The ANC’s surprising return to form

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will have noticed two things.

The first is that the number of posts have tailed off. This is largely because my time has been taken up with paid work and the website has slipped down the list of priorities in the imperative to pay the bills.

I am, however, not yet ready to give up as so many of my friends who set up “free to air” websites in the last few years have done – usually because their work load became intolerable and the blog seemed to sit sulking on the edge of their consciousness and the bloggers became consumed with guilt and a sense of failure and eventually posted that final signoff: “its been fun –  so long and thanks for all the fish … and catch you in the commercial media ….” or whatever.

I set the blog up in the darkest depths of the Great Recession as a way of marketing myself … and the strategy has worked. I get a trickle of briefs to write, analyse or speak for corporations and businesses via the About and Professional Services links and this has been part of how I have scraped by after the cataclysm of 2008. If anything the global economy is looking scarier than ever … I am not going to drop the blog just as the as the world looks as if it might fall into an even more boneless heap than it did in 2008.

But the second reason I am going to hang onto this forum is that it gives me a discipline and space to work out my views on what is happening in the political realm. I can go back – as can anyone else who may be interested – through the hundreds of posts and get a record of my thinking and I use that constantly to refresh my mind as to where we are in the South African political wrangle … I just have to post more regularly again, and this I undertake to do.

So the blog remains in place for now, and I am grateful to the 150 or so people who check every day to see if I have said anything or who end up at the website through various search engines. One day you will be the CEO or running the company’s staff training programme or heading the strategic planning department (or you may already be one of those) and you will  know where to get hold of some excellently priced expertise … I look forward to your emails to in this regard.

Now onto what I have missed posting here in the last 2 weeks – all of which adds up to something of a shy and tentative spring – a bright new world peeping around the corner to see if it is okay to skip happily into the garden … and whatever other cutesy optimistic metaphors I can cook up, because I am extremely tired of the dark cynicism that has taken root deep in my – and probably your – mind.

Jacob Zuma cleans up his act

This is what I said about the Cabinet reshuffle, the suspension of Bheki Cele and the institution of the judicial commission into the Arms Deal.

In one broad swipe President Jacob Zuma has addressed several of the key corruption and maladministration problems that have beset his administration. He has fired Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka and suspended police commissioner General Bheki Cele and appointed a commission of inquiry into the General’s actions in fiddling leases for police buildings. In the same announcement Zuma named the members of the commission to investigate the ‘arms deal” scandal and named a senior Supreme Court of Appeals judge to head the inquiry. He has also made extensive minor changes to the cabinet – mostly through knock-on effects from the two ministerial changes.

The president has taken his good time about addressing some of these issues and we expect some of the early commentary to be less than generous – and to comb the details for evidence that Jacob Zuma has used the opportunity to marginalise enemies and reward friends – and generally restructure government in a way that favours his bid for a second term at Mangaung.

My own view is that Zuma has finally responded to a plethora of criticism and he has done so in a thoroughgoing way and in a manner that considerably strengthens the administrative capacity and probity of government. An expectation that such a significant reshuffle would not be influenced by the power struggles within the ANC would be naive, but on an initial reading I am cautiously optimistic.

Julius Malema gets his comeuppance

And this is what I said about the ANC Disciplinary hearing yesterday:

The African National Congress disciplinary committee (DC) is just finishing its announcement of findings and sentencing in relation to the ANC Youth League leadership.

Julius Malema has been found guilty (in his personal capacity) of provoking serious division in the ruling party and he has been suspended from the ANC and the Youth League for a period of five years – and several other sentences have been handed out to Youth League leaders including the 3 years suspension of Floyd Shivambu, the Youth League spokesperson.

This is obviously good for the ANC – for its image, for its internal coherence and for the reputation of its leadership. The loutish and grandiose behaviour of the ANC Youth League and the individual  leaders’  involvement in abuse of public sector finances and tendering process behind a façade of representing the interests of the poorest and most marginalised has deeply damaged the reputation and core values of the ANC.

Obviously much will depend on whether the leadership has the stomach – and spine – to follow the disciplinary process with a thoroughgoing implementation of the sentence throughout all forums of the organisation. We shouldn’t forget that important individuals and constituencies have backed Malema through this process – and as I write this Twitter is alive with ANC YL arrangements for emergency meetings to organise protests against these sentences this weekend. Will the sentence provoke a backlash, attempting to build opposition by portraying Malema as a victim? Obviously, but I think – and  hope – that the grave tones and thorough approach of the ANC Disciplinary Committee might presage a process of repair and renewal in the ruling party.

I expect the situation to be unsettled – and even threatening – for the next week, but my best call is that this sentence is likely to stabilise the debate within the ANC and in the leadership and policy discussion in the lead up to Mangaung in December 2012.

So that’s my two cents of this morning. There are reasons for optimism. Obviously Jacob Zuma has not suddenly been transformed into an epitome of probity and eloquence … but things are looking up and I think it is important to say so.

6 thoughts on “The ANC’s surprising return to form

  1. I agree that, regardless of the role that the internal power struggle may have played, one should not allow one’s (justified?) cynicism to eschew the positive effect that these developments may have nationally and internationally. Locally it sets a precedent and internationally it will hopefully enhance the image of governance in SA.

    1. Thanks Rudy …. I thought of you while being interviewed by the 18K Due Diligence investigation that is part of the Treasury’s obligations to the SEC on Thursday … just before I was interviews by S&P … just before the Moody’s announcement came out … one of the guys pushed me on the judiciary and I had to say: “When all is said and done and weighed up we are in a significantly worse position than we were 6 months ago” … Gwede and Jacob have both talked about the Supreme Court as part of the opposition … the appointment of the new Judge President … and the functioning of the JSC … so I am not all sweetness and light, but I do think we are looking a lot better this a.m. from a distance and over the whole picture than we were only three weeks ago.

    1. Hi – Ant – well, I will give you special permission … As long as you don’t bring the riff-raff with you – can’t be too careful. Keep well and thanks.

  2. Hi Nic

    Good to see you bursting back into print – and on a much more positive note for a while!
    Yesterday was incredibly exciting – first the Malema judgement & secondly the cricket spectacle at Newlands – I have to say though that I suspect there WILL be an appeal, and Malema WILL be reinstated in some form or another…personally I think he’s more dangerous outside the ANC party structures than within them!


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