Motsoeneng, is no secret.

But perhaps the most disappointing media capture has been that of Independent Newspapers. The newspaper group’s takeover by Sekunjalo Consortium has seen once-proud titles like the Cape Times become little more than ANC apologists, firing any staff members who don’t agree with this new direction. We’ve even seen their senior editors attending recent ANC rallies dressed in the party’s regalia, and then very publicly defending their right to do so.

It’s all part of the laager. But you’ll notice I said “an almost impenetrable laager”.

Because as long as we have principled individuals in key positions, from the Public Protector, to the head of the Hawks, to judges who apply the law without fear or favour, as long as we have some sources of news that still believe in their duty as watchdogs, then Jacob Zuma will not have won.

It is our job to ensure that democracy wins in South Africa.

Article by Helen Zille

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12 Comments

  1. Malcolm Draper

     /  January 27, 2015

    Value Patterns – Zuma’s Spear, Academic Freedom and The Torment of Secrecy

    By Malcolm Draper, Sociology UKZN.

    At the time that the world is up in arms over free speech, City Press editor Ferial Haffajee explained how she “learnt painfully that South Africa has, by and large, weighted the right to dignity (even of the powerful) more highly than it has free expression”. There are ultimate values driving this intolerance of irreverent expression. Independent Newspapers’ apology to Zuma and Max du Preez’s resulting resignation letter says it all. Well nearly all. Behind the journalists come the sociologists with their analytical tools.

    At my university a spat in senate over academic freedom saw the figurative heads of its advocates rolling. This is set out in a book by two of the victims chopped by the executive, my former colleagues Nithaya Chetty and Christopher Merrett; The Struggle for the Soul of a South African University: The University of KwaZulu-Natal, Academic freedom, corporatisation and transformation (2014). At the heart of this lies an administrative attack on what American sociologist Edward Shils called the “academic ethic” in The Calling of Education (1984).

    While the change in the complexion of the staff and leadership at UKZN has been impressive, the material dimensions of the change are even more so with a millionaire executive presided over by the highest paid Vice-Chancellor in the land with a salary a million rand more than the State President’s – although Zuma did find ways to compete through security upgrades at Nkandla. Chetty and Merrett say that in 2006 the gap between the highest and lowest paid UKZN employees “had climbed to a factor of 26 times, a margin unheard of in the bad old days of colonialism and apartheid.” If one was to take into account the wages of cleaners from outsourced agencies, then the gap factor would be in the 50s.

    I guess when old University of Natal white professors, David Maughan Brown and James Moulder , professed the need to Africanize the university they did not have increased inequality in mind. It is Africanization though, since African countries have the highest pre-tax Gini coefficients (income gap measure) in 2008–2009, with South Africa the world’s highest. The old guard also never anticipated the suppression on academic freedom or the label “liberal” becoming an insult when they moved over. While the struggles between management and staff and student unions have been over material issues, a zero tolerance reaction to criticism has been the central issue.
    In South Africa our new elite is not only driven by capitalist greed, but also another set of non-material values about how power should be wielded and how the powerful should be treated. Although resembling British elitism, it is in no way an imitation of colonial norms, but emanates from local African values shared widely enough across the racial spectrum to impact on the social structure. If we can get past racial red herrings, there is a better chance of identifying the values that threaten freedom.

    1994’s RDP was more than a development programme, it was an election promise of a better life for all. Why has the ANC slid away from such principles and promises without a significant political challenge? Patrick Bond’s bestselling book Elite Transition: From Apartheid to neo-liberalism (2000) uncovered a capitalist plot. Why is the ANC still in power 12 years after the elite plot became public? We have seen plenty of widespread protest and bloody conflict, but why has this not changed election results significantly?

