JOHANNESBURG — A free and fair election in 2019 will, without doubt, see the ANC lose considerable ground. But with Jacob Zuma having compromised many independent institutions, could he look to compromise the Independent Electoral Commission? The IEC, to date, has been a stellar organisation, hosting free and fair elections that have become an example to the rest of the globe. But if the IEC goes down the drain, the entire economic future of SA is also at risk, as Bonang Mohale, former chair of Shell SA, and now CEO of Business Leadership SA points out in this story written by The Cape Messenger editor Donwald Pressly. – Gareth van Zyl
By Donwald Pressly*
Bonang Mohale is a former chairman of Shell SA. He chose the platform of Accelerate Cape Town to assure the wider business community that Business Leadership South Africa was putting up a fight for business integrity in the land – and would not stomach state capture either of government or business institutions.
He made no bones about government’s lack of trust in President Jacob Zuma. “We don’t trust the president now.” He was blunt. South Africa needed political leadership where the politicians were servants of the people. It did not mean – as he implied the case was with the current administration – having a political leader “with many servants”.
There were a number of alarm bells ringing in South Africa, Mohale acknowledged. “What keeps us awake at night now (Business Leadership South Africa – which represents Big Business in South Africa) is the independence of the Independent Electoral Commission.”
He said the president will soon appoint a new chief executive officer of the commission – which runs the national, provincial and local government elections. “That is where we get worried.”
What was worrying too was that there were proposals for a new software backup for the IT system at the IEC. “We want to ensure that the software is not (of) the American kind (which) allowed (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to hack into it (the US electoral system) and therefore influence the American election… that is subject to a congressional inquiry.”
Mohale expressed concern about the warm attitude of President Zuma to the Russian nuclear build proposal. Zuma wanted this to go ahead despite the fact that the Integrated Resource Plan ruled out further nuclear power as part of the energy mix.
“Nuclear is the last option… we cannot afford it.” But Zuma was “determined that we have it”. Thus ministers had been fired for refusing to sign off this Russian-South African project. Two ministers, Tina Joemat-Pettersson of energy and Ngoako Ramatlhodi of public service and administration had been fired over this issue, he noted.
Asked specifically if there was a chance that the 2019 elections could be rigged, the BLSA chief said there were worrying signs of irregularities which had seen the KwaZulu-Natal internal provincial elections of the African National Congress overturned.
He did not dwell on the matter further, but implied that Big Business is keeping a watchful eye on developments at the electoral commission and on election processes relating to the ruling African National Congress.
Mohale said that South Africa had been “gifted” by the best constitution in the world which had produced a constitutional democracy.
Nelson Mandela realised he only had 222 working days in a year. He called top businesspeople into a room at Skukuza. This involved 127 business organisations to form Business Unity South Africa. Black and white business formations were led by the first president Patrice Motsepe.
This united force had been disemboweled by Mzwanele Jimmy Manyi – the former president of the Black Management Forum. “Because of his own personal ambition decided to pull the BMF out of Busa and recreated a Black Business Council.” Mohale said with the benefit of hindsight the Black Business Council should have continued as a parallel body but now it was a separate body representing 21 business organisations.
A major concern about the BBC was that its first president was Danisa Baloyi who was implicated in the theft of Fidentia pensioners’ money. It was the wrong choice of person. “How do you (they) hope to be taken seriously?” he asked. The credibility of the BBC was up to question “every day”, he said. “This is the person who stole Fidentia money,” noting that J Arthur Brown went to jail regarding this theft.
Mohale said he was now working to reunite black and white Big Business.
Looking back at the South African economic and political history Mohale said under President Thabo Mbeki there had been 43 consecutive quarters of economic growth, but unfortunately this had largely been jobless growth. The picture had changed significantly since then to low levels of growth or very little growth at all. Very soon South Africa could be talking about the “redistribution of poverty” if it carried on the same track.
Redistribution of wealth was far easier when there was high levels of growth and this was the goal that Big Business and others needed to work towards.
Big Business also had to look at its own track record. He believed if Lonmin’s leadership had taken regular visits to the squatter township adjacent to Marikana mine, there would have been a very different attitude to the conditions of employment of the workers.
South Africa’s bacon was being rescued at present by such people as Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, whom he described as a gallant man. Also, the former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had given real meaning to the office of “public protector”. But Mohale described NPA boss Shaun Abrahams as “Shaun the sheep”, a compromised person. “We need to protect our key institutions… all our Chapter 9 institutions.”
He summarised the state of ANC rule which espoused “A Better Life for All” simply as meaning a better life for Members of Parliament only. “History has taught us that in reality it is a better life only for the 400 MPs.”
Mohale said that senior politicians should not be judged like ordinary people who were innocent until proven guilty. There should be a different rule applied where senior politicians were held accountable. High ethical standards should always apply to those in high office.
- Donwald Pressly is editor of The Cape Messenger.