A mortgaged state: Trends and patterns, let daylight prevail

“It’s almost morning. You can’t tell whether it’s day or night”. Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth says these words in response to her husband’s question of what time it is on this troubled night, following a chilling monologue where he says:

There’s an old saying: the dead will have their revenge. Gravestones have been known to move, and trees to speak, to bring guilty men to justice. The craftiest murderers have been exposed by the mystical signs made by crows and magpies. How late at night is it?

The SACC has been receiving reports from many people, of corruption and maladministration at municipal, provincial and national government; involving stand-alone individual business interests or bigger corporate interests. We have anecdotes, some of which are in the public domain and yet others involve people who have preferred to remain undeclared – fearing for their lives and their families. Can they now be liberated and speak out even like Macbeth’s trees that speak, “to bring guilty men to justice”?

Last Sunday, SABC’s Sophie Mokoena appealed for someone to tell if the Guptas or other private players ever approached one with any offer of a government position for the benefit of private interests. With the Jonas/Mentor revelations, should Sophie and the South African public, rejoice for the light shown onto our painful realities, or rather lament the darkness of our alleys that they expose?

The revelations by Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas and Ms. Vytjie Mentor, tell us that there are people who are ready to stand for the truth, even at a cost, where eternal silence could be a safer option. This ushers the dawn of the day when the light will overcome the darkness – encouraging others sitting with their stories to emerge, to lance the boil to be cleaned up once and for all.

Yet the frightening thought that government may have been mortgaged to a private family through the outsourcing of the strategic constitutional duty of the President to appoint and dismiss the cabinet ministers is disconcerting. That spells the darkness of our situation. Well has Lady Macbeth said: “It’s almost morning. You can’t tell whether it’s day or night”.

Vyntjie Mentor claims that as far back as 2010, she was approached and offered the cabinet position that oversees State-owned enterprises, this with certain specific requirements of private business interests, on which she would be required to deliver.  President Zuma reshuffled his cabinet some four times in his first term: October 2010, October 2011, June 2012; and July 2013. Save for the election years of 2009 and 2014, the Cabinet has had changes annually. Then in September 2015 there was the Ramatlhodi side shift that raised some eyebrows in the mining sector. He was replaced with Mr. Mosebenzi Zwane whose Gupta links included the Waterkloof Airforce Base Gupta wedding landing and the Free State dairy farm, Krynaauwslust.
The late 2015 cabinet reshuffle season ended with what rivaled the legendary Ali Shuffle – Nhlanhla, Van Rooyen, Gordhan, all within the week!

At the time of the December “Ali Shuffle”, the SACC wrote to President Zuma to express our serious concerns over his action in the context of the country’s poor credit ratings that may hurtle to junk status, and the impact thereof on the livelihoods of poor families and the consequent instability to arise. We pointed to the matter of the public perceptions that accompanied the Nene dismissal, undermining public confidence in the Executive and the Person of the President.
“It’s almost morning. You can’t tell whether it’s day or night”!

Three things stand out for me with the Jonas revelation:

  1. The murky context of the Nene dismissal: Jonas was offered Nene’s job shortly before the Minister was dismissed. The President said that Nene was needed for the BRICS bank. We disagreed with the President on this, and said the interests of BRICS could not supersede those of South Africa. But, if by now, Nene still awaits his BRICS progression, then the Jonas revelation and the reported agenda behind it better explains the context of the Nene dismissal.
  2. A possible trend: With Vytjie Mentor disclosing being approached as far back as 2010, how many others have been so approached? Of these, how many have rejected such overtures, and what fate have they suffered? How many have accepted, where are they strategically located – local government and provincial tenders, in State owned enterprises, in senior government positions or essential Organs of State?
  3. Undermining the Institutions of State and the credibility of the ANC: If this is a trend informing key appointments in the State, it creates a credibility deficit for Organs of State, and the ability of the ANC to manage essential governance processes – something the ANC National Executive just has to address remedially and radically at that, when they meet this weekend.

Reversing the trend might be as hard to change as reversing a compulsive eating disorder. Will those with the tradition of selfless service in the ANC claim the rock bed of the movement, leaving the turbid agents of impropriety as the rogue exception before they become the norm of ANC culture. Jim Collins on How the Mighty Fall has five steps to organizational collapse, the mid-point is “denial of risk or peril”, ANC needs political and moral courage to avoid that. Do we have the quality? Let it be day!