Mbeki hints that Zuma should go
FORMER president Thabo Mbeki on Monday cautiously weighed in on calls for President Jacob Zuma to be recalled or resign from office.
In a rare comment on the state of the country, Mr Mbeki said SA needed to discuss how to arrest the current decline, intimating that if this led to a call for the removal of Mr Zuma, then “let that be”.
During a briefing on his foundation’s work, Mr Mbeki was cautious in responding to a question about the backlash from the youth, women’s and veteran’s leagues against African National Congress (ANC) stalwarts who had called for Mr Zuma’s resignation.
Last month the Constitutional Court found that Mr Zuma had failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution in his handling of the public protector’s report into the security upgrades at his Nkandla residence.
The verdict prompted numerous calls for Mr Zuma’s recall and resignation from within the party.
Mr Mbeki, in one of his weekly letters on the significance of the Nkandla judgement, said that it provided a “lesson” on governance in a constitutional democracy. He said he agreed with the eight foundations that had called for a “national dialogue” on SA’s politics.
“Our people should engage in a national dialogue to say ‘where were we yesterday, where are we today. Where do we want to be tomorrow?’
“It’s very important that we as South Africans must indeed engage in that dialogue about our country and the future. Because it’s quite clear that there are many things that have not gone right.”
Mr Mbeki said the fact that the Constitutional Court had to “read out a lesson” on what is meant by a constitutional democracy “illustrates that something is wrong”.
The only way to address the persistent challenges SA faced such as racism, youth unemployment, poverty and inequality was for South Africans to come together and “frankly” deal with these things through dialogue and then set objectives and “act together”.
Using a metaphor, Mr Mbeki said if it meant the removal of a person from his position, “then let that be one of the outcomes, which is perfectly okay”.
Mr Mbeki referred to the “political agitation” for Mr Zuma’s removal.
“So I am saying this is my view because there is this bigger issue of the future of the country, not the future of a particular individual, but the future of the country.”
The Oliver and Adelaide Tambo; FW de Klerk; Desmond and Leah Tutu; Chief Albert Luthuli; Thabo Mbeki; Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe; Helen Suzman; and the Umlambo foundations shortly after the Constitutional Court judgment said that they planned to hold dialogues across the country.
The “Foundations Initiative” will address issues including inequality, unemployment and the public health system to “endemic corruption”, which makes “government failures all the more unacceptable”.
Mr Mbeki also expressed his frustration on Monday at the persistent allegations of corruption in the arms deal, even after a judicial commission of inquiry headed by Judge Willie Seriti found no wrong-doing.
After Mr Zuma released the report of the Seriti inquiry, critics of the R46.7bn arms deal said they would explore legal challenges.
Mr Mbeki said that no whistleblower provided “one single fact” to the commission to prove their allegations.
“The whistle-blowers have not given the information that there was corruption, the foreign investigation agencies have not found any such corruption.
“The commission itself, when it has done its own investigation, has not found corruption,” he said.
He welcomed the development that three arms deal critics were seeking legal advice on taking the commission’s report up on judicial review.
“My view is that it will be very, very good if they could do that,” Mr Mbeki said, as this would enable them to present their evidence in a court of law.
He also said the commission’s terms of reference was “very, very specific” and dealt only with the primary contracts that government had entered into at the time and did not deal with the subcontracts entered into by the preferred bidders.
Mr Mbeki chairs a United Nations High Level Panel on Illicit Outflows and reported on Monday that an initial estimate of $50bn in illicit outflows leaving Africa had increased to $90bn.
The commercial sector was responsible for two-thirds of the outflows which left African countries illegally and could be used for development.
The remaining third emanated from criminal activities, such as human trafficking, corruption and drug dealing.
Mr Mbeki was recalled by the ANC in 2008 and has largely avoided commenting on the scandals that have wracked the Zuma administration.
In 2012, he offered a rare comment, saying he was “deeply troubled by a feeling of great unease that our beloved motherland is losing its sense of direction, and that we are allowing ourselves to progress towards a costly disaster of a protracted and endemic general crisis”.
At the time, he said that he was uncertain about how he should respond “to what is obviously a dangerous and unacceptable situation of directionless and unguided national drift”.