This was the year 2016

Clive Hatch writes:

This time last year who would have thought that: David Cameron who had won the British General Election with an outright majority, would resign and be replaced by Theresa May. Britain would vote to leave the EU, Donald Trump would be the President-elect of the USA, The DA would control four major metros, including the two capital cities and that DA controlled municipalities would account for over 50% of local governments budgets, The ANC national executive committee would spend three days discussing the future of Jacob Zuma; or 20% would be considered a pass mass mark for mathematics in grades 7 to 9 provided the learner pass their languages.

As 2016 draws to a close, political analysts are still recovering from the shock of Donald Trump winning the presidential election in the United States of America. He ran a campaign that railed against the establishment and vested interests while adopting a nationalist stance to make America great again. His campaign was to play on fears of his countrymen claiming all Mexicans are rapists and thieves; he threatened to build a wall between Mexico and Texas and also to bar all Muslims from entering the USA.
While across the Atlantic the leave campaign in the UK also concentrated on English nationalism and made the major campaign issue one of immigration, especially the free movement of people in the EU. They also campaigned against the EU controls and trade regulations, the so called free market. Now five months after the referendum apart from being told by new British Prime Minister Theresa May that Brexit means
South Africa was not immune to this movement away from the establishment. The 2016 local government election reflected a significant movement away from the ANC to the DA. On August 3 the country saw the ANC lose three Metros to opposition parties led by the DA. As a result of these elections the opposition now controls over 50% of the total local government budget, and governs over 16 million South Africans.

There is a great deal of uncertainty throughout the world as 2016 ends no more so than here in South Africa. There is persistent question of who will succeed Jacob Zuma at the ANC elective conference at the end of 2017 or will Zuma even manage to remain in office until then?
These are a number of highlights of the people and activities that dominated South African politics in 2016:

Jacob Zuma

Few would disagree if President Jacob Zuma were to describe 2016 as an annus horribilis considering what has transpired this year.
March 31 will surely be regarded as the defining point of the Zuma’s presidency. That day the Constitutional Court made its groundbreaking judgment that the President was responsible to pay for the non security upgrades to his Nkandla home. Furthermore, the court declared that the president failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the land and that Zuma must personally pay within 45 days, this was duly done with a loan from some small hitherto obscure bank.

No sooner had the Concourt disposed with Nkandla when on April 29, the Democratic Alliance’s seven-year battle to have corruption charges against President Zuma reinstated, finally paid off. The full bench of the High Court in Pretoria ruled that Zuma should face the 783 charges of corruption. The court ruled that the decision to discontinue the prosecution against the president should be reviewed and set aside.

On June 24 President Jacob Zuma and the National Prosecuting Authority’s bid to appeal the High Court ruling that the president should face corruption charges was dismissed, with costs. Subsequently on August 31 Zuma appealed direct to the supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) for leave to appeal, this is still outstanding.

On October 7 the Constitutional Court refused, for now, to hear the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) appeal on the North Gauteng High Court judgment which reinstated fraud and corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma.
With these 783 swords hanging over his head along came the local government elections on August 3 where the ANC under Zuma’s watch experienced its largest ever decline in electoral support. The ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) after lengthy debate agreed to accept collective responsibility for the loss and not blame Zuma alone.

On Wednesday November 2 after more than two weeks of delays and a legal challenge from the president, South Africans finally got their hands on a controversial report on Jacob Zuma entitled “The State of Capture” report. The report, prepared by the previous Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, found evidence of possible wrongdoing, improper influence, conflicts of interest and outright corruption – much of which pointing directly to President Zuma, his son Duduzane and the Guptas. Zuma is questioning the legality of the Madonsella report and has indicated his intention to take it on legal review.

Probably the clearest sign yet that Zuma’s grip on power is slipping was that Derek Hanekom, Minister of Tourism, proposed that Zuma step down as President of South Africa at the NEC meeting. Zuma has dodged several previous challenges to his leadership however, the fact that members of his own cabinet and other senior party members have openly turned against him must be of serious concern to the President.
South Africa having survived two sovereign credit downgrades to junk status ends the year with investors concerned that the president is left pondering whether to go for broke in the wake of the bruising NEC meeting by having a major cabinet reshuffle.
The future remains unclear for Zuma and South Africa.

Pravin Gordhan

It is common knowledge that Jacob Zuma does not want Pravin Gordhan as the Minister of Finance to the extent that he has tried to use his cohorts to do the dirty work for him by throwing political mud at him in the hope that some of it will stick.

This campaign started on the eve of the 2016 Budget Speech to be tabled on February 24, when a list of 27 questions was sent to Pravin Gordhan from the Hawks. These questions concerned the alleged ‘rogue unit’ at South African Revenue Service that Gordhan was alleged to have established during his tenure as the Head of SARS.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams stepped up to the mark on October 11 and announced that Gordhan and two others would be charged for fraud and corruption. He was instructed to appear in court on November 2. Coincidently he would be delivering his medium-term budget speech one week before on October 26.

Neither Zuma nor Abrahams expected the backlash this action would cause. Gordhan received support from across the political spectrum, from business sector and from civil society. It therefore came as no surprise that on October 31 Abrahams dropped the charges against Gordhan.