    Government critic Moletsi Mbeki (Thabo’s smart little brother) maintains that we have a unique political system in South Africa controlled by the black political elite in an alliance with the poor exchanging votes for welfare benefits. The ANC has been “driving a consumer revolution at the expense of production.” The political elite’s parasitic private consumption is being funded by state revenue, became a burden on taxpayers and was causing capitalists to disinvest and flee from “the party of the nouveau riche who want to own big cars, big houses, glamour and holidays in the south of France”, while ensuring that enough crumbs fall from their table to keep them seated. Although Helen Zille and Mampele Rampele could not get along, despite a hopeful kiss, they both have remonstrated with the ANC over the rotten values they exhibit. It is good to see maternal morality snapping at leaders bent on claiming the patriarchal dividend from the head of the table, but remember, the nation is complicit in letting the lions have the biggest share and that comes from national values.

    In a 1963 article, American sociologist Lipset compared value systems and political institutions of the four largest English-speaking democracies—Australia, Canada, Great Britain and the United States. He found that the more attached to the apron strings of the mother country (Great Britain), the more the society emphasizes the superiority of those who hold elite positions. The old country has an entrenched aristocracy and class system in which someone’s position can be detected the moment they speak. “In an elitist society, those holding high positions in any structure, whether in business, intellectual activities, or in government are thought to deserve respect and deference.” The USA shows Lipset is, by and large, egalitarian and populist, Britain is deferential and elitist while Canada and Australia fall in between.

    Where might South Africa fall? America cut its ties cleanly and erected the Statue of Liberty to symbolise its freedom from the shackles of aristocracy and its identification with the French revolution. We have a post-revolutionary constitution ensuring as much or more freedom from the ascription of status fixed by birth right. Surely we can’t be elitist? Constitutions don’t shape values and norms; it’s the other way around. Ours was shaped by progressive thinkers with the future in mind. This is why the freedoms it ensures keep being threatened by regressive forces seeking more power to discipline the media for publishing their secrets, nostalgic for times when royalty could shout: “Off with their heads!” Shaka did not appreciate free speech. Disloyalty was rewarded with the high jump off a cliff into the sea.

    Madiba’s magic includes some royal blood. We have a society with a feudal system of chieftaincy in the communal rural areas and opulent palaces surrounded by shacks. Respect for the elders is often invoked in our parliament. That explains the moral outrage at Zuma’s Spear. Some say it was because the artist is white. But another picture of Zuma’s privates has caused outrage. Ayanda Mabulu’s painting : “Umshini Wam” (Weapon of Mass Destruction) depicting the President robed in royal leopard skin robe. The artist says he respects the old ANC of Tambo and Dube, but “this ANC is filled with greed and the lust of capitalism”.

    “The painting is not only deeply offensive to the president personally, but to his family and all South Africans, regardless of their position,” said Cosatu’s Patrick Craven. So there we have the racial equation inverted. Values are not skin deep. The ANC has condemned the painting, saying it did not rule out mass action to protest against it. Despite being at loggerheads on economic policy, the alliance values the privacy of their president’s parts and had his palace declared a Key Point. As De Vos has maintained, the National Key Points Act, passed by the apartheid Parliament in 1980 to protect the PW Botha regime and those who collaborated with it, is a constitutional abomination. When civil society groups requested the list of National Key Points from the Minister of Police in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), this request was refused on the grounds that making the list public would provide information to “dark forces” out to destabilise South Africa. Fortunately the Gauteng High Court had no problem in rejecting this laughable claim and ordered the release of the list.

    In Britain the Royal Family is to be granted absolute protection from public scrutiny in a controversial legal reform designed to draw a veil of secrecy over their affairs, which has become highlighted since the paedophilic allegations against Buckingham Palace. Sex and smut aside, sweeping changes to the Freedom of Information Act will reverse advances which had briefly shone a light on the royal finances – including an attempt by the Queen to use a state poverty fund to heat Buckingham Palace. Labour never seriously tried to overturn the old parties or the aristocracy. Socialists were let into the political club and allowed some welfare reforms and symbolic victories like banning fox hunting, while accepting honours and titles from the crown. Lipset draws on Shils’ book The Torment of Secrecy (1956) to make the point that this acceptance “enables the government to retain its secrets with little challenge or resentment”. In contrast, the United States with its suspicion of aristocracy “finds repugnant any government secrecy”. Our “Secrecy Bill” and multiple scandalous crises are not novel, but derive from old-fashioned values which are simply bad for business.

