Zuma knows ANC can be used as vehicle to loot

THERE was a time when President Jacob Zuma was running out of patience. He could no longer tolerate loudmouths.

He had kept quiet while educated, clever blacks poured scorn on his leadership style. He had had enough of it.

In May 2012 he used a platform given to him by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to respond to the critics.

Addressing a conference of NUM, he stressed that he knew what he was doing and understood his job very well.

“I knew what I was doing then and I know what I am doing now. I am not here by mistake,” he said.

“The issue is how do we make South Africa succeed? How do we bring about prosperity in our country? That task is not for many of the people who talk too much, that task is now in our hands. I am not like people who come today and speak louder, who were not there when things were tough.”

Two years later, can we safely say Zuma knows what he is doing?

The Nkandla report reveals two possible scenarios. First, if Zuma really knows what he is doing, then it means he is using the governance system for personal gain.

Second, if he does not know, then it means we have an ignorant president. Maybe.

But I agree with Zuma that he has always known what he is doing. Let’s, therefore, explore the first scenario through the prism of Nkandla: that Zuma knows what he is doing.

Zuma was an integral part of the liberation movement. He had a stint on Robben Island and in exile.

This means that he is well versed in the ideals of the struggle for freedom and what it entailed.

He also knows and has spoken about the selflessness of former ANC leaders.

He knows that the constitution gave rise to other laws, including the Executive Members’ Ethics Act, which sets out the minimum conduct required of members of the cabinet.

Zuma would know when he is about to violate or after he has violated the constitution or other law.

On this score, let’s be honest, the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, was very nice to Zuma.

Despite his blatant failure to respond to Madonsela’s questions, in itself a violation of the Public Protector’s Act and the constitution, Madonsela could not summon enough courage to state unambiguously that Zuma had violated the constitution.

When Zuma introduced his personal architect Minenhle Makhanya to state officials regarding Nkandla, he knew he was vesting in him immense presidential authority.

The officials and ministers responsible for the Nkandla project and whose tenure in office is dependent on Zuma’s wishes would not have been in a position to reject any requests for luxuries that came from Makhanya.

The Nkandla report makes it plain that the costs increased dramatically as soon as Makhanya got involved on behalf of the “principal”. In other words, soon after he received the massive presidential and executive stamp.

It’s surprising that the Public Service Commission has not initiated an investigation into how it was possible for Makhanya to become a civil servant by presidential decree.

It is almost as if we have just become another thoroughly corrupt country like Papua New Guinea or Ngugi wa Thiongo’s fictitious Aburiria Republic in his novel Wizard of the Crow.

By introducing Makhanya in the manner he did, Zuma, knowing well the vast powers he possessed as president, immediately placed state officials and ministers supervising the security upgrade on a collision course with regulations.

These included a cabinet policy of 2003 that set out the guidelines on security upgrades for people like him.

Zuma was deputy president of the country in 2003, a second in command who obviously knew the workings of the state.

“The placing of Mr Makhanya between the project team and President Zuma evidently shifted the power from state officials to Mr Makhanya,” Madonsela’s report states.

For every conflicted role Makhanya played, we should see it as a role played by the president himself.

Stripped of the cloak of being strictly an architect, Makhanya was essentially Zuma and Zuma was Makhanya in the Nkandla project.

Zuma knew what he was doing.

It was through Makhanya that Zuma was wearing two conflicting hats.

He was a guardian of public resources and laws, on the one hand, as required by the constitution, and an undue beneficiary of public resources spent with his consent.

The latter triumphed. Zuma knew what he was doing. Broadly stated, Zuma knew that he was a beneficiary of corruption of which he was an integral part. (Again, Madonsela was exceedingly kind to Zuma, let’s be honest).

A definition of corruption includes undue gratification. By allowing and aiding the expenditure of government resources at his home, Zuma was effectively being bribed by the ministers responsible to keep their positions.

No wonder the ministers’ own investigation cleared him. It had to.

One wonders whether Zuma can escape prosecution under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004.

He knows this law. He was deputy president of the country and a leader of government business in parliament when the ANC-dominated legislature passed it.

Zuma also knows that it was meant to stop the kind of rot that has happened over Nkandla.

So, why would he knowingly do something wrong by both commission and omission?

The answer is that he also knows something that many in the governing party have decried for years – that is, the ANC can be used as a vehicle and a shield for looting.

Mpumelelo Mkhabela is the editor of Sowetan

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