While Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s reaction to President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet reshuffle disappointed those hoping for something more dramatic, it offered insight into ANC thinking.
Ramaphosa was peeved that he and other ANC top six members had not been consulted: “It was just a process of informing us of his decision, it was not a consultation because he came with a ready-made list,” Ramaphosa said.
Obsessed with the Guptas, critics sniggered about how the Cabinet list must have been composed in a Saxonwold shebeen. Here’s what they missed. Ramaphosa has been in leadership for so long that he has forgotten how ANC democracy is experienced by those on the receiving end. Subordinates don’t have a say. They are told what will happen, by those higher up the ladder. New minister of finance – and fashion – Malusi Gigaba explained during Monday’s media briefing: “I get called and instructed what changes are being made. I don’t ask questions.”
Think about that. He has been placed in charge of the Treasury. He controls a R1.56 trillion national budget. He has signing power on a R1 trillion nuclear deal. He can influence how the Public Investment Corporation manages assets worth more than R1.857 trillion. With all this and more at his command, Gigaba is content to await instructions, not to ask questions.
The image of a tailor’s dummy comes to mind. Fashionista Gigaba is tailor-made for Zuptas intent on looting. It will be a case of: “Yes, Baas Atul, anything you say.” Just as it was when the Eskom board was packed with Zuptas because pliable Gigaba was minister of public enterprises. Yet the resources to plunder are now much greater.
Let’s return to Ramaphosa’s remark about not being consulted. The top six are Zuma, Ramaphosa, national chair Baleka Mbete, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize. I have no idea of whether they are subject to formal rules about who should consult whom. Ramaphosa, Mantashe and Mkhize clearly felt convention had been broken.
But South Africans with democratic antennae know that the ANC and the organisations it controls have warped ideas about what constitutes consultation. For example, on this week’s Justice Factor on eNCA, an ANC Youth League spokesperson said informing someone was the same as consulting them.
Ramaphosa should not be shocked. That is how ANC-led governments at every level abuse what are intended to be democratic procedures. They go through the motions of democracy but the direction of influence is always one way, from the top down. In local government, public participation, alternately described as consultation, is specified in laws and in policy documents. Yet under ANC governments, people have not really been consulted. ANC administrations may hold whatever meetings are prescribed by law but they disregard public input.
Under new administration, integrated development planning meetings are being held across Joburg right now. I urge you to attend, listen, and have your say about what should happen in your ward. Exercise your rights to participatory democracy, even as the top-down Zuma era heads one way.