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  2. Malcolm Draper

     /  January 27, 2015

    https://polotiki.com/2014/12/04/a-south-africa-governed-by-values-will-be-nelson-mandelas-legacy-helen-zille

    “The third value is Dignity – both his concern for the dignity of the people he was representing, and his own dignity in standing up to his accusers in court.

    In his speech, he identified lack of human dignity as the hallmark of African life in a country built on racial oppression. He spoke of the slave-like treatment of labourers, the deliberate denial of education, the imprisonment of people through a policy that forcibly removed them from their land and confined them to remote areas against their will, and the poverty, starvation and disease that crippled once self-sufficient communities.”

    I guess the form of dignity South Africa seems to uphold is quite different to that advocated by Madiba. His magic could not shift national values.

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  3. Keith Grieve

     /  January 27, 2015

    As the first South African to use the PDA at great personal cost, it sickens me to see the path we have taken, and the cost to our democracy. Keep up the good work Helen – I am confident there will always be people strong enough to speak out against corruption.

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  4. Who is behind these powerful private media houses in SA?
    We are tired of this hallaballu…Zuma this Zuma that.Why not concetrate on noble objectives of Firming the weakening rand.
    We are basically shooting ourselves in the foot by exposing miniature shotfalls of his excellancy and pushing forward our private media moguls hidden agenders,

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  5. alan

     /  January 29, 2015

    Victor I think 700 billion rands is hardly minature shortfalls……………. or maybe in your league it is……??????????????????????????????????????????????????

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  6. Ben

     /  January 30, 2015

    A business is as good as it’s chief executive and the board of directors, same applies to the country. Self interest, enrichment of the management (loyal cadres) will continue unabated. Any potential replacement of Zuma will have to promise similar perks to his “board”, or continue fuelling the current gravy train. There is no culture of service delivery and accountability. The ANC continues to play the game of petty and cheap politicking, blaming apartheid, colonisation, etc., which is largely swallowed by the masses which they have kept uneducated ……….. not too optimistic for the future of SA!

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  7. its so clear that the leaderships of our country is more likely a simple way of self-enrichment. haaih.

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  8. joanvanzyl

     /  February 1, 2015

    Dear Helen, I agree with everything you say but to my disappointment I’ve realised the same applies to the DA. Being the strongest party in Cape Town, they have become too confident – arrogant is a better description – and as a result tend to bully communities into accepting their views for the city. They seem to have forgotten the values of democracy, transparency and public accountability. Naively, I used to be a DA supporter but have come to realise that politicians are all the same and that your guys, once they’ve reached the same comfy position in Cape Town as the ANC has in national government, are not that different from the party you believe yourself to be morally/ethically/democratically/politicaly/blablabla superior to.

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  9. Georg

     /  February 3, 2015

    The only decent party you can trust : None of the Above! All is in for themselves. Maybe a revolution is needed. But that is a dream!

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  10. Mario van Zyl

     /  February 18, 2015

    Hi Helen, Mario here, believe you me, this sick government that is ruling at this very moment does not have a clue what it is all about,there is many things that I can comment on but lets leave it at that, the latest is that there are too many brown South Africans staying in the Western Cape and that the number does not mach up to what these dumb standard 2’s realise, they think we’re to dumb to know that they want the loyal brown South Africans to be relocated so that these dumb standard 2’s can import some more black South Africans and Africans into the Western Cape to be able to win the Western Cape over as one of their affiliates, believe you me, that is not going to happen, not now, not ever, then we can go back to war again and I am quite willing to.
    Staunch Supporter.
    Mario van Zyl.

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