Ed Herbst: Ramaphosa vs Dlamini-Zuma – ANC’s race to the bottom?

Veteran journalist Ed Herbst

JOHANNESBURG — The horse has bolted when it comes to the race to succeed Jacob Zuma as president of the country’s largest political party, the ANC. Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma, the two frontrunners, have been on the campaign trail trying to drum up support ahead of the December vote. The race has become dirty with allegations levelled against Ramaphosa that he’s an alleged ‘blesser’ and has had multiple affairs. Of course, in a country where the current president has numerous wives, a sex scandal is hardly going to rock the boat. But with Dlamini-Zuma coming in as a newly sworn MP and rumours that Ramaphosa could be fired as Deputy President of the country, it’s clear that a very brutal war is about to rage within the ANC. But as Ed Herbst points out brilliantly in this piece, the race to the December elective conference is also becoming a race to the bottom. – Gareth van Zyl

By Ed Herbst*

And so that is how the Woman Presidential cookie crumbles – we are spoilt for choice between Zuma’s ex-wife to carry on the legacy of uBaba, a Travelgate fraudster to ensure the accessibility of the national Treasury, and a driver’s licence saleswoman who won’t ever need to drive again. Quite frankly, it is truly a race to the bottom. – Onkgopotse JJ Tabane Daily Maverick 12/12/2016

The ANC does not have very high standards for its leaders, or expect much of them. – Ranjeni Munusamy Sunday Times 10/9/2017

It was Plato who said that ‘One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.’

Hence the title of this article is based on the theme of a Daily Maverick piece by Onkgopotse JJ Tabane in which he discussed the potential of the various female candidates who will play a role in the ANC’s elective conference in December. 

The bottom line is that most ANC parliamentarians voted to maintain and support a kleptocracy on 8 August and Robert and Grace Mugabe are among their role models, which is why the Beloved Country is now known as ‘The Despot’s Democracy’.

This article seeks to assess whether any of the current aspirants would pass through the biblical ‘Eye of the Needle’, adversarial buttocks notwithstanding.

Smear Season. More of Zapiro’s magic available on his website www.zapiro.com.

I would like, at the end of this article to assess the presidential potential of Cyril Ramaphosa in a fly fishing context, of which more anon.

In the meantime, here’s an assessment of him by a fellow parliamentarian, John Steenhuisen which cannot be refuted because it is all true:

During the Nkandla debacle, Nenegate, the Waterkloof landing scandal and, as our state-owned entities collapsed under the weight of Guptarisation and the economy tanked, Cyril watched and remained silent.

He voted slavishly every time to keep Jacob Zuma despite the brutal judgments of the Constitutional Court.

He watched cabinet colleagues like Nhlanhla Nene, Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas being picked off one by one and did nothing.

I mention Ramaphosa not only in the context of this quote by John Steenhuisen, but in regard to a remark by Moeletsi Mbeki in a recent article in Die Burger.

He said that Cyril, a Venda, was not top of the pops in KZN and that given his lack of grassroots support, the slate would ensure that our next president is Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. This view is supported by R W Johnson who points out that four of the seven presidential candidates are Zulus.

That opinion is also shared by Johan Maarman, deputy editor of Die Burger who says that the supporters of the allegedly-tumescent Macbuffalo are going to experience what David Cameron experienced after the Brexit referendum and what Hillary Clinton experienced on 8 November last year.

According to a poll in metropolitan areas by Kantar-TNS last month:

Overall, Cyril Ramaphosa is the most popular candidate, with 36% of all respondents supporting him (irrespective of political affiliation), followed by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at 19%, and Lindiwe Sisulu at 16%

That’s not what counts however – it’s the ANC slate.

The NDZ campaign

In the next few days, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will be inducted as an MP which will significantly enhance her lobbying potential as she vies to become the next political leader of the country.

Judging by a recent speech she gave to the Gordon Institute of Business Science, all the indications are that she will stick rigidly to the Gupta/Bell Pottinger formula of fomenting ethnic tension by playing the race card – as the following extract from her speech indicates:

That is why it remains so important for us to recognise, without any prevarication, that White Monopoly Capital still controls the destiny of the majority of black South Africans. I very deliberately refer to monopoly capital in South Africa as white, because that is the reality of our country, and that is what every black South African still experience daily on their very skins. An honest and productive discussion demands that we do not beat about the bush concerning these matters.

