Wednesday will go down in South Africa’s history as the day good triumphed over bad, right over wrong, truth over secrecy; the day the ANC’s downfall became inevitable and South Africans realised: we’re going to be OK. It was the moment it became clear that constitutional democracy, with its guarantees of a free press, freedom of speech, the rule of law and an independent judiciary, will triumph over the ANC’s politics of patronage, cadre deployment and corruption.
On Wednesday, ex-Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s state capture report was released to the South African public. It confirmed what we already knew: the South African state is in the hands of a criminal syndicate who use it as their personal ATM. President Zuma and the Guptas head up a public-private partnership that has been stealing billions of rands from our national purse, money that could otherwise be spent on tackling poverty and unemployment.
Essentially, Ajay and Atul Gupta managed to gain control of President Zuma. Once they had him doing their bidding, they were able to control the appointment of cabinet ministers and top managers of state-owned enterprises and thereby influence the awarding of state and state-owned enterprise contracts.
The report’s 355 pages are replete with interview transcripts, cell phone records and other evidence of the multiple channels they have used to syphon off public funds. It gives real substance to the myriad media claims of Zuma-Gupta bribery and corruption in state and parastatal affairs over the past few years.
The report is as quietly powerful as the woman who penned it. In the face of severe time and funding constraints, she turned the situation to SA’s advantage by ordering an extensive legal investigation into her slew of evidence and suggestions. Instead of making definitive findings and ordering punitive remedial action against the alleged perpetrators, the report instructs the president to appoint a judge of the Chief Justice’s choosing to undertake a six-month commission of inquiry into the numerous allegations. This breathes time and resources into the investigation, and lodges responsibility with our most independent institution, our judiciary.
Those implicated will want to take the report on review, which will be tricky since it makes no hard findings. The only hard fact that President Zuma could really take on review is the instruction to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry. He will no doubt try to argue that it is beyond the Public Protector’s power to order him to make this appointment. But his case will be hampered by the Constitutional Court’s Nkandla ruling earlier this year which served to strengthen the authority of the Public Protector to order such action.
Certainly, the report lays bare that Jacob Zuma is not fit to be president. He must be fired, and the duty and power to do so rests with the National Assembly. The DA has tabled a motion of no confidence in Zuma, to be debated next Thursday. If this motion is supported by a simple majority of members – that is, by 201 out of 400 Members of Parliament – then the President and all cabinet and deputy ministers must resign.
As the vast majority of the 151 opposition MPs are certain to support it, the motion requires the support of at most about sixty ANC MPs in order to carry. This represents only one quarter of the ANC caucus. Let me be clear, only one in four ANC MPs needs to be willing to put the country first.
I emphasize these numbers because it is important for South Africans to understand that Jacob Zuma is not an outlier. Rather, he embodies the dominant values in the ANC. This is why Zizi Kodwa, the ANC’s official spokesperson, responded to the report yesterday, saying the ANC has full confidence in the President. This is why the ANC’s decision-making body, its National Executive Council, cannot be relied upon to fire Jacob Zuma: the majority of its members are similarly motivated by personal enrichment.
And this is why firing Jacob Zuma is only the immediate action that South Africans must take, in order to begin to start moving this country forward again. The revelations contained in the State Capture Report merely skim the surface of the corruption and patronage that infests every level and every sphere of ANC government. So firing Zuma only skims the surface of what is required to clean up this country’s political economy, so that we can start to tackle our challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Nonetheless, it is the right place to start.
Furthermore, the DA will lay criminal charges against Zuma in terms of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004. The president violated this act when he failed to call for a police investigation following Deputy Minister Mcebesi Jonas’ public revelation that the Gupta family had offered him the position of Finance Minister so that he could extend favours to them; and when he improperly influenced the awarding of contracts to family members, friends and associates.
We have already laid criminal charges against the Guptas and the president’s son, Duduzane Zuma, in connection with various corrupt activites. And we are calling for the resignation of Mining Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and will lay criminal charges against him for using his official position to facilitate the sale of Optimum Coal Mine to the Guptas.
We will also fight for the resignation of Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown, for appointing Eskom and Denel boards with strong Gupta links, and for the resignation of Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and the entire Eskom Board, for taking decisions that serve to enrich the Guptas at the expense of the SA public.
These public officials need to suffer the consequences of their corrupt behaviour. And South Africa will be vastly better off without these individuals at the helm. But ultimately, the ANC itself must be held accountable. Only a loss of power can flush out the looters, and the nepotism, arrogance, complacency and incompetence that infect our government. The ANC must learn that cadre deployment, corruption, and capture are fatal strategies. It is our job, as voters, to teach them this. Over the coming months and years, this report and the commission of inquiry that it spawns will drive this point home to the electorate.
The report has strengthened confidence in our political economy, and this can be seen in our exchange rate, which has rallied close to its strongest level against the dollar in over a year. It has united South Africans and infused us with hope. Although South Africans have reason to despair, they also have reason to be optimistic. In the fullness of time, this saga will prove to be a great national lesson in the central importance of our institutions as protectors of our democracy, and in the power of active citizenship to realise the South Africa of our dreams. Sometimes, when things fall apart, they fall in place.