Publication: Cape Argus Issued: Date: 2005-12-17 Reporter: Chiara Carter Reporter:

Zuma-ing In on a Year of Alliances and In-fighting



Cape Argus




Chiara Carter

Web Link


Annus horribilis is how 2005 will be remembered by most ANC leaders who had to contend with the ongoing fall-out over the Jacob Zuma saga.

From the conviction of Zuma's former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, the subsequent court appearances of Zuma himself in connection with charges of fraud and President Thabo Mbeki's decision to boot out his deputy, it might have resembled a soap opera to neutral observers, but it all added up to a very bad year for the country's ruling party.

Other repercussions included the ANC general council's decision to keep Zuma on as the organisation's deputy president (which, given later developments, the delegates must now rue), the repeated attempts to contain hostilities between senior members and figures from the ANC's alliance partners, and the plummeting of the Zuma camp's aspirations when their hero was charged with rape.

The year began on a happier note for mass democratic movement heavyweight Dr Allan Boesak, who received a presidential pardon - a move that occasioned howls of protest from the DA.

Crosstitutes, as floor-crossing MPs were dubbed, enraged or entertained the public during the window period for MPs and MPLs to cross to another party.

While judges clutched their heads at being bogged down in attempts by political parties to stop the flood, the turncoats' antics included setting up parties with unfortunate acronyms like UIF and, of course, Craig Morkel's one-person outfit PIM, which wits called pimp.

The defence industry was never far from the headlines, mainly because of the country's multi-billion rand arms deal.

While corvettes sailed gracefully around False Bay, anti arms deal campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne lived to fight another day after Finance Minister Trevor Manuel failed in a bid to sequestrate him, former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni lost his appeal, arms company Thales found itself in the dock and failed bidder Richard Young kept on going with his multi-pronged battle with the state.

Energy was a matter of public concern, whether it was the electricity blackouts plaguing Johannesburg and the Western Cape or the fuel shortages that grounded flights and panicked holiday motorists at year-end.

Meanwhile, those who did not have electricity continued to use candles and paraffin and terrible fires claimed the lives and homes of the country's poor.

It was, by and large, another upbeat year for finance minister Manuel who gloated over the tax coffers, and 5.1% growth rate while the public were cheered by tax cuts and promises of increased social spending.

Gaffes ranged from poor taste to, well, more poor taste. There was IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi's attack on handicapped MP Gavin Woods. There was the DA's ill-considered attempt to highlight child rape by dangling thousands of panties on lines across the Cape Flats. But a canine took first prize for having the temerity to do its doggy business under Buthelezi's bench, occasioning a poo probe at parliament.

A mid-year shuffle at the top of the public sector saw Home Affairs director-general Barry Gilder swop hot seats with National Intelligence coordinator Jeff Maqetuka, a move that, given the unseemly turmoil within the spook world, Gilder must have regretted.

In was: local area protests that flared up periodically, T-shirt burning to express support for Zuma, developmental state speak and denouncing corruption as long as it wasn't in one's backyard, so to speak.

Also very in were the conspiracy theories and intrigue that gripped the ANC and its partners for much of the year. Was there a conspiracy? Against whom? By whom? Was there a conspiracy about a conspiracy? Were there hoax e-mails? Were they real? Who was behind them? And so the thread of the various factions wove wondrous webs, often etched by the Stalinist influences of the past *1.

Justice took its fair share of headlines. Pius Langa became the country's new Chief Justice, a major judicial system review was said to be in the pipeline, and the fate of the elite and controversial investigative unit, the Scorpions, continued to hang in the balance, awaiting the final report of the Khampepe Commission.

The race card continued to flash from time to time and in place to place, but whatever the rights and wrongs of the legal profession's claims and counter-claims, clearly the problems of racism and transformation seethed within the judiciary - and nowhere more so than on the Cape Bench where back-stabbing and ill-considered comments and accusations were the order of the day. That is, until a lid was put on the tensions ... watch this space.

The murder of mining magnate, Zuma supporter and social causes benefactor Brett Kebble sent shockwaves around the country.