Former AU Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Further evidence that the ANC has thrown its weight behind the Guptas came from Home Affairs Minister, Hlengiwe Mkhize.

I have two other reservations about the NDZ candidature.

The first is the role she played in the Sarafina II scandal

The second, in our patriarchal society, is the way she made every effort to not only protect our ambassador to Indonesia, the late Norman Mashabane – who faced literally dozens of charges of sexual harassment of his women subordinates – but to give him every opportunity to continue his sordid predation.  Aiding and abetting sexual harassment is not just shameless, it is not just unforgivable, it is evil.

I leave it to a woman, Ranjeni Munusamy, to sum up the possibility of women’s rights being at the forefront of the NDZ presidency:

There is nothing in the NDZ campaign to suggest that there will be a special focus on women empowerment‚ combating violence and abuse or shattering the patriarchal networks that keep millions of women excluded from economic activity.

If anything‚ the NDZ campaign is about maintaining the status quo and keeping the Zuma-Gupta network intact.

I think Max du Preez summed up the possibility of an NDZ presidency best:

To be frank, NDZ is in the heart of the corrupt Zuma-Gupta nest and beholden to them, and is being promoted actively by the Gupta propaganda machinery.

What is significant is that all the presidential candidates with the exception of Ramaphosa have turned out to be exploitive snouters who either didn’t  hesitate to exploit the system or have been implicated in unsavoury incidents which, in a more advanced democracy, would discount their chances.

Baleka Mbete campaign

Baleka Mbete, the ‘driver’s licence saleswoman’ mentioned in the anchor quote is a case in point. Having done a little skimming herself, she did everything possible within her purview to facilitate the return of the Travelgate snouters to parliament.

President Jacob Zuma arrives with Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete to give his State of the Nation address at the opening session of Parliament in Cape Town, February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Rodger Bosch

We know that, true to the norms and mores of the African National Congress, she loves Gravy Plane travel as the following sentence in her Wiki CV indicates:

In 2006, Mbete chartered a jet at a cost of R471,900 (around $60,000) to fly to Liberia for the inauguration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president. The only other passenger on the plane was a member of her staff.

Furthermore, was her respect for and commitment to the rule of law not demonstrated when she was in the vanguard of a motley crew who, shouting, stomping and ululating, bore the bibulous  and corpulent Mercedes-Benz fan, Tony Yengeni, aloft to start his typically brief and luxurious stay in prison?

And, according to Helen Zille, she was the recipient of a brazen R25 million bribe. Writing in her book about the ANC’s Bribe-based Black Elite Empowerment scam, Zille says:

Today, for example, most people, including ANC supporters, recognise that Gold Fields’ acquisition of a new mining licence, in return for a R25-million stake in the deal for ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete in 2013, was a bribe, not broad- based black economic empowerment. A respected New York law firm confirmed this. That acknowledgement, and the accompanying outcry, was a big step forward towards debating more ethical, and truly broad-based, forms of redress that South Africa urgently needs.

If that was not true, not in the public interest and not provable, Zille’s bribe claim would be massively defamatory because it states on the record and for the record that Mbete is corrupt. The ‘Doek’, always haughtily imperious, could however afford to treat Zille’s very public accusation with serene indifference.  She knew that the ANC, with its comfortable majority in the National Assembly, would find, just as it had with Zuma and Nkandla, that she was purer than a double-shot of Tanqueray’s finest.

How right she was. That’s how the ANC rolls.

But is there not another matter which should be considered when assessing the suitability of Baleka Mbete for the highest office in the land?

I refer you to the following passage on pages 139 – 140 in former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein’s book, After the party: A personal and political journey inside the ANC

Political activist and former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein has spent most of the last decade investigating the global arms industry which he believed to be responsible for 40% of all bribes paid anywhere on earth.

