Tag: zuma

Treasury capture is something to fear

Pravin Gordhan’s axing as finance minister just more than six months ago was met with consternation, which was made worse by the man who replaced him.

Here was Malusi Gigaba – the man who had used his position as minister of public enterprises to lay the ground for the Gupta family to plunder Transnet, Eskom, Denel and other state-owned companies – being entrusted with running Treasury, the state’s most important ministry.

Many cried foul, arguing that the move was akin to entrusting a ravenous wolf with care of the sheep.

At the time, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema told reporters in Johannesburg that “[President Jacob] Zuma has captured Treasury, which means the Guptas have captured Treasury. He has achieved what he always wanted to achieve.”

At Gigaba’s swearing-in ceremony at the presidential guest house in Pretoria on March 31, local and foreign journalists mobbed him, demanded answers about everything from his suitability for the job to the impact his appointment would have on credit ratings.

He stunned the media with well choreographed responses. He appeared to be a man who had his job figured out.

A few days later, referring to a Save SA protest outside his office, Gigaba told his staff: “Forget all the noise outside. Do your jobs. What you see and hear will pass. Change brings with it such anxieties.”

Shortly after his appointment, rumours began swirling that Gigaba, who harbours presidential ambitions, was ready to disentangle himself from the intricate state capture network.

Many hoped he would hold off-the-record briefings with senior journalists and editors to inform them about how he would free himself from the web of Zuma’s friends, the Guptas.

One senior news executive told me this week that Gigaba’s people had arranged a meeting with him. It never took place.

Just what the doctor ordered

It is near impossible to completely capture the South African state without placing National Treasury on a leash.

This is not only because Treasury allocates each department its annual budget, but because through its public finance unit, it monitors government expenditure and reins in wayward ministers, directors-general and chief executives of state-owned entities.

Through the office of the chief procurement officer (CPO), Treasury monitors compliance with tender regulations and is able to refuse government departments permission to break the rules.

Having axed Nhlanhla Nene, Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas for their refusal to sign off on the nuclear deal (among other reasons), Zuma needed someone whose conscience had been dulled.

What better man than Gigaba?

A trusted lieutenant, and a man whose footprints – a damning report by prominent academics found – will feature prominently in the story of how the Gupta highwaymen pulled off their great South African robbery.

A desktop review of Gigaba’s six months in the Treasury reveals a terrifying picture. Cabinet’s decision to move the budget allocation process from Treasury to the presidency has nothing to do with Gigaba.

But is it just a coincidence that something which has been coming since 2015 was implemented as soon as he arrived?

When all the make believe explanations are stripped away, only one reason remains for why Zuma’s Cabinet arrived at this decision.

The reason, as one senior government executive put it, is “for anyone who wants resources for projects that cannot be motivated for in the open to use nefarious means to achieve the directing of the budget one way or the other”.

This becomes increasingly clear when we take into account the fact that the budget allocation process is handled by an interministerial committee. All ministers have an opportunity to motivate for priority projects.

If the committee influences budget allocation, why would Cabinet want it handed to a presidency with neither the technical skill nor the research capacity to do the job?

The battle for the soul of Treasury

Two weeks ago, City Press reported that Gigaba had established a parallel administration, effectively undermining Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane.

Gigaba’s spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete denied the allegations.

But as fate would have it, minutes of a meeting City Press obtained revealed that acting CPO Willie Mathebula was undertaking a sweeping restructuring of his office without Mogajane’s knowledge.

The minutes revealed that, while Mogajane was in the dark about the proposed changes, Mathebula had already met Gigaba and his deputy Sfiso Buthelezi to discuss the restructuring.

The proposed changes reveal something sinister underway at Treasury: that Mathebula, Gigaba and Buthelezi were concerned that the office of the CPO “was a dictator and not an enabler” and believed the office “did not consult” their counterparts in other departments.

