Vytjie breaks cover – toppling state patronage the ‘Mentor Way’

Vytjie Mentor gained prominence with a much read Facebook post, which went missing soon after, stating that she’d been offered a cabinet position by the Gupta family. It was the spark that ignited a mass movement in uncovering how deep the capture really was. But before that moment she was a former ANC MP and one time chairperson of the national assembly public enterprises committee. Mentor has been flying under the radar since and while doing so took on the role as a leading member of the South African First Forum – it’s a newly formed organisation that fights transgressions of the country’s constitution. Donwald Pressly says she can probably be described as ‘a political woman scorned’ who has become a gladiator for political accountability and good governance. She was speaking at an event at the Cape Town Press Club and Pressly reports back below. – Stuart Lowman

By Donwald Pressly*

There is no beating about the bush with Vytjie Mentor when it comes to describing the current African National Congress leadership, the party which she says she voted for “one last time” in the recent municipal elections.  Mentor described President Jacob Zuma as “the wrong choice” to be the governing party’s deputy president when he came in as a compromise candidate.

Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor. Pic: Facebook
Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor. Pic: Facebook

She reminds the Cape Town Press Club audience that Zuma was brought in as a compromise candidate that year – 1997 – as Mosiuoa Lekota – later Defence Minister –  and Matthews Phosa – later treasurer general – were going head-to-head for the post.

Mentor is lukewarm about Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. He runs “hot and cold” depending on the issue, she said. As for Dr Zweli Mkhize, the current national treasurer, she isn’t too keen on handing out praise. Asked if he would make a good president, she said: “I don’t think so”. She suggested that journalists look at his track record before good money is put on him as a candidate for President of the country to replace Zuma. Mkhize, the former KwaZulu Natal premier, had jumped to the defence of Zuma in the Kwezi rape case, it had to be recalled. “Around the Kwezi issue… he was the point man for the president.He immediately took a side… He was negotiating for him firstly (that) the matter should not go to court…he saw it as a traditional thing… what kind of president would that be?”  Mkhize, significantly, also shot down suggestions that there should be an early conference to resolve the current political impasse brought about by President Zuma.

She used to support  Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as a possible candidate for the party’s presidency – she was a “good technocrat” and apart from the Sarafina play disaster of the 1990s when she was health minister – she had ably performed at Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs “but I am not so sure about … the AU (African Union)”. But she said that there may be “an agenda” behind the selection of Dlamini-Zuma which had changed her perceptions of her: “I am now neutral.” That agenda was alluded to by a member of the audience, that she would be President Zuma’s proxy.

Responding to an audience member that Zuma was clever, she said: “It might be he appears clever…I think he is efficiently sly”. Most people, including the entire youth league and the women’s league “in its entirety”, and the national leadership “to a large extent…have been elected on the basis of patronage”. Those people would forever be looking over their backs and doing the master’s bidding, she said.

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There it was imperative that “people outside of the ANC must rise to topple that. I am not calling for violence. There is enough collective wisdom … to topple patronage,” said Mentor, who reported earlier this year on the social media that she herself was offered a cabinet position by the notorious Gupta family, which she turned down.

Toppling the current government could be done by mass mobilisation within the rule of law. Using legal mechanisms such as private prosecution would have to be done in consultation with the public through the SA First Forum. “It is not the ANC and its top leadership that is going to put this country right. It is the people of South Africa irrespective of who they vote for.” She acknowledged that private prosecution of those at the top could prove to be an expensive business.

But she said mass mobilisation had been done against “a very sophisticated apartheid (system)”. It had been toppled by popular action. It was possible again.

While she did not believe that parliament should be parliament, she did believe it should be dissolved “but not in a chaotic way”. It should be done through holding a consultative conference or national summit of all parties and interest groups to forge the political road ahead. “We are not calling for the defiance of the rule of law,” she said.

She warned that if the current impasse in government – with the Pravin Gordhan faction on the one side pitted against President Zuma’s tenderpreneur faction on the other continued the political – and economic – gains made during the last 22 years of democracy would go up in smoke. State capture by private business interests would impoverish the country.

First the poor would suffer the most but in time middle class people too would start to suffer.

Mentor said the people from all political persuasions needed to rise up and band together to defend the constitution of the country and the rule of law.

Asked who her choice for president would be from the current ranks of the ANC who could turn the country away from the current state capture and constant corruption, she said “forget about” Baleka Mbete, the national chairperson of the ANC. Pressed on Cyril Ramaphosa again she said: “I really don’t know.” She couldn’t think of an appropriate candidate. Thuli Madonsela, the outgoing Public Protector, would be good, but then she doesn’t want a political job.

  • Donwald Pressly, editor, Cape Messenger
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