However, remember what former DA Chief Whip and South African Ambassador to Taiwan Douglas Gibson recently wrote “Minister Gordhan is not a saint. He is not St Pravin. He is an ANC minister who bears co-responsibility with all other ministers for the mess made by the Zuma administration since 2009”.
Gordhan has been in the cabinet throughout President Zuma’s presidency. As such he was in the cabinet when some of the biggest scandals such as Nkandla, Bashir, the Guptas, SAA, Prasa, Eskom and many, more took place. All Ministers knew or must have known what was going on but they chose to stay quiet and remained in office.
Pravin Gordhan has proved to be better than most of Zuma’s cabinet but he is not without blemish.

Shaun Abrahams

Ever since Adv Shaun ‘I am my own man’ Abrahams was appointed as head of the NPA in June 2015 his appointment has been regarded with cynicism and considerable doubt that he would be able to remain independent.
He certainly did not instilled much trust with his first decision that the NPA would not pursue charges of fraud and perjury against controversial (and now suspended) deputy director Ms Nomgcobo Jiba despite the overwhelming prima facie evidence against her. In contrast he chose to promote her. Currently she is appealing a High Court decision that she be struck from the roll of advocates.

At a high profile press conference on October 11 Abrahams arrogantly declared that he had decided that Gordhan and former revenue service commissioners Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay would be prosecuted for fraud specifically clarifying that he did not ask the Minister of Justice for permission, he informed him as a courtesy.
It later transpired that he visited Luthuli House, the ANC’s headquarters, the day before charging Gordhan and he maintains that there was an urgent justice, crime prevention and security cluster meeting with the president. He expects everyone to believe that he did not discuss the pending charges with either the President or the Minister – when did he take the courtesy of informing the minister?

On October 31 he sheepishly announced the withdrawal of charges against Gordham and the others. Abrahams has not heard the end of this debacle. Julius Malema’s EFF has written to the General Council of the Bar asking that he be struck from the roll of advocates.

Since 1994 no head of the NPA has completed a full 10-year-term of office. The time has surely come to depoliticise the appointment of the head of the NPA and let it be done through a parliamentary interview process rather than at the sole discretion of the President.

The Public Protector

The former Public Protector Thuli Madonsella will be well pleased with 2016. The Constitutional Court’s ruling upholding the powers of the PP and enforcing her ruling on Nkandla was a major personal victory for her and a vindication of her stand to uphold the constitution.

Thuli became the darling of those who believe in the rule of law and her commitment to uphold the constitution and to keep the Executive arm of government in check.
Right to the very end Thuli was true to her oath of office and presented the ANC led government with another hot potato in the form of the ‘State of Capture Report’.
Having burnt their fingers in 2009 with the appointment of Madonsella as PP the ANC were going to ensure that the new appointee would be far more compliant than Thuli.

Although the interview process was exemplary it was clear that the ANC would solidify their support around a particular candidate. Once Judge Siraj Desai had a poor interview ANC support swung to advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Having watched most of the interviews I believed that Adv Willie Hofmeyer or Judge Sharise Weiner had the best interviews.

While not surprised that the ANC supported advocate Mkhwebane I was most surprised that all the opposition parties except the DA also supported her candidacy. This overwhelming support for Mkhwebane after the DA revealed their concerns about her tenure at the State Security Agency where she was alleged to be a spy.

Although heavily criticised for their decision not to vote for Mkhwebane the DA’s concerns seem to have been justified. No sooner has she assumed office and she changed the news feed into the offices to the Gupta ANN7 channel. In her first week she also asked for the locks on her office door to be changed – for ‘security reasons’!
Mkhwebane told the media during a briefing that things would change to avoid ‘tension’ with government. During her first two days in office she redeployed both Madonsella’s personal assistant and chief of staff. Also flagged for redeployment at the time was the only senior investigator who had worked on the state capture report.

Bonginkosi Dhlamini the chief of staff was marched out of the office by the new public protector’s so-called VIP protectors because his presence was interfering with her security. Just this past week the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) ordered the public protector to pay a former special advisor for the duration of her contract after she was unfairly dismissed when Mkhwebane took office.

These actions when taken in conjunction with her actions in requesting the police to investigate the release of Zuma’s interview over the State capture report are leading a growing number of people to believe that the DA was correct.

Mkhwebane is currently facing a creditability problem and her handling of the first high profile case will determine whether she will earn the respect of the voters or will become another sheep like Shaun Abrahams.
The SABC

As the year ended the parliamentary ad-hoc committee investigating the fitness of the public broadcaster’s board in holding office has revealed what many of us have known for a long time. The SABC has been under the control of Hlaudi Motsoeneng the despot who enjoys the support of President Zuma.

It has been revealed that the board of directors were out of control, the Chairperson of the board Prof Mbulaeni Maguvhe did not have a clue as to what was happening at the corporation. It was clear that no matter who you were from a board member to a journalist if you did not do Hlaudi’s bidding you were removed.
Of even greater concern was how the minister Faith Muthambi refused to take political responsibility for the chaos at the SABC to the extent that she denied all the allegations of interference made by various journalists. Watching the enquiry on television it was clear that even ANC members were questioning her credibility.
Hopefully this committee will result in the SABC being cleansed of its corruption and inefficiency and the country having a truly unbiased public broadcaster.

  AUTHOR
Clive Dorrington
JOURNALIST/PHOTOGRAPHER

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