More alarmingly, they discussed withdrawing the office’s governance, monitoring and compliance (GMC) unit’s powers to decide if departments’ requests for tender deviations and extensions were justified.

The refrain that Treasury is a dictator, a de facto government, or a stumbling block to development is not new. It is a common refrain we hear from Zumarite ministers such as Nomvula Mokonyane.

In February, the Sunday Times reported that Zuma himself had expressed frustration about Treasury’s processes.

Zuma and Mokonyane’s unhappiness stems from their repeated failure to get Treasury to approve the nuclear deal, estimated at R1 trillion, the R56bn Moloto rail development; and the R14bn Mzimvubu water projects.

Cabinet wants to appoint Chinese companies, without any bidding process, to finance and build the last two.

A Treasury report City Press reported on in April showed how the ministry put a stop to a government-to-government procurement agreement between Zuma’s administration and the Kremlin for a Russian company to finance and build nuclear power stations.

But without the GMC’s approval for projects to bypass legal tender processes, these megacontracts will never see the light of day.

It is for this reason that Mathebula, Gigaba and Buthelezi’s mission to hobble the GMC should set off alarms.

In the 18 months to June, the GMC halted more than 200 tenders amounting to more than R4 billion from being awarded through “deviations” – which include false emergencies and other excuses about single suppliers and continuity of service.

Treasury’s deviation reports do not attach values to numerous other requests for deviation which the GMC blocked during the same period.

They could easily amount to hundreds of millions of rands.

South Africans should not allow Gigaba and co to curtail the GMC’s powers.

One reason is that Eskom’s R1.6bn in questionable contracts with management consulting firm McKinsey and Gupta-front Trillian were awarded through deviations before the GMC was established.

Should Gigaba manage to neutralise it, it would be open season on tenders across government. This would be the final step in the capture of the state.

By Sipho Masondo for City Press. Published on News24

Cabinet reshuffle #12 for Zuma

Desperation to push through the R1-trillion nuclear deal and “gatvolness” with SACP leader Blade Nzimande’s criticism of his leadership ahead of the ANC’s elective conference are probably the main reasons behind President Jacob Zuma’s most recent Cabinet reshuffle.

The reshuffle, that saw Nzimande chopped from the Cabinet, four ministers changing portfolios and the introduction of loudmouth ANC MP Bongani Bongo as minister of intelligence, is part of Zuma’s fightback campaign to reclaim authority over a deeply fractured governing party.

The axing brings an end to a decade-long bromance between Zuma and the communists, who were at the forefront of lobbying for the corruption charges against Zuma to be dropped and for president Thabo Mbeki to be recalled.

The relationship soured when it became clear that Zuma was never really interested in changing the economic policies of the country to benefit the poor, but rather to enrich himself and his besties, the Guptas.

In recent months, Nzimande has been one of Zuma’s most vocal critics with the SACP, calling for his removal as ANC president.

The SACP-ANC relationship is at an all-time low, with threats by the reds to go it alone in the 2019 election.

Firing Nzimande opened up the opportunity for Zuma to play musical chairs.

His close ally David Mahlobo becomes energy minister; Bongo takes over state security; Ayanda Dlodlo moves to home affairs and Mmamoloko Kubayi takes over the communications portfolio.

Hlengiwe Mkhize moves from home affairs to higher education and the young rising star MP and former Young Communist League leader, Buti Manamela, replaces the controversial Mduduzi Manana as Mkhize’s deputy.

So why did Zuma move his powerful intelligence minister to the energy portfolio?

It does not require rocket science to connect the dots: Zuma needs to push through the nuclear deal with Russia’s Rosatom before his term ends. If a candidate other than Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma wins the ANC’s presidential election, Zuma could be out as state president as early as January.

Mahlobo has accompanied Zuma on at least one state visit to Russia, to meet President Vladimir Putin. It was always a mystery why Mahlobo, and not the energy minister, had travelled with Zuma, but that question has now been answered.

