Nwabisa Makunga: Paralysed by leaders’ greed

Except for a few who carried a naive sense of hope, South Africans never expected the ANC leadership to remove Jacob Zuma from power at the weekend. It is simply unable to. Therefore the outcome of its national executive committee (NEC) meeting was most certainly no surprise.

Forget the undertakings in the ANC’s carefully crafted statement delivered unconvincingly by secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

The party’s message is a simple one: “We are Zuma and Zuma is us”, as one tweet so aptly put it on Monday.

It’s a message we have become accustomed to and one that will continue to be our lived reality for the next six months and possibly beyond.

The truth – laid bare in those secret e-mails splashed across the Sunday newspapers – is that through Zuma and his ilk, the Guptas are firmly in charge of the ANC and our republic.

This is evident in the extent to which public servants controlled by the Guptas have abandoned their constitutional mandate and loyalty to voters.

It is seen in how this family has lured ministers, chief executives and board members of parastatals to serve shamelessly as lapdogs in a grand scheme to loot and destroy our country.

I must say there is something unnerving about seeing, in black and white, an e-mail from a minister discussing confidential cabinet information with a private individual whose interest is only to milk as much money as possible from the state.

It is one thing reasonably to suspect that those sitting on state company boards are handpicked by the president’s dubious friends.

It is quite another to see their CVs sent to the family for picking as they line up begging for the spoils from the Gupta table.

Therefore I have no doubt that the more challenged Zuma and the Guptas are, the more dangerous they will become and the lower they will sink to depths of villainy previously unfathomable in our democracy.

Appropriate as it may have been, Saturday’s motion against Zuma by NEC member Joel Netshitenzhe – similarly to Derek Hanekom’s last summer – was both an important, yet futile exercise.

Indeed it poked the elephant in the room.

It highlighted our voice as mere mortals standing outside looking in.

It may have even placed those who stuck their necks out to support it momentarily on the right side of history.

To a degree, it gave more insight into the enduring balance of forces in the heart of the ANC’s leadership.

But the truth is this motion was dead in the water before Netshitenzhe even got up to speak.

Despite the president’s dwindling support even inside the party, the pro-Zuma army in its fold remains resolute.

Unlike their opponents, Zuma’s troops are not a collection of splinter groups all ambitiously putting their hands up to lead.

Nor could this group be bothered with pretending to care for the ANC and its rules, or this nation, its economy and its people for that matter.

This is a brazen gang who long sold their souls to a powerful family, in exchange for cushy jobs, bucket loads of money and free globetrotting around the world.

Inside the party they will do everything possible to keep the status quo, no matter how damaging.

This is why weekend reports purporting to show that numbers in the NEC were titling in favour of the antiZuma group, were neither here nor there.

Even if such reports were true, it did not matter.

It is not part of the ANC’s organisational culture to place such matters to a vote.

Negotiation until a consensus is reached is how it works.

And this is precisely why Zuma and company will continue to have the upper hand.

They know the ANC, they have deep pockets and they are not here to lose.

Even if the motion to remove Zuma had prevailed, there is the not-so obvious matter of his replacement.

You best believe that hell will freeze over before Zuma supporters hand over the presidency to Cyril Ramaphosa on a silver platter.

Especially not in the run-up to the December elective conference.

Equally to those who want Zuma out, giving Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma the keys to the Union Buildings is as good as leaving the incumbent in charge.

It is possible that part of the prevailing sentiment from the weekend meeting was the need for stability, both in the ANC and the country, particularly as we head to December.

In fact in its statement, the ANC acknowledged what it said were “heightened levels of a restlessness in society”.

In response to this, it feels compelled to “develop an approach and provide leadership to society”.

If ever there was a disingenuous reading of the situation.

The ANC conveniently sidesteps the very reason for such public restlessness and uses more obfuscation to escape accountability. The issue is quite clear. The ANC is a party paralysed by the greed of its leadership.

The more it clings onto Zuma, the further away it moves from voters.

Indeed, it may still be a recognisable force in our political landscape. But for how long? Its brand is weakening and soon it will no longer be strong enough to sustain its existence, let alone keep it in power.

When that happens, Zuma will in all likelihood be a distant memory and the Guptas would have long gone to find another miserable sod to leech from.

Nwabisa Makunga is The Herald and Weekend Post deputy editor.

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