Mantashe takes on the little people, and lets the big guy do just as he likes

20 August 2017 - 04:49 By ranjeni munusamy

There seems to be an increasing number of things to worry about in South Africa. Apart from the consequences of the economic crisis, we also have to worry about bridges suddenly falling down, encountering deputy ministers or first ladies of neighbouring countries who might beat us up, and racists at fast-food outlets.
We can count ourselves lucky that we do not have Nazis parading on our streets or terrorists using vehicles as killing machines.
But we do have an avalanche of criminal evidence of state capture, with nobody particularly interested in investigating. We have a phantom as the head of the National Prosecuting Authority, who emerges only to visit his eyebrow trimmer or negotiate immunity for a misbehaving first lady.
We have people in the cabinet who should not even be in charge of chasing birds off airport runways let alone important portfolios such as mineral resources, social development, public service and administration and state security.
Journalists should rejoice that we never have to search for news in a country where parliament is a fight club, pastors are magicians and the president says he was poisoned three times and survived.But we have our own problems, ranging from harassment by vigilantes to having to stay alert for announcements from the Presidency in the dead of night and being bombarded by political press statements - from the DA's dreary campaign roadshows to the ANC Women's League's incoherent dispatches.
Then there are campaign events for ANC presidential hopefuls, from book launches to cadres' forums to memorial services, during which the praise singing about the candidates can induce seizures.
The new frontier of torture for wearied journalists is political party and campaign WhatsApp groups. They make you long for the days when phones could make and receive calls and nothing else.
Media briefings by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe should generally come with health warnings. They can be bewildering and rage-inducing, and occasionally make you to want to run out of Luthuli House and in front of a speeding minibus taxi.
On Tuesday, Mantashe briefed the media about a national working committee meeting where it was decided that disciplinary action would be taken against at least three ANC MPs who admitted to voting in support of the motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma.
As part of his lumbering explanation, Mantashe said those who voted according to conscience and their constitutional responsibilities were going out of their way to undermine the ANC.
He said siding with the opposition meant they were "no longer voting according to conscience, you are daring your own party".
Asked whether the ANC had at all considered why the MPs felt compelled to vote against the president, Mantashe said the national executive committee had twice discussed the issue of Zuma stepping down and did not come to the conclusion that he should.
So the only possible remedy for the president violating the constitution and allowing the Guptas to loot the state was to "seek direction" from delegates attending the ANC's elective conference in December."We are not going to take any action that will split the ANC," Mantashe said.
This is not a remedy. It allows Zuma to complete his term as president of the ANC with no sanction for his handing over the party's mandate to a certain family, his hopeless performance and for breaking his oath of office.
Later in the week, Mantashe handed the axe to the ANC's chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, to remove one of the dissident MPs, Makhosi Khoza, as chairwoman of parliament's public service and administration portfolio committee - before she could hold the relevant minister, Faith Muthambi, to account for turning her department into a family business.
Mantashe justified his actions, saying Khoza had "destroyed the relationship with her subordinates" by fighting back against ANC MPs who had boycotted the committee meeting in protest against her outspoken views.
Mantashe also scolded the media for "creating monsters" like Khoza by "praising wrongdoing".
The ANC acted swiftly against Khoza but is guarded about self-confessed woman-beater Mduduzi Manana.
Manana resigned as deputy minister of higher education yesterday, but he remains an ANC MP.
And Zuma and his band of bumbling ministers continue to run the country into the ground with no danger of sanction from the ANC.
While on the campaign trail last year, Donald Trump displayed his narcissism when he remarked: "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters."
The ANC has created the same shield of invincibility around Zuma. At this rate, we should not be surprised if Zuma short-circuits the looting process and directs us to pay our taxes directly to the Guptas - presuming they can find a bank that will still do business with them.
And Mantashe will find some way to rationalise it...

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