The Sunday Times reported last month that Mahlobo accompanied convicts Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene – supposedly Zuma’s New Best Friends – to Russia to present themselves as BEE partners to Russian oil and gas company Rosgeo for a R5bn deal. Connect the dots.

The Western Cape High Court’s ruling earlier this year that the tender process for nuclear should start from scratch was a massive setback for Zuma and Putin. Mahlobo has now been trusted with pushing the deal through – and fast.

Remember that Zuma’s favourite son, Duduzane, and the Guptas own Shiva Uranium, who will be one of the chief beneficiaries of a nuclear deal. That is the Zuma pension plan.

Kubayi was supposed to fast-track the deal after Tina Joemat-Pettersson got the boot in March for failing to do so, but she probably moved too slowly in Zuma’s view.

The reshuffle is a sign that Zuma is panicking. South Africa should be on high alert.

By Adriaan Basson for News24

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa could be the next casualty of a cabinet reshuffle‚ an insider has told news channel eNCA.

James Motlatsi‚ who formed the powerful National Union of Mineworkers with Ramaphosa and others‚ said he had learnt that President Jacob Zuma would use an intelligence report to justify axing Ramaphosa.

“Let me say to you‚ unconfirmed reports are saying that [this will happen] very soon. This issue‚ Cyril even raised it in a meeting. We have been told by other people that the president himself‚ he is saying Cyril is a spy of Western capitalists‚ so we are waiting for that intelligence report to come out for him‚” Motlatsi said.

Zuma used a similar report to oust Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas from the finance ministry earlier this year‚ ANC leaders have said.

President Jacob Zuma again defied ANC advice and reshuffled his cabinet. On Tuesday he announced another cabinet shake-up‚ the second this year.

He removed SA Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande as education minister and swapped around five other portfolios.

The reshuffle has been condemned by opposition parties.

The SACP said it was a direct attack on the party‚ which has called for Zuma’s resignation.

Motlatse said the exercise was an act of retribution on Zuma’s part.

“It’s political revenge because the SACP‚ not only Blade‚ had already taken a stance that the president should step down. So‚ instead of engaging the SACP‚ he would like to punish the SACP.”

Source: Times Live

ANC to punish those who are anti-Zuma

The ANC says it intends to discipline three MPs who openly voiced their opposition to President Jacob Zuma ahead of last week’s motion of no confidence.

The three who did so are former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, former tourism minister Derek Hanekom and MP Makhosi Khoza.

This is according to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who addressed journalists during a roundtable discussion on Tuesday.

Calls from Zuma and his backers grew at the weekend for those who voted against him to be punished.

Mantashe was speaking after a meeting of the party’s national working committee on Monday.

He said the ANC would not hunt down MPs who voted in favour of last week’s motion of no confidence against Zuma‚ but would discipline party members who had confirmed voting with the opposition.

Those who kept their vote a secret would not face any charges, he said.

Mantashe was speaking after a meeting of the party’s national working committee where the matter is said to have dominated discussions.

“There is not going to be a witch hunt. We are not going to do that. (But) where MPs go up and confirm‚ we’ll have to deal with that situation.”

Mantashe also revealed that the ANC would take action in the matter involving Deputy Higher Education and Training Minister Mduduzi Manana.

By Natasha Marrian and Sibongakonke Shoba for Business Day

How Zuma killed Stuttafords

Stuttafords officially closed its doors on Monday, 31 July after 159 years of operating in the South African retail market.

The retailer filed for business rescue in October 2016, after it could not recover from the pressures of the low growing economy and the significant devaluation of the rand following the axing of former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.
A final bid to buy the last two operating stores in Sandton and Eastgate was rejected by the landlord, Liberty. Chief executive Robert Amoils told Fin24 that all staff at the two remaining stores will be retrenched and have their full retrenchment packages paid.

The business is currently undergoing a winding down process which will take a few months to complete. A sale of Stuttafords intellectual property is being finalised by the business rescue practitioners.

