Opinion

It's all about saving the country, stupid

17 March 2019 - 00:03


Publication of the first hundred or so names of ANC members nominated for the National Assembly after the May 8 elections has been greeted, rightly, with anger, disappointment and uproar.
Prominent on the list are some of the great actors for Jacob Zuma in the state capture drama of his years in office. Malusi Gigaba is on the list, so is Bathabile Dlamini, so is Faith Muthambi and so is Nomvula Mokonyane.
It is the end, my Twitter feed tells me every 10 seconds or so, of the Ramaphosa dream. He clearly has no control of the ANC if this is the list it has produced, and we are all doomed. Oh, and the ANC will now almost certainly lose its national political majority. Because I've been supportive of Ramaphosa's presidency, all sorts of fingers are being pointed at me. What you gotta say now @bruceps? sort of thing.
Well, if anyone can find me writing that the ANC, the party, was going to renew itself now Zuma had gone, it would do me good to be reminded when and where. My hope for Ramaphosa has always been that he could begin the work of restoring our institutions and our economy.
The ANC itself is beyond redemption. I knew it in exile in London. It was a wreck then and it's a wreck now. In exile it was drunk, self-pitying and miserable. Its leaders railed against the West yet declined to live in the East, preferring England. I remember attending ANC public meetings where Oliver Tambo would be due to speak. He never pitched.
But the choir would sing, the poet would tell us how the blood of the martyrs was watering the tree of the revolution, and then the hat would be passed around. Worse, its ranks were riddled with the apartheid special branch. It made no preparations for ever forming a government.
So how, for all of that, did the ANC develop a legitimacy in SA that, even after nearly 25 years of abject rule, no other group even remotely threatens. That is the damage apartheid inflicted on us all. The longer the Nats kept Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, the more powerful the ANC became. How dumb can you get?
I really don't care who becomes an ANC MP. They will do what their whips tell them or they will lose their jobs. Some people may have noticed that Des van Rooyen is not on the list. Nor Nathi Nhleko, the sweaty "firepool" defender. Of the top 25 names on the list, I count 18 as firmly pro-Ramaphosa. Overall, the list will be his.
He hasn't "lost", he is merely going to allow other people or institutions to fight the battles he can't. Here's an indicative quote from Ramaphosa, reported in Daily Maverick, when he was campaigning in Soweto last week, on the list: "We are a broad movement. We are a democratic movement and they [the tainted candidates] were chosen from the bottom by the membership of the organisation and we must respect the democratic process. And the membership chose them knowingly, saying that we will allow all the other processes to unfold and if people are found guilty of criminal conduct, of misbehaviour, they will be dealt with through the criminal justice system, and that washes people out."
That has to be right. He wants the Hawks and the NPA, and its new head, Shamila Batohi, to "wash out" (arrest, prosecute and imprison) the bad eggs in his party and in our wider society, though it would obviously help if they made a start. Some of the names on the ANC list should be in jail this time next year if Batohi has the courage of the convictions she showed when she was appointed.
No political leader deliberately divides his or her party. I support Ramaphosa because I cannot think of anyone better to lead the government. You have a better name? Who? It obviously has to be someone whose party is in government.
Here's a way to test Ramaphosa's resolve: will he, before the election, sign the decrees allowing Batohi to appoint the investigating director at the NPA they both say they want? That directorship, properly funded, would take the corrupt out before they could say boo. It's vital that it starts its work soon. The Treasury will need to fund it.
In the meantime, my advice, including to the people writing letters to the editor above, is to calm down. The ANC list isn't the end of the world. The ANC will eventually eat itself and that's not our problem. But we have to save the country.

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