Hit especially hard were the beneficiaries of Kebble's largess, notably certain ANC Youth League (ANCYL) figures with smart cars. The murder remains unsolved. *2

Local government was the locus for much concern given ongoing lack of capacity, mismanagement, corruption and lack of delivery.

The long list of local grievances to be found in poor communities countrywide, and reaction to development occurring in some areas rather than everywhere, erupted into sometimes violent protest mid-year.

The value of Madiba art plummeted when former president Nelson Mandela took legal action against his old confidante and lawyer, Ismail Ayob, and business associate Ross Calder over their marketing of art supposedly created by Mandela.

Ngcuka again became a household name - this time not the former national director of prosecutions but his wife, Phumzile, who was chosen to become the country's number two after Zuma was fired.

Other household names faced the boot as the move to get the country's names to be more representative of its people got under way.

Out went: Jacob Zuma, cross-border municipalities, Travelgate MPs who plea-bargained, and social grant fraudsters arrested around the country in a crackdown.

The DA played party pooper, sniffing out the cost of the various ministers' budget parties, finding out that while Public Service and Administration believes in doing things rather too well, some ministers either opt for freebies from sponsors or even nothing at all.

Questions, questions and dammed questions. Question time in the house continued to provide opposition politicians with a chance to quiz government, but parliamentary questions made Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula see red.

He protested that to answer the DA's many queries would use up valuable time and money, and he tried to stop answering but those pesky questions kept coming.

As for the reds ... Cosatu turned 20 at the end of a year when the federation made headlines mostly because of Zwelinzima Vavi's staunch support for Zuma - a support that mirrored that of the SA Communist Party.

Lemming-like, the left lurched for much of the year into a cul de sac called Presidential Hopes of Jacob Zuma. The year-end saw their hero's chances of becoming the next president all but scuppered by an accusation of rape levelled against the former deputy president by the daughter of a former comrade.

Now the question is whether the alliance partners and their sympathisers in the ANC will be able to find another credible candidate, or indeed platform, which can wield influence in the face of those ANC leaders whose leanings are rather better-heeled.

Prominent ANC businessman Saki Macozoma made headlines when it emerged that his complaint about allegedly illegal surveillance by NIA operatives led to the suspension of three top spy-bosses.

Travelgate, the multi-million rand travel voucher scandal, continued to pop up in the courts, with MPs past and present arrested, some plea-bargaining and others facing civil claims from liquidators.

Liquidation hearings revealed yet more strange goings on with the taxpayers' money shelled out to the implicated travel agencies.

By year-end, the official who had been the backbone of parliament's probe into the rip-off, Harry Charlton, had been frog-marched out of parliament, apparently facing disciplinary proceedings relating to claims of racism and exceeding his authority in okaying certain processes.

Uneasy rests the head that wears the crown, goes the saying, and Mbeki must have had more than a few uneasy moments as the Zuma support campaign snowballed. However given recent history, still more uneasy must be the head of anyone who would aspire to succeed Mbeki - and word has it that most are ducking well below the parapets.

Unmourned and barely noticed, the NNP officially vanished this year. Most of its remaining elected representatives were embraced by the ANC and it is not certain what happened to the party's debts.

The government, meanwhile, continued to track down missing state properties, notably in Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. One property that did not vanish but was very publicly flogged was the National Intelligence Agency's Sunset Beach, Cape Town, luxury mansion, a property that opposition parties denounced as a folly.

Also virtually invisible was government's response to the Oilgate scandal.

The Western Cape ANC continued to be bedevilled by in-fighting despite electing a new regional executive and having to prepare for a tough battle in local government elections in Cape Town next year.

Ex politicians and civil servants were among the elite that continued to benefit from BEE, often close to home, despite soul-searching and debate within the ANC and the alliance.

The ANCYL and the Young Communists provided a great deal of sound and fury over the succession battle for much of the year, but that did not mean the ANCYL did not have space on its website for things that matter to South African youth, such as flotation, an exotic way to relax.

And back to Zuma ... with two court cases pending, 2006, like 2005, might well be another Zuma-dominated year. That is along with more succession speculation, more hot air and more tedious debates ... Play it again, Sam.

With acknowledgements to Chiara Carter and Cape Argus.

*1  No, the present.

*2  Are we sure this was murder?