A special meeting of the ANC’s NEC to which Mandela was invited was called for March 2002 to discuss the (HIV/AIDS) issue further. In the build-up to the meeting Mandela was attacked in the media by Mbeki loyalists as ‘meddling’ and ‘out of touch’. Peter Mokaba, my erstwhile guide in Hong Kong, co-ordinated the writing of a 114 page rant (claimed by some to have been written by Mbeki himself) against those who opposed the President on the issue. It was circulated within ANC ranks. At the NEC meeting Mandela, dignified and restrained as ever, voiced his concerns. He was heckled and jeered by Mbeki’s supporters. The loyalists urged the President to bulldoze ahead with his controversial AIDS policies. And after Peter Mokaba and others spoke in a carefully orchestrated onslaught the NEC agreed not to provide pregnant women, rape victims or health workers with ARVs because ‘they remained unproven’. They also supported the appeal against the ruling by the Pretoria High Court that Nevirapine be given to pregnant women. The Health Minister had said earlier on television that government would not obey the order. According to a former colleague of mine who is close to Mandela, this was among the lowest moments in his life’s devotion to the movement. Madiba even said privately that he felt people were justified in seeing the ANC as a party that did not care about those dying of AIDS. With Mbeki’s attacks on TAG and Zackie Achmat intensifying, Mandela made a symbolic visit to Achmat at his home. He lauded Zackie as a long-time ANC comrade of great integrity and pleaded with him to take ARVs.

Here’s Martin Meredith, Mandela’s biographer, on that meeting:

According to one witness, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, they were ‘like a pack of wild dogs tearing at their prey` – ‘wild, aggressive and merciless’. Only two members defended Mandela’s right to speak out’. ‘After his vicious mauling’, said Ramatholhodi, ‘Madiba looked twice his age, old and ashen’. The NEC (National Executive Committee) went on to decide not to provide anti-retroviral drugs to pregnant women, rape victims or health workers because the drugs ‘remained unproven’.

My information is that one of the most vociferous supporters of Mbeki’s cruel and deadly HIV/AIDS policy at that meeting and one of the loudest in the venomous tirade to which Mandela was exposed, was current presidential candidate Baleka Mbete. Given the fact that there are many who believe that Mbeki should be arraigned in The Hague for what they perceive to be a genocidal policy which saw more than 330 000 people, mainly poor, die lingering and painful deaths, Mbete needs to publicly detail her role in that infamous meeting.

A race to the bottom – part two

‘Something is sick’

That’s the view of ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe contemplating the plethora of candidates who are aspiring to replace President Jacob Zuma as Snouter-in-Chief after the party’s elective conference in December.

In the first part of this article I analysed the presidential aspirations of Nkosanzana Dlamini-Zuma and Baleka Mbete.

In this section I assess the chances Cyril Ramaphosa and those with next to no chance of becoming the country’s next First Citizen, Zwele Mkhize, Lindiwe Sisulu, David Mabuza and Jeff Radebe.

President Jacob Zuma with ANC Treasurer General Dr Zweli Mkhize and outgoing President of BBC Ndaba Ntsele sharing a light moment.

Zweli Mkhize seems to be highly regarded despite suffering from that pervasive Big Vegetable malaise, jet junkets when travelling by car would be just as feasible. It is, after all, only taxpayer’s money.

Herman Giliomee feels he would be a good compromise candidate, though, despite his Gravy Plane propensities.

Another presidential hopeful Lindiwe Sisulu

Another presidential hopeful, Lindiwe Sisulu is even more prone to this affliction for which the ANC knows no cure other than angrily brandishing the parliamentary handbook – which will never be updated – before precipitously dropping their pugilistic buttocks onto the long-suffering green and baize.

Another long shot, is Matthews Phosa but the receipt of a R120 million IDC ‘loan’ to the Alliance Mining company of which he was chairman and which disappeared without trace or subsequent explanation, casts doubt on his ethical probity.

David Mabuza, seems to be yet another cum laude graduate from the ANC’s Snouting Boot Camp.

There is the obligatory CV entry relating to tenders

In fact the EFF ‘blames Mabuza for billions in bad spending’ which should leave him justifiably aggrieved because, in this regard, is he not simply following de facto ANC protocol?

Within the ANC, as the testimony before the Moerane Commission indicates, political assassination is very much in vogue and Mabuza claims he has not been spared in this regard.

