There was all-round expectation that the African National Congress would move straight into crisis-management mode following their poor showing in the metros in last month’s municipal elections. How wrong we were to have that expectation. Yes, some leaders such as Paul Mashatile of Gauteng have rightly called a spade a spade and laid the blame squarely at the door of the national leadership of the ruling party. The question though is, though, why does it matter to the whole country that the ruling party does honest introspection? Why can we not simply say let them be? It will ensure they lose in the national elections in 2019.
Therein lies the answer, 2019. That’s a good three years away. The country cannot wait three years for accountability to return to our national politics. The damage in that time could be severe.
Take Minister of Minerals Resources Mosebenzi Zwane. He felt well within his rights to issue a statement on behalf of Cabinet to the effect that a judicial commission would be set up to investigate the banks that took action against Gupta-owned companies. The presidency immediately refuted this. His own organisation refuted it too. In other words, they called him out on his lie.
His lie had caused the financial markets to react negatively towards the stock of our normally robust banking sector. Naturally, one would expect there would be consequences to such a lie. So far, no consequences have been visited upon the minister save for an uncomfortable time in parliament when the DA asked him to resign.
“You have no right to ask me to resign!” he retorted. The minister clearly raised his middle finger to accountability.
I’m very cautious to giving labels to actions of individual leaders in the ruling party but I feel safe saying his actions are part of what has, over the past few years, become a culture of ministers refusing to be held accountable to the nation through parliament.
Who can forget Minister of Police Nkosinathi Nhlekho sweating bullets while trying to miraculously turn a swimming pool on a PowerPoint presentation into a fire pool? We didn’t buy his lie and neither did the public protector. Sadly, he has never been called back to account for his clear fabrications.
The same minister has made a habit of losing clearly “unwinnable” court cases he somehow still feels he needs to take through the court system, wasting not only our time but our money too. His department’s latest fishing expedition has been that of trying to prove the minister of police has the power to appoint or fire the head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate. It would be the height of hypocrisy for the Constitutional Court to grant him powers over a state institution established solely for the purposes of exercising oversight over his department. He lost the case, as expected, and life goes on. No consequences.
Robert McBride is clearly no saint, but he has joined the list of figures who have been declared “enemies of the state” by their erstwhile comrades. Like Ronnie Kasrils was described as a “traitor”, “counter-revolutionary” and “enemy of the people”, Robert McBride must be feeling pretty abandoned by his own comrades, and for what? For simply demanding that the political head of the ministry of police be held accountable for his decisions.
Deputy Minister of Defence Kebby Maphatsoe recently parted ways with half a million rand for his libellous remarks against Kasrils. Put simply, the leader of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans agreed he’d lied about Kasrils. And he agreed to pay up. And he still has a job. No, not the one of being head to 25-year-old so-called military veterans, who weren’t even born when the MK was disbanded, but as deputy minister of defence and President Jacob Zuma’ s number one unappointed defender.
This culture of refusing to be held accountable has even emboldened that alleged Gupta-appointed minister, Des Van Rooyen, to have the gall to tell a more senior Cabinet colleague, Pravin Gordhan, he is seeking sympathy by running to the media. Forget what the spat is about. How does one minister attack another minister publicly? They’re colleagues. Why can’t he simply chat to the finance minister after a Cabinet meeting? I’ll tell you why: he knew he could not be held accountable for his words.
This culture of non-accountability is what the opposition parties have latched on to in parliament and are using it to sideline the president from making any meaningful contribution to debates in parliament. They’ve reduced the president to a figurehead whose only contribution can be through the podium and not as head of Cabinet, because clearly he’s failing to reign in his Cabinet.
Bringing up the Nkandla matter would be flogging a dead horse. But it is worth noting that all the said ministers who are not being accountable in parliament are doing all of this in defence of one man.
Is this a culture this country can tolerate until 2019 when the electorate will get another chance to chastise the ruling party? Clearly not. Something must give and accountability must return.
A bit of unsolicited advice to the ruling party: organisational renewal must not only be limited to behind-the-scenes activities at Luthuli House. The renewal must be public enough for the electorate to notice the difference. That’s what those #OccupyLuthuliHouse youth were saying:the renewal must be visible.