Amoils had explained to Fin24 that the business had been on the right path, but simply ran out of time to correct things. “I believe the path we set was correct. I believe the repositioning we did was consistent with what international trends have shown to work,” he said.

“Simply, we ran out of runway, we ran out of time. The market downturn was so swift, so severe and was paralleled with significant [rand] devaluation and political uncertainty.”

Amoils explained that the rand devaluation impacted the business model negatively because commitments were made to buy international brands almost a year in advance. But director at Norton Rose Fulbright and senior insolvency lawyer Haroon Laher said that the downfall could not be pinned down to the economy only.

“I think there were a number of factors. There was a lot of tension between the shareholders which obviously is tension in the house, so to speak. That did not contribute to a successful business rescue.”

Stefan Salzer, partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group said that generally the retail sector is under pressure. Particularly in recessionary conditions consumers tend to cut down on spend for discretionary items such as clothing, household appliances and furniture.

“It is tough not to buy food but it is very easy not to buy a TV or buy the latest fashions from Stuttafords,” he said.
Salzer explained that over the past two to three years international clothing retailers had been entering the market, posing another complication for Stuttafords. Amoils previously told Fin24 that the arrival of international players like H&M, Zara and Cotton On had cut into their customer base.

That, coupled with increasing financial pressures on consumers and changing credit regulations did not contribute positively to the environment for clothing retailers, said Salzer.

Indeed, the devaluation of the rand impacted Stuttafords profits, he explained. An item that cost $3 would end up costing more at a later stage due to the sensitivity of the currency. This cost could be borne by the consumers, in the final price charged for the item, or the retailer would have to carry the expense and let profit take a knock.
Stuttafords purveys international brands and this set it in a disadvantage to other local retailers which rely on South African produced and sourced products, explained Salzer.

International players
Salzer said that international players are also clear on what they are, and on what they are not.
These retailers also differentiate between “basics” and fashion items and price these accordingly. For example a basic white T-shirt would be just that. Contrarily South African retailers would sell a “basic” white T-shirt with some print on it. Additionally, South African retailers often do not match pricing for basic and fashion items appropriately. Something considered basic, would be priced as a fashion item.

Local retailers also need to adopt fashion faster as international retailers do, he said. International retailers also have the advantage of scale, they have access to global brands at larger volumes.

South African retailers should also learn to introduce a “theatre of shopping” to inspire people to buy. Some retailers just put items on shelves, which is not as inspiring as having a styled manikin, he explained. A consumer could walk into a store with the idea to buy a T-shirt but then leave with a dress because the product was represented in an emotive and inspirational way, said Salzer.

International players also follow a different model when it comes to planning and buying merchandise, explained Derek Engelbrecht partner and consumer products and retail sector leader at EY. Global brands have a sense of urgency and frequency with which they change offerings.

“That is probably one of the key reasons the department store has battled. In gold old fashioned department store planning, the business would put new things on the shelf when the seasons change.”
“Global brands have worked hard and long to perfect the model where they are able to put items on the shelf every four to six weeks,” he said.

Develop a niche
Globally, the department store is facing challenges, explained Salzer. The way forward is to develop niche or specialist stores. Given South Africa’s mall culture, retailers do not necessarily have to stock all kinds of items under one roof, when a consumer can get these products a few meters away in a different store.

Salzer added that if some retailers still want to diversify their offerings, they need to be clear on the overall theme they are offering, like quality, convenience or affordability. For example a retailer could offer clothing items and cars, if the overall expectation of the offering was quality.

Engelbrecht explained that retailers can no longer be all things to all people. “If you follow approach of being all things to all people at some point your customer will leave you,” he says.

“If you identify the niche or the consumer you are targeting, while it may not appeal to all people, at least you are guaranteed that you created something unique. That is probably where the slow demise of the department store as a concept comes from.”

