Tipping point approaching: As Zuma’s pawns fall, the people shall govern

JOHANNESBURG — Last week, South Africa witnessed the fall of controversial public officials, Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Ben Ngubane. The latter resigned while the former was fired. The recent exit of Brian Molefe from Eskom was also seen as a blow to the Zuma camp. As the week progressed, more reports emerged about Dudu Myeni now possibly facing the axe as SAA chair. As Chuck Stephens illustrates in his piece below, the tectonic plates in South Africa’s political landscape are shifting. The question is: Can Zuma continue to hang on? – Gareth van Zyl

By Chuck Stephens*

Leading Captivity Captive to the Tipping Point

I hope that a Sunday paper somewhere will tolerate me quoting both an Old Testament reading and a New Testament reading on the hubris of State Capture

Psalm 68:18

“You have ascended on high,

You have led captivity captive;

You have received gifts among men,

Even from the rebellious…

Ephesians 4:7-8   

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore He says:

“When He ascended on high,

He led captivity captive,

And gave gifts to men.

It happens both ways – we give gifts to the King of kings and he gives gifts to men. But one thing is for sure – he is the one who “leads captivity captive”. Always.

It is happening again. There goes Maguvhe, then Hlaudi Motsoeneng. They held the SABC captive. But now they have to answer to the Boss of bosses. Even their Minister, Faith Muthambi.

Ben Ngubane (pictured left), Hlaudi Motsoeneng (right)

There goes Brian Molefe, then Dr Ben Ngubane, and maybe the whole Board? It’s breathtaking. They held Eskom captive. But when they were asked to give account, they came up short. So they were led away. Now OUTA has laid criminal charges against Ngubane. Ouch.

There goes Ntlemeza and then Phahlane. The new Police Minister now has a new head of Hawks and a new Commissioner. Let the new team sweep their SAPS house clean for a change. Mbalula is showing some independence in shunning Magashule and endorsing Makhura for SG of the Big Six.

There goes SAPS, then Eskom, then the SABC. The people are not using a guillotine like the French Revolution. They are using Parliament. Finally after two decades the National Assembly is getting its adult teeth. The Constitution is clear – the Executive Branch (which became too strong, upsetting the balance of powers) answers to Parliament. Executives require Oversight. The baby-teeth were not enough, but the adult teeth are proving to be sharper and harder.

One major problem over these past two decades of baby teeth is that the ANC kept getting in the way. There have been two centres of power. This has meant a strong Leader with a weak Board – which is always a recipe for disaster. For example, the NEC is never mentioned in the Constitution; it is a Party structure.  

For all intents and purposes it has usurped the power of Caucus (not just duplicated it, but usurped it). The NEC has 105 members. Caucus has 250. These are different entities and the Constitution empowers Caucus, not the NEC. MPs are appointed by the party, but the emphasis in “PR” must be put on representation. They represent their people first and the party second.

Supporters of South Africa’s ruling ANC party cheer as South Africa’s President and party leader Jacob Zuma (not seen) arrives for the launch of the party’s election manifesto at the Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit, January 11, 2014. REUTERS/Ihsaan Haffejee (SOUTH AFRICA – Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

The NEC was correct to say recently that it does not have the Constitutional authority to recall the President. How could it, when it is never even mentioned in the Constitution?! But when the National Assembly votes on the no-confidence motion, guess what? The party will be there, threatening any MP who votes with the Loyal Opposition. The ANC wants their cake and to eat it too.

At the next election, those who are holding Parliament and MPs in captivity may be led away as captives, vanquished by winning a mere Minority? Coalitions may replace them if they keep undermining the Constitution with their antiquated Vanguard-Party approach. Those days ended when the Berlin Wall fell down.

Sfiso Buthelezi, Tom Moyane and even Malusi Gigaba may be led away captive, for their respective roles in State Capture? Will SARS be on the heels of SAA, or will Dudu Myeni outlast them?

SAA chairwoman Dudu Myeni

Soon Bathabile Dlamini and Mosebenzi Zwane may be led away as well, for He always leads captivity away captive. Even bosses have a Boss.

Gwede Mantashe is not running.  Maybe Fikile Mbalula is standing aside as well, by endorsing Makhura? We need more leaders to opt out, opening the way for a new generation. Too many are declaring their intentions to run, not enough are saying like the SG that their time is up.

There will be a tipping point. So far it has been hard climbing; opposition parties, civic formations like Save South Africa and even those “dangerous NGOs” as David Mahlobo calls them. (There’s another one who may be led away for his over-exuberant spying on honest tax-paying citizens… between his visits to the massage parlour.)

The tipping point will come sooner than expected. It won’t take as long to sort out Prasa, Transnet and Denel as it did to scale the heights of SAPS, Eskom, and the SABC.  

The end of the Cold War was like that. First the entrenched arrogance of Leonid Brezhnev, then the tentative glasnost of Mikhail Gorbachev, and sooner than anyone imagined, perestroika rushed in Boris Yeltsin and it was game over. It took decades to get rid of the old-guard, years to pass through Gorby’s reforms, but only days for Yeltsin to take over.

What will be the tipping point? A failed putsch?  Maybe sorting out SARS? Are Buthelezi and Moyane at the top of this slippery slope? Gigaba’s credibility is waning fast. Or will it be Prasa-related? Popo Molefe got his Board back, but it’s been a rough year for parastatal Boards? Or Transnet start the domino effect?

Bring on Bell Pottinger! The people shall govern. The ultimate Judge always leads captivity captive. Let freedom reign!

  • Chuck Stephens, writing in his personal capacity, is the Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership
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