Mabuza also did not want to be left out of the pervasive factional squabbles within the ANC and so he claimed that Matthews Phosa had defamed him. He took the matter to court and, again faithfully following ANC protocol, lost


And then, so help me, there is Jeff Radebe

Surely, in the name of all that is good and gracious, you can’t be serious?

What would you do as an encore – propose Marius Fransman?

Untrammelled power has always been the ANC goal and, in the past week, Radebe has indicated that he is always responsive to that call.

And so we come to Cyril Ramaphosa – the champion of press freedom who tried and failed to gag the Sunday Independent  and prevent it from publishing a salacious and questionable front page lead alleging multiple extramarital affairs and portraying him as a debauched roué.

One our shrewdest political analysts, Peter Bruce, had this to say about Ramaphosa:

Most analysts, commentators and reporters will have been quietly told at least once in the past few years that Ramaphosa is only the deputy president of party and country because he can be controlled.

Another Sunday Times columnist, Barney Mthombothi, says of Ramaphosa:

He has no fire in his belly. Even if he were to be elected, he would not have the stomach to clean up the ANC or the government.

Where was he, for instance, on August 8 when parliament voted on a motion of no confidence in Zuma?  Like the majority of ANC MPs, he voted to save Zuma. So why have faith in the man? True leadership demands courage.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe

It is a telling commentary that 22 years of ANC governance has brought us a man of whom, in opposition circles at least, his CV is said to include the following commendation – ‘He’s got so much money, he doesn’t need to steal.’

One can understand such concerns because, at the moment you become part of the ANC’s inner circle, your wife gets to snout along with you and, with a bit of luck – such as a ‘Dongfang moment’ – your children can live like the Mugabe boys, the Guptas will pay for their weddings and you are protected no matter how much you stuff things up.

The slate

Ultimately, though, it comes down to the slate – as Thabo Mbeki found to his chagrin in Polokwane in 2007 – and the NDZ lobby will have worked the phones and every other platform available to it to ensure another Polokwane-type victory and a prosperous and carefree retirement for JZ783.

And so I want to tell you my story about Cyril Ramaphosa, the one with the fly fishing angle.

For some of our captains of industry, laving the nether end of the holder of political power and providing pecuniary or other benefits to them in return for business as usual has always been regarded as a pragmatic and essential if not very pleasant way of business life in Africa.

In August 2004, Robert Guest, then Africa editor for the Economist, described this in an address to the Cape Town Press Club as a ‘slice for the elite’, a slice for those who have aptly been described as ‘the new Jacobins’.

Nothing has really changed in the transition to a universal franchise democracy, except that the slice for the new elite has got exponentially bigger.

We are indebted to Open Secrets for showing us how the South Africa’s business elite used their cheque books during the National Party era to curry political favour.

(These days, the curry contains more spices but you have to bring your own takeaway bag – ask Mcebisi Jonas – he’ll tell you)

The archived National Party letters show that, ‘Die tjek is in die pos’ involved back then, at most, a few million rand whereas, today, ‘You’ve got the tender, comrade’ produces a flood of gravy which can involve multimillions – ask Valli Moosa, he’ll tell you –  and the cost, to you and I, includes potholed roads,  polluted rivers and rolling blackouts.

So, around 1992, the WMC Gadarene rush, chequebooks outthrust, started in earnest.

Well to the fore in the queue was Sol Kerzner, eager to build on the success of his munificent R2 million ‘gift’ to George Matanzima and Stella Sigcau, which saw him, in return, being given exclusive gambling rights in the Transkei Bantustan. He was not the only ancien regime multi-millionaire to offer assistance to the new incumbents. In most cases the returned exiles had little or nothing and were as delighted to accept this new source of largesse as they had been content in the past to accept donations from the anti-apartheid movement and the Iron Curtain countries. The sense of entitlement was pervasive. The sense of impunity was to come later once the SAPS and the NPA were captured – ask that pillar of ethical probity, the R10 million man, Richard Mdluli and the always-elusive legal expert, Shaun the Sheep – they’ll tell you.

Cyril and fly fishing

Along the way, Cyril Ramaphosa was introduced to what Izaak Walton called ‘the gentle art’ and his fly fishing misadventures with Roelf Meyer became the stuff of folk legend.