Engelbrecht also pointed out the importance of retailers adapting to the world in which they operate in.
Before entering business rescue, Amoils said Stuttafords had managed to reposition itself as a provider of cutting edge fashion and offered affordable branded luxury. The customer base was also more reflective of the South African consumer, with over 60% of Stuttafords’ market being black. The group also started focusing on targeting younger, tech-savvy consumers. “We perpetually evolved and I think we did a good job in the last five years,” says Amoils.

By Lameez Omarjee for Fin24

Was Zuma behind the secret ballot?

Monday’s announcement by Baleka Mbete that the motion of no confidence would be decided by secret ballot took many, if not most, people by surprise.

Why did she decide on a secret ballot, when it clearly posed significant political risk to her if the ballot passed?

This question became even more intriguing when it emerged that she did not consult with the ANC NEC and that even they were caught by surprise.

Some analysts argued that the legal advice and opinions presented to her were so convincing that she did not have a choice. That might well be true, although it should be said that her political future would still have been more important to her than the possibility of losing in court again.

Some journalists went further and questioned whether she had gone “rogue” and whether this decision was not only her way of redeeming herself as a politician and thus securing her legacy, but also that the possibility of being interim president (should the motion have passed) might have been her way off kicking off her own presidential campaign.

I don’t think that this was convincing. First of all it posed an enormous risk for her in terms of her standing in the ANC should the vote have gone against President Zuma. We have to remember that a majority of NWC, NEC and arguably even branch members still support the Zuma faction. More importantly if Mbete was seen to have strengthened the hand of the opposition and so caused a victory to them, her standing in the ANC and in the Presidential race would have been fatally damaged. As much as there might be a growing discontent in the ANC about President Zuma, that does not translate into ANC members being comfortable with an opposition victory of any sort.

So what was going on?

I believe that President Zuma not only agreed to a secret ballot, but wanted it.

I find it implausible that Mbete (who is also Chairperson of the ANC) did not consult with Zuma before making her decision. Failure to do so would be strange in any political party, but given its culture of collective decision-making, much more so for the ANC. I also do not believe that Mbete would have gone directly against the president’s wishes unless it was agreed to by the NEC (which we know was not the case).

This leaves only one alternative and that is that President Zuma decided to take a calculated risk, i.e. that he argued “Bring it on”. This would be typical of him. He would have known that if he were to survive the motion through a secret ballot, it would be the ultimate victory for him, thus effectively silencing any opposition voices inside the ANC and also making any further votes of no-confidence highly unlikely in the next few months.

It would also explain why Mbete waited until the day before the debate to make the announcement. If indeed the president was in favour of a secret ballot, he would have requested or more likely instructed Baleka to only make it known the night before the vote in order to a) give the anti-Zuma faction as little time as possible to mobilise and b) to give the ANC the maximum time to “intimidate” or put pressure on their own members – as we have indeed seen happening in the last few weeks.

And of course the gamble paid off from Zuma’s perspective. Only 177 members voted against the motion. This does mean that 28 or 29 ANC members most likely voted with the opposition and 9 abstained. Although significantly more than most people anticipated, it is a long way from the 201 votes that would have been required to pass the motion.

I have always maintained that if Mbete ruled for a secret ballot it would signal that she and the ANC were sure that the motion would not pass. I was right. I also warned that as a country we could be worse off after a vote of no confidence and I think we are.

President Zuma got what he wanted, courtesy of the opposition parties. After this vote he is stronger than ever before, no matter how hard the opposition will try and spin the fact that many ANC MPs voted for the motion. The outcome of the vote has effectively silenced any opposition to Zuma in the ANC at least until December. And it might even have for now strengthened his hand in terms of the outcome of the Electoral Conference.

The motion of no confidence was without doubt spectacular political theatre. Sadly, however, now that the curtain has fallen, South Africa is probably worse off than before.

By Melanie Verwoerd for News24

The vote in the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma will be held in the National Assembly on August 8.

