1994: When the state was first captured

Jackson Mthembu. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Collective leadership. This is what precluded Paul Mashatile from openly saying it is time for Jacob Zuma to go, at St Alban’s Cathedral in Tshwane on Wednesday. “I can say that the corruption must end, and the state capture must end, but I cannot call for President Zuma to go, because the ANC is a collective. We must all agree.”

Funny thing that. I don’t remember ex- ANC deputy secretary general Cheryl Carolus hiding behind that pathetic excuse for willful inaction, nor for that matter, did retired Con Court judge Zak Yacoob, when they lambasted Jacob Zuma and the NEC, calling for their immediate resignation.

And come to think of it, neither did ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu, when he recently called for the entire ANC NEC to step down. (While Mr Mthembu is to be lauded for speaking out, let’s not be too fulsome in our praises, because he, along with the entire ANC caucus, voted against impeaching Jacob Zuma over Nkandla last year.)

For far too long now, citing the pathetic, self-serving excuse of collective leadership, the entire ANC leadership – NEC, NWC, caucus – has sat on its hands, while Jacob Zuma systematically pillaged the country, and took it unto himself, and his cronies. And perhaps that is the greatest irony of all: while the rest of the ANC helplessly wrings its hands, Jacob Zuma routinely spits on the notion of collective leadership.

This ridiculous, schoolyard notion of leadership has undoubtedly contributed to the extent of state capture revealed in the Public Protector’s report, but the seeds were sown in 1993, when our Constitution was drafted, and the ANC – not Jacob Zuma – first captured the state in April 1994.

In 1996, when the final Constitution was ratified by the Con Court, the last nail was hammered into the coffin of accountability, checks and balances were swept aside, and the project of state capture was complete. The state now belongs lock-stock-and-barrel to the ANC, and the arms length relationship that ought to exist between party and state, has vanished. Parliament has become a rubber stamp for schemes cooked up by the NEC, which owes its allegiance to Jacob Zuma. Fortunately, our judiciary has remained un-captured, and that has been our salvation. While it is far from ideal, at least we are able to rely on the judiciary, post facto, to hold the executive and party to account, whenever a matter comes before it.

Our electoral system – list-based proportional representation – ensures that a single political party can dominate our legislatures to the extent that it writes whatever laws it chooses to.

It also ensures that every single member of the majority party caucus will vote on every issue in accordance with party policy, for fear of being fired. Lawmakers are beholden to party bosses, not to the electorate. Why else was Jacob Zuma not impeached over Nkandla?

We vested in a single person, the sole right to appoint the head of every single state institution, every cabinet minister and deputy cabinet minister, the CEO and board of every state-owned enterprise, and they all serve at the pleasure of that one person.

What is the point of constructing a constitutional democracy which confers upon the executive, virtually exclusive power, to run the country, as if by fiat? Perhaps the answer lies in a comment – possibly apocryphal – attributed recently to a member of the original constitutional assembly: “We believed we would always have leaders of the calibre of Madiba.”

How, on God’s little green earth, do you write a constitution around an individual?

The other canard, routinely trotted out by the likes of Gwede Mantashe every time a call was made for Jacob Zuma’s head, was the ridiculous assertion that since he was elected president of the ANC – and by extension the country – at an elective conference in 2007, he could only be removed by an elective conference. Not true, but as Isa Blagden wrote in The Crown of a Life in 1869, “If a lie is only printed often enough, it becomes a quasi-truth, and if such a truth is repeated often enough, it becomes an article of belief, a dogma, and men will die for it.”

Only last week did the good Mr Mantashe obliquely admit to lying, when he said the ANC’s Integrity Commission had failed to call Jacob Zuma to account for his misdeeds and excesses.

The following acts of misconduct, according to the ANC Constitution, constitute grounds for expulsion, following due process in terms of Rule 25: Management of organisational discipline:

25.17.4 Behaving in a manner or making any utterance which brings, or could bring, or has the potential to bring, or as a consequence thereof, brings the ANC into disrepute;

25.17.6 Behaving in a manner which provokes, or is likely to provoke, or has the potential to provoke division, or impact negatively on the unity of the ANC;

25.17.8 Abuse of elected or employed office in the organisation or in the state to obtain any direct or indirect undue advantage or enrichment;

25.17.16 Prejudicing the integrity or repute of the organisation, its personnel or its operational capacity by: impeding the activities of the organisation; creating divisions within its ranks or membership; doing any other act which undermines the ANC’s effectiveness as an organisation; or acting on behalf of or in collaboration with:

4. any person or group who seriously interferes with the work of the organisation or prevents it from fulfilling its mission and objectives.

The mechanism has always been available for the ANC to remove Jacob Zuma. All that is needed, is the will to act, depressingly absent thus far.

If the revelations in the Public Protector’s report into state capture, do not galvanise the ANC into taking action, will the last person to leave, please switch off the lights?