ANC at war with itself

2016-09-11 07:18

Solani Ngobeni

Solani Ngobenia coalition government.

When the ministers of police and state security hosted a press conference to rationalise a Hawks investigation against the minister of finance, you would have been forgiven for thinking that the latter belongs to one party and the former to another.

However improbable the war seems, it is common cause that the above scenario is playing itself out among Cabinet colleagues and members of the same organisation, the ANC.

The war waging in our national institutions clearly illustrates that, although there is a single ANC, this ANC has divergent interest groups. Although there is one ANC, the centre is not holding and the worst in the ANC are full of passionate intensity.

Last week we bore witness to a war of words between National Treasury and power utility Eskom, and National Treasury and the state’s arms company, Denel. And it all begs the question: why is the centre not holding?

We are witness to an expensive soap opera that has pitted President Jacob Zuma against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, despite the spin doctoring to the contrary.

It is obvious that the president is deeply hurt and still smarting from the forced reversal of his decision to replace then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December last year – in what is now commonly referred to as 9/12 – replacing him with backbencher Des Van Rooyen, now commonly ridiculed as Mr Weekend Special in reference to his four-day stint at National Treasury.

On a number of occasions, Zuma has opined that Van Rooyen was an inspired choice, making it clear that Gordhan was not his choice and by implication does not have his support. Therefore, his public posturing does not really betray his true feelings that his hand was forced.

It is therefore no coincidence that Zuma and Gordhan publicly speak at across purposes.

Zuma went even further to bemoan the coerced reversal of his appointment of Van Rooyen, in the same week that the CEO of the Public Investment Corporation informed Parliament that the events of 9/12 cost the Government Employees’ Pension Fund almost R99 billion.

This was a clear illustration of his financial illiteracy, if you needed one. At worst, it says he simply doesn’t give a hoot about the welfare
of the citizenry.

Surely, if you were a visitor to these shores, you would be forgiven for thinking that you were witnessing a tug-of-war between opposition parties.

It is, however, mind-boggling that we are witnessing an open warfare within the ANC government.

This war threatens the livelihoods of millions of South Africans, and, sadly, the many millions who, election after election, keep voting for the ANC.

The onslaught against the finance minister is nothing less than wilful economic sabotage.

However, the repercussions of the eventual downgrade of our subprime lending rate are sure to be catastrophic for the economy, but even worse for the poor, whom the ANC claims to represent.

However, should this downgrade come to pass and the middle classes end up paying more for their mortgages, rates and services, medical aids and car instalments, they will do well to remember who waged an assault on their livelihoods, come the national elections in 2019.

An Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and DA coalition government somehow starts looking probable for 2019. Jesus is coming!

Just as history has shown how easy it is to reduce leading universities (the likes of Uganda’s Makerere comes to mind), but how difficult it is to resuscitate them, it is going to be an uphill battle to resuscitate this economy once the president and his cheerleaders have run it aground.

We are living witnesses to the worst form of primitive accumulation.

Who knows, perhaps we needed this Zuma presidency to shake us out of our ill-informed
sense of exceptionalism.

We have just become too normal and ordinary. Perhaps we needed this Zuma presidency to appreciate the importance of leadership in society.

The recent events do not inspire confidence as far as leadership in our country is concerned.

These imbroglios clearly illustrated that the ANC has become its own worst enemy.

Perhaps the ANC needed this Zuma presidency to eschew mediocrity in their choice of leaders henceforth.

Perhaps we needed this Zuma presidency to appreciate that mediocre and self-centred leadership can be very costly, both on a personal and societal level.

Ngobeni is a book publisher and the 2007 South African finalist in the British Council’s International Young Publisher of the Year awards programme