News24 and OpenUp developed a tool to enable South Africans to contact a Member of Parliament, in order to tell them which way to vote.

A whopping 98% of the people who sent emails to MPs, asked that the motion of no confidence in Zuma be supported.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has yet to say whether the ballot will be secret or not. The Constitutional Court did not give her a date by which she had to make her decision known.

The court, in its ruling on June 22, said she had the discretion to decide whether the vote should be secret or not. It should however not be an arbitrary decision, but meet the test of rationality.

If the motion did succeed, here is what would happen:

By Jan Gerber for News24

The stats of the nation

In the midst of all the chaos and depression around us, we must appreciate the fact that we have still been able to keep some world-class institutions running. One of these is Stats SA, which is right up there with its international peers. Regular visits to its website will show you why that is: the amount, depth and breadth of information is quite something.

In the past few days, three critical pieces of information from Stats SA were drowned out by the ugly, rotten politics. They all related to issues that are key to the lives of South Africans: crime, governance and jobs.

Crime is higher than ever

The first one, titled Exploring the Extent of and Circumstances Surrounding Housebreaking/ Burglary and Home Robbery, looked at these crimes that terrify South African citizens. It noted that, although the proportion of households experiencing this crime that “violates our private space and the one place that we think of as our sanctuary” has been on the decline for five years, public perceptions were the opposite.

Differentiating home robbery (a break-in while the family is there) from housebreaking (burglary), the report says the former “fuels fear in communities, because it puts people at risk of personal injury and emotional trauma in their homes, where they should feel safest”.

Then came the really frightening part, which painted an appalling picture of the arrest and conviction rates.

“An arrest is made in only one out of every five reported cases of housebreaking or home robbery. Only one in five people arrested for housebreaking was convicted, and one in three people arrested for home robbery was convicted,” it stated.

Unacceptable vacancy rates

The second report, The Non-financial Census of Municipalities, contains some disturbing information about the vacancy rates in municipalities that cannot afford to be short of service-delivery personnel. Overall, the vacancy rate jumped from 13.3% in 2015 to 14.4% in 2016. Last year, the most affected areas in terms of unfilled vacancies were environmental protection at 26.1%, road transport at 22.3% and wastewater management at 19.9%. What was worrying was that only health – at 10.9% – had a vacancy rate of less than 12%. Crucial functions such as electricity (13.7%), water (13.6%) and finance (12.9%) had unacceptable vacancy rates.

Such high vacancy rates when positions are fully funded affect service delivery and increase the reliance on outside consultants, the report noted. By way of illustration, it pointed out that in Vryheid – which experienced a severe drought in the year in question and had to employ water tankers – the vacancy rate is 30.5%. Rustenburg’s wastewater management stood at a staggering 69%. Road transport, which is often the cause of community grievance, turned up some alarming numbers. In Mangaung, 74% of vacant posts were unfilled and Masilonyana (also in the Free State) stood at 69%. Although the vacancy rate in electricity came down from 20.2% to 13.7% last year, it is still considered high.

Unemployment crisis

The third was the release of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, which revealed that South Africa’s unemployment rate now stood at 27.7% – its highest since 2003. Ironically, this was in the quarter in which 144 000 new jobs were created in the economy, a number offset by the entry of 433 000 jobseekers. The survey said 58% of these new jobseekers were between 18 and 34 years of age, thus pushing the youth unemployment rate to 38.6%.

The unemployment rate among those without matric was 33.1%, while among graduates, it was 7.3%. If you use the expanded definition of unemployment by including those who have just given up on looking for work, the figure goes to 36.4%, almost a 10% increase. And if you want it in raw figures, we are talking about 9.3 million South Africans who cannot find work.

Why, I hear you ask, are we talking about such seemingly mundane matters when there are so many more fascinating subjects, such as Duduzane’s complicated love life and the saucy pictures that dropped into his inbox? Why should we be concerned about boring issues when there is such scintillating stuff in the political world – from emails to motions of no confidence and a president who threatens his executive not to “push him too far”?

