The question which may burn the green shoots of constitutionalism to cinders is whether the political will can be generated for the ANC to take the strong medicine of accountability for its institutional misdemeanours or “sins of incumbency” as they are sometimes called.
This question is asked by Advocate Paul Hoffman, founder of Accountability Now, who outlines the broad systemic change the ANC needs to make to once more become a credible political party – given how deeply the rot set in over the Zuma years. The article on his website accountabilitynow.org.za draws on statements by the party’s own NEC, Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba and even the controversial IPID boss, Robert McBride, he says top clean-out priorities must be transparency on the funding of political parties, a spring-clean of the police and the prosecutions authority and the ongoing make-over of the party’s own Integrity Commission. Declaring the Arms Deal contracts invalid, thus restoring the mis-spent billions to the State coffers alone, will more than equal the recent increase in VAT.
The first months of 2018 have been good for optimists in SA, writes Hoffman, especially for those who are genuinely concerned about the effects of State Capture and corruption. He says the Zondo Commission into allegations of State Capture held a promising press conference; its regulations were sensibly amended and its chosen personnel all appear to be from the top drawer. The new-old minister of finance, Nhlanhla Nene, arriving without blue light convoy, reportedly told conference delegates on 5 March:
“The government will announce its strategy to fight corruption and State Capture within 100 days.”
According to a report in the daily Afrikaans rag, Beeld, Nene told a Federations of Unions of SA conference the government would also announce plans to bring those responsible for corruption to justice.
“Almost all South African and foreign investors have lost confidence in SA. This situation must be turned around urgently,” he said.
Nene said the recent arrests show “even the Hawks’ are emboldened by the regime change”.
Not to be outdone, the NEC of the ANC produced a post-meeting press statement in which the following passage appears:
“The NEC recommitted itself to continue with the campaign to restore the integrity and dignity of the state and of the ANC as an organisation and further that the fight against all manifestations of corruption and state capture should be intensified.
“The NEC appreciates that, in the context of this campaign, some members and leaders of the movement may find themselves called to account by law-enforcement agencies, the legislatures and the Judicial Commission of Inquiry dealing with the matter of state of capture.
“The ANC wishes to reiterate its principled approach that persons so implicated should be presumed innocent until and unless proven otherwise.
“Individual members of the ANC and society have the right to express their sympathy and solidarity with the effected persons in their individual capacity, and not through any structures of the movement including the ANC Leagues and the MKMVA.
“Members involved in such actions are discouraged from displaying ANC’s paraphernalia and thus creating the false impression that the ANC as organisation identifies with, or approve of, the misdemeanours of which any member or leader may be accused.
“In welcoming the concerted efforts of the Executive led by the President, as well as the legislatures, to put the sad chapter of systemic corruption and state capture behind us, we wish to emphasise that cadres of the movement, wherever they may be deployed, should see it as their responsibility to cooperate with these efforts; and not to seek to obstruct legitimate actions to eliminate these scourges.
“The NEC has further directed the NWC to finalise terms of reference as well as setting up of the Integrity commission and to report to the next NEC meeting for finality.”
Hoffman says Parliament busied itself with the processing of new legislation regarding the public disclosure of political party funding, surely the original sin of the “systemic corruption” to which the NEC refers in its press statement.
Elections which are fair cannot be held in circumstances in which only one political party regards the state and the State-owned Enterprises as its “piggy bank” while the rest play the fundraising game without the considerable benefits of kickbacks, commissions, dividends and capital gains of the kind the arms deals and Hitachi Power Africa transactions brought to the ANC.
If the NEC is serious about restoring the lost dignity and integrity of the state, “and of the ANC as an organisation”, it is going to have to account to “our people” for its ill-gotten gains of this kind on an institutional basis.
“Fortunately for the ANC, the bribes paid in the arms deals are all recoverable by the state from the arms dealers in full upon the invalidation or cancellation of those deals. Doing the right thing by ending the deals will be financially painless for the ANC and will swell the coffers of the state by an amount in excess of the funds to be raised by the increase in VAT.
“An accounting for ANC investment vehicle Chancellor House’s role in the Hitachi Power Africa deal will be more costly for the ANC, but at least it will not have to pay US fines of the order already paid by Hitachi for getting into the deal in the first place. This is because, unlike Hitachi, the ANC does not do business in the USA,” says Hoffman.
Further encouragement for optimists is to be found in the Easter weekend pronouncements from the pulpit, not only by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, but also by the President, Cyril Ramaphosa. The former said in his Easter message:
“President Ramaphosa and the ANC should see this time as a moment in history to embrace the principles and objectives of the New Struggle – a struggle to which we all should commit: a struggle for equality, a struggle about values and institutions rather than personalities, a struggle to build strong systems which cannot be undermined by one party or person’s whim.”
In similar vein, the president added:
“The ANC must serve the people of South Africa. We must put our old ways behind us. Where there was corruption, we must say goodbye to corruption.
“Where there were people who were stealing the resources of our country, they must be dealt with severely,” Ramaphosa said.
“The new dawn means things have to change. We are now going to work in a different way to change the lives of our people,” he said.
Ramaphosa said “the new dawn” must mean there was a “renewed enthusiasm” for service delivery.
What with the Cabinet, the clergy, the commission, the party and the politicians all singing off the same hymn sheet as the president, the green shoots of constitutionalism are seemingly healthy, says Hoffman.