Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Could Zuma do an Mbeki on Motlanthe?

A good piece by Michael Trapido. It's time for Zuma to walk the talk. So far he has had to make very few tough decisions and so that makes him look more approachable than the prat he succeeded. Heck, a hijacker with a gun to your face is more approachable than Mbeki. Mbeki did fire his deputy when he had to (for different reasons as we found out later) so let's see if Zuma has the balls to do the right thing. Don't hold your breath, he's not the decision maker remember? The Left in the axis are. He's just a singing, dancing, silly Zulu puppet on a string.

President Zuma has promised the country a clean break from the past coupled with transparency and a tough stance on corruption. How he deals with the allegations and those implicated will be watched closely at home and abroad.

When former president Thabo Mbeki was confronted with allegations of corruption concerning — then deputy — President Jacob Zuma pursuant to the trial of convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik, he felt obliged to take action against his right-hand man. The resultant removal of Zuma from office had a major impact on the history of South African politics including occasioning a swing from centre towards left by the ruling party.

Indeed, and regardless of the motives attributed by some to Mbeki, in walking these extremely difficult yards the decision he made — if regard is had to doing more than merely paying lip service to the rule of law — was the correct one.

Now the situation has come full circle and the man charged with making what can only be described as a horrendous decision, namely suspending his deputy president, is Zuma himself.

Over the weekend the Sunday Times highlighted a report by advocate Michael Donen SC that had been commissioned by Mbeki to investigate the possible involvement of South African companies and individuals in the violation of the UN sanctions on Iraq.

The Donen Commission report has purportedly been requested from former presidents Mbeki, Motlanthe and current President Zuma on a number of occasions seemingly without success. I’m sure clarification in this regard will be forthcoming this week.

In essence it is alleged that controversial businessman Sandile Majali purportedly entered into oil deals with Iraq “in a manner that contravened United Nations-imposed sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime”. As a result Saddam Hussein’s regime “scored about $1.8 billion from surcharges and kickbacks under the UN’s oil-for-food programme”.

Moreover the report suggests various degrees of knowledge and perhaps complicity by senior members of the government in this purported process of sanctions busting.

It is important to note that even if the full report is made available to the public, at this stage all that we are dealing with are allegations that have not been tested in a court of law. They are not proof of any wrongdoing.

However, also over the weekend the Democratic Alliance called upon President Zuma to “make the full Donen Commission report available and reconstitute a commission of investigation with the power to look into this matter properly”.

One of the key areas for concern to emerge from the report was the following allegation:

    “Donen found that Motlanthe might have been privy to information on how Majali and his company, Imvume, allegedly offered to pay surcharges from the proceeds of two Imvume contracts that were concluded.

    Motlanthe and Majali travelled together to Iraq in May 2002 and attended a meeting with Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz where, it is alleged, surcharges were discussed.

    The report claims that, on an unspecified date, Majali promised to pay $464 000 from the proceeds of the resale of the 1.8 million barrels of oil he had bought on behalf of Montega Trading. The oil was to be supplied to South Africa’s state-owned Strategic Fuel Fund.

    In its report, dated September 30 2006, the Donen Commission said it needed more time to subpoena information from Majali and Motlanthe.”
    (Sunday Times article above)

Though none of the above constitutes proof of the same it does suggest that the deputy president is going to be one of the parties at the centre of any investigation that takes place.

President Zuma has promised the country a clean break from the past coupled with transparency and a tough stance on corruption. How he deals with the allegations and those implicated will be watched closely at home and abroad.

In the mother of all ironies he stands almost exactly in the position that Mbeki found himself not so long ago — charged with making extremely difficult decisions regarding very senior members of his government, which I’m sure he would much rather avoid.

How he responds will be an important gauge of his ability to hold the highest office in the land.

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