Well, it is because these are the issues that should be consuming us. In a society that is serious about solving problems, the content of these reports would spell crisis in capital letters. A citizenry that lives in constant fear in a free country is not enjoying its freedom.

Municipalities and government departments that deprive residents of quality services because they are unable to fill vacancies are also depriving people of the tangible fruits of freedom.

The same can be said with regard to the unemployment crisis, which deprives families and individuals of a decent standard of living.

There has to come a time when these are the big issues on the minds of South Africans, both in the state and outside of government.

But then, as the Zuma/Gupta mafia is busy plundering, the country has no choice but to be consumed by their criminal behaviour.

By Mondli Makhanya for News24

Rand yo-yos as Zuma survives chopping block

Markets have reacted to events at the African National Congress National Executive Committee meeting in Johannesburg over the weekend.

The rand gained considerable strength when news emerged that a vote of no confidence had been tabled.

But it quickly retreated when the motion failed.

Economist Dawie Roodt says the rand is inextricably linked with President Jacob Zuma’s fate.

“It is interesting to watch financial markets because quite often, one can actually see how Jacob Zuma is doing by simply watching the exchange rate of the country.

“What has happened though over the weekend, as soon as it became clear that there would be a debate on the future of Zuma, the rand actually appreciates very strongly against most other currencies.”

Meanwhile, Zuma has come out swinging following the failure of a motion of no confidence in him.

The motion was tabled at the ANC NEC meeting over the weekend.

It failed to garner the necessary support to carry.

Zuma attacked his critics in the NEC in his closing address, saying he knows those who want him to step down are pushing an agenda of foreign forces and he’s warned them to stop.

Three sources in the ANC NEC have told Eyewitness News that Zuma was hard-hitting and furious when he gave his closing remarks at the NEC meeting, responding to those who called on him to step down.

It is understood that the president told the NEC meeting that those who wanted him to resign are pushing an agenda of foreign forces.

The sources say the furious president told the meeting that he was poisoned with the intention of being killed and warned that he knows who is plotting against him and where they get the money from.

It’s understood he also told the meeting that he can’t be blamed for the party’s loss of key metros, saying it was the ANC’s failure to manage regional dynamics that resulted in the poor showing at last year’s polls.

By Clement Manyathela for www.ewn.co.za

ConCourt reserves judgement in secret ballot appeal

After almost 10 hours of legal arguments, the Constitutional Court reserved judgment on the United Democratic Movement’s application to direct National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to hold a secret ballot on a motion of no-confidence against President Jacob Zuma. The matter boiled down to Mbete’s discretion to allow a secret ballot. Advocates representing opposition parties argued the secret ballot was required in this matter, while Mbete and Zuma’s advocates conceded it was permissible. As fascinating as the legal arguments were, this case is about politics. Therefore, the courts can only go so far in dealing with South Africa’s big political dilemma: the disastrous Zuma presidency.

Throughout the day, the judges of the Constitutional Court asked counsel for the various parties before them about the basis on which the court should be involved and why the secret ballot was necessary. The judges were clearly concerned and mindful of the separation of powers doctrine and the question of judicial overreach. The only thing the court could do, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said, was look at the law and interpret it.

At the end of the day’s arguments, Justice Mogoeng thanked the advocates for their “enlightenment”. “You have no idea how challenging it was to conceptualise the issues,” he said.

Apart from the judges being cautious of another matter relating to Zuma, particularly as his supporters in KwaZulu-Natal were staging a protest against judicial overreach, they also wanted to be careful not to encroach on the functions of Parliament or prescribe to the Speaker how to act.

While the drafters of the Constitution spelt out that the president should be elected by secret ballot, they did not stipulate as much in the section on the removal of the president through a motion of no confidence. Mbete refused the UDM’s request for a motion of no confidence through secret ballot. She stated in a letter to the UDM’s attorney that she had no authority in law or through the rules of Parliament to grant this.