In 1985 friends of mine set up, in Pietermaritzburg, the first shop in the country devoted exclusively to fly fishing. Key to this venture was getting the Orvis franchise, Orvis being the oldest mail order company in the world specialising in country pursuits like hunting and fishing.

This meant that South African anglers suddenly had access to an Aladdin’s Cave of fly fishing collectibles and delectables.

This story was related to me by a friend and partner in the shop, the late Hugh Huntley, who was known as ‘Hooks and Bullets’ because of his proficiency with both rod and gun.

How SA’s leading cartoonist Zapiro views Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s current role. For more Zapiro magic, click here.

Hugh said that Ramaphosa wandered into the shop one day in the early 1990s in the company of some well-known captains of industry who were not known to be fly fishers. While the latter gazed at the merchandise on display with feigned interest, Cyril approached Hugh, lent forward and whispered conspiratorially in his ear…

Don’t hold back – they’re paying!

I acknowledge that if you were born imbued with the ethos of both St Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa, you might not be ideally equipped to become an immensely wealthy business magnate, but the little vignette that played out in The Flyfisherman shop in Pietermaritzburg two decades ago does give one a fascinating insight into the mindset of the ANC’s mandarins.

Patronage gravy

The question is – who can be most relied on to keep the patronage gravy flowing in the current and in hopefully increased quantities and deservedly get their very own chapter in The Domesday Book of Snouting which will have an anonymous foreword written by the Luthuli House Browse Moles?

In the cacophony of competing voices it is difficult to discern which of the front runners is going to get ultimate control of the Hyena State which the ANC has so assiduously created in the past two decades.

Here is Tebogo Khaas writing in Business Day:

ANC presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa is being accused of tardiness for seemingly only discovering his tepid voice against state capture recently, while his arch-nemesis, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, only discovered a florist suitable for, and GPS co-ordinates to, the Marikana koppie five years too late, just as her political race flounders.

Is her political race floundering?

If it is, she can’t blame the press. Dr Iqbal Survé and his editor of Business Report, Adri Senekal de Wet have, with the assistance of Sunday Independent editor Steve Motale thrown the full weight of the largest group of English newspapers behind the NDZ campaign and everyone is wondering whether or not this is perhaps part of a bigger picture.

That picture could well include Kenny Kunene and Gayton Mckenzie who, as Stephen Grootes points out, make the Guptas look classy. They are, apparently, well acquainted with Sunday Independent editor, Steve Motale.

It goes without saying that Jimmy Manyi will be standing shoulder to shoulder with Dr Iqbal Survé in promoting the NDZ campaign. Are you not known by the company you keep? Twitter will play a significant role in this campaign.

Ask yourself – is it not significant that the complaint to the UK Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) which saw Bell Pottinger expelled from that body and castigated in the House of Lords, came not from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and not from Iqbal Survé but from the Democratic Alliance?

Aubrey Matshiqi, who has an infinitely greater understanding of ANC dynamics than I have, summed up the party’s ‘Good story to tell’ and the near future in political terms in a recent Sunday Times article:

There is no evidence that the succession battle will produce a leader who is free from the destructive potential of cabals, factions and cliques.

ANC Policy Conference 2017: Tinkering with the party’s engine while the country’s wheels are coming off. More of Zapiro’s magic available at www.zapiro.com.

As Max du Preez points out, Ramaphosa was happy to look the other way as the foundations were laid for the current orgy of ANC snouting:

He was silent after the abuse of the Waterkloof air base by the Guptas in 2013; we never heard his voice on any of the other Gupta revelations; and he allowed the appointment of Gupta proxies Faith Muthambi (2014) and Mosebenzi Zwane (2015) to the Cabinet without protest.

Would it not, then, be overly-optimistic to expect a significant change in this de facto ANC policy in the unlikely event of a Ramaphosa victory in December?

Truly, as Onkgopotse JJ Tabane pointed out last year, ‘A race to the bottom’ but then, as Ranjeni Munusamy rightly points out, high standards are not what the ANC expects of its leaders.

Barney Mthombothi summed it up best:

South Africans therefore face a Hobson’s choice. The current crop is tarred and complicit.

Forget about a messiah ever emerging to save South Africa from this corrupt rabble. The party should be consigned to the wilderness where it’d have all the time to reflect anew and undisturbed on its mission in life.

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.
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