Lawyers initially fumbled on the question of why the court should intervene and what the National Assembly rules allowed for. Dali Mpofu, representing the UDM, said MPs were entitled to vote according to conscience and should be protected because of the risks they could face if they did so. He said the separation of powers was not at issue and there needed to be an interpretation of the instruments for holding the president accountable.

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, arguing on behalf of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), said the motion of no confidence could not take place effectively unless it was conducted through a secret ballot.

“The most practical way of holding the executive accountable is a secret ballot,” Ngcukaitobi said. He said the Constitutional Court must only deal with current motion and not secret ballots in Parliament generally.

But the advocate for the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Anton Katz, said every motion of no confidence should be decided by secret ballot in principle. He said IFP MPs had consistently requested that motions be decided by secret ballot and were denied this.

Maruma Moerane, representing the Speaker, said the National Assembly had considered and decided against a secret ballot. He said the Constitution left the determination of voting procedures to the National Assembly.

“If it wanted a secret ballot, it would say so,” Moerane said. Mbete was not prepared to make an assumption that people would vote differently in open vote and in a secret ballot, he said.

But Moerane conceded eventually that Mbete had the discretion to allow a secret ballot, through the reading of section 103 and 104 of the rules of the National Assembly.

While Mbete did not oppose the application, Zuma did.

Ishmael Semenya, representing Zuma, argued that if there were any risks against MPs, this should be referred to Parliament’s rules committee together with the evidence so that that the rules could be amended. He said for the UDM application for a secret ballot to succeed, the Constitutional Court had to determine that the executive could not be held to account through an open vote.

It was interesting that the ANC did not participate in the case, although their MPs were the subject of the discussion, particularly the intimidation and possible risks facing them. Mpofu said that the risk to MPs was more than the daunting prospect of challenging the president. He said because ministers and deputy ministers also had to resign if a motion of no confidence was passed, it was not just the president that MPs were voting against but up to 70 of their colleagues.

While the judges’ line of questioning eventually led the senior counsel to come to some consensus that the secret ballot was permissible and the Speaker had the discretion to allow it, the matter remains complex. This is yet another matter before the courts where the President of the Republic is a respondent. The issues in this case are not about whether he is a fit and proper leader but it is difficult to see the arguments outside the context of Zuma being a disastrous president who has dragged the country to the brink.

If the Constitutional Court could hear arguments from lay people, in this case the opposition party leaders, the rationale for the secret ballot would be very different. It would be about the track record of Mbete in bulldozing the opposition, the frustrations they face in Parliament by being stonewalled through the ANC’s majority, and how Zuma has made a mockery of the accountability mechanisms. If this was the court of political opinion, they could argue why the motion of no confidence against the president needed to succeed.

But the case is not about Zuma or the merits of the motion of no confidence. It is only about the law, the rules of the National Assembly and the interpretation of these with regard to the secret ballot.

There is also another factor in this case. While there might be ANC MPs willing to vote according to conscience, the majority of the caucus will not do so – even though they might be opposed to Zuma’s continued leadership of the country and the ANC. Some of them might be influenced by the party line, as pronounced by the ANC national working committee. But others would want the ANC to decide on their leader’s future, not the opposition to drive the process.

But is the ANC capable of acting against Zuma? The party will have to answer that question at the end of this month when the national executive committee meets. If the party fails to deal with Zuma’s appalling leadership and fails to hold him to account for his Cabinet reshuffle, it might make it easier for ANC MPs to vote according to conscience.

For now, the question is how the judges of the Constitutional Court will continue to protect and defend the rule of law through their interpretation of the application for a secret ballot. If Monday’s riveting arguments are anything to go by, the answers are pretty obvious regarding the Speaker’s discretion.

But the Constitutional Court has surprised us in the past with their astute interventions in this period of turmoil. Perhaps they will do so again.

By Ranjeni Munusamy for Daily Maverick

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