Thursday, February 04, 2010

Rise of the Jacob-ins

From: The Witness

Hat Tip: Avid ILSA Reader

• This is an extract from a speech delivered by DA leader Helen Zille at the F. W. de Klerk Foundation’s celebration this week of the 20-year anniversary of De Klerk’s speech in Parliament on February 2, 1990. Make sure you read it to the end.

At the heart of constitutionalism is the notion that no ruler or ruling party, no matter how popular, can do as they please. They are bound by the Constitution and the law.

These qualities tend to be absent in liberation movements, for obvious reasons. Liberation movements operate in conditions of secrecy and hierarchy, the antithesis of key democratic values like openness and participation. Liberation is regarded purely as the seizure and control of all levers of power, not the limiting of power once it is attained.

This explains why the democratic record of liberation movements on our continent is so woeful. As the scholar Marina Ottaway warned in the early nineties: nowhere in Africa has a liberation movement spawned a truly democratic regime.

But, under Nelson Mandela, it seemed as if the ANC — in the spirit of South African exceptionalism — would successfully make the shift from liberation movement to political party. There was a general understanding and acceptance of the need to limit political power to avoid the mistakes of the past.

As Nelson Mandela said when our interim Constitution was adopted: “We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity — a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

This notion of a covenant is absent in the ANC of today’s discourse because the constitutionalists in the ANC are losing the internal battle for the party’s soul. The group in the ascendancy believes that liberation means unfettered power to impose its will.

They are the modern-day, South African version of the Jacobins. In a historical irony, the word Jacobins fits our circumstances perfectly, not just for political reasons, but because the name Jacobins is a word play on the name of their current leader, Jacob Zuma.

Like the Jacobins of revolutionary France, the Jacob-ins’ goal is to attain absolute power, an end which always justifies the means. And, like the original Jacobins, they are guided not by the Constitution which guarantees each person’s indivisible rights, but the “general will” which they define arbitrarily, as they please, to achieve their goal of entrenching power.

Not surprisingly, the Jacob-ins tend to be drawn from the ANC’s external armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). They include power-brokers in key cabinet posts such as Jeff Radebe (Justice), Lindiwe Sisulu (Defence and Military Veterans) and Siphiwe Nyanda (Communication), all MK veterans. They have no shortage of young apprentices eager to learn at the feet of their political masters. Julius Malema is the obvious example.

The influence of the Jacob-ins permeates the movement. Consider, for example, the recent rise of war veterans’ associations with their violent rhetoric. We have become so inured to what Kader Asmal refers to as the militarisation of the ANC’s discourse that an injunction to kill a public figure barely raises eyebrows anymore. And, when we look beyond the quaintness of a singing and dancing president, we are reminded of the absurdity of the leader of a constitutional democracy demanding his machine gun.

For the Jacob-ins, the ANC comes first and the Constitution second. As Zuma has said: “The ANC is more important than even the Constitution of this country.” The Constitution is no longer a sacred covenant that binds us all, it is a hindrance to be pushed aside when it gets in the way. As ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga said recently: “Jacob Zuma has a mandate from 11 million people, so he can do what he likes,” or words to that effect.

One of the most sobering realisations over the past year has been recognising that a constitution can be effectively nullified without changing a single word of it. This happens when the institutions that are supposed to limit the power of the ruling party merely become an extension of the dominant clique in the ruling party. When this happens, the entire purpose of constitutionalism is subverted, so that it protects the party and not the people.

There can be no better illustration of this than the neutering of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) at the hands of Zuma and the Jacob-ins. With 783 charges of corruption, bribery, money laundering and racketeering against Zuma — not to mention a financial adviser in jail for bribing him — the Jacob-ins realised that the constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence was the key obstacle in the way of Zuma’s ascent to the presidency. So they turned the NPA from an institution designed to limit power into an extension of their power.

First, they dissolved the NPA’s investigative arm — the Scorpions — because, by Gwede Mantashe’s own admission, it had successfully targeted ANC leaders. Next, the ANC fired Vusi Pikoli — the man who had originally charged Zuma and refused to withdraw the charges — as head of the NPA. This was despite the Ginwala Commission’s findings that he was fit to hold office. Then, with Pikoli out of the way, the ANC put enough pressure on the NPA’s acting head, Mokotedi Mpshe, for him to drop the charges against Zuma. The coup de grâce was the appointment of Menzi Simelane as head of the NPA. This is a man who openly denigrates the constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence. With Simelane in charge, Zuma and the Jacob-ins can sleep at night knowing that the NPA is in safe hands.

The subverting of the NPA’s independence gives us an idea of what the Jacob-ins will do to attain and retain power. But it doesn’t end there.

The judiciary — the last line of defence for the separation of powers — is periodically threatened if it doesn’t toe the line. The ANC’s attack on Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke when he professed loyalty to the South African people instead of the ANC is the most famous example.

The engineered change in composition of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to prevent Judge Hlophe answering charges that he had attempted to influence Constitutional Court judges in the Zuma trial, shows that the ANC will manipulate a body with a key role in upholding judicial independence. It also tells us that, if we are honest, Hlophe probably did try to influence judges for Zuma. Why else would Zuma’s acolytes on the JSC have squashed the investigation?

The conclusion is inescapable: the Jacob-ins are abusing the institutions of the criminal justice system to protect their political allies, purge their opponents, entrench their power and enrich themselves.

And they are seeking to control the levers of communication. The Constitution envisages the SABC as a public broadcaster, but the ANC believes it should be the party’s broadcaster. The new broadcasting bill, if passed, will give the Minister of Communications, who happens to be one of the Jacob-ins, excessive power to interfere in the SABC.

The rest of the media remain independent, but by no means secure. The ANC’s Polokwane resolution to make the press accountable to Parliament in the form of a media tribunal may not have materialised, but other threats lurk in the form of recently enacted and proposed legislation. The amendment to the Film and Publications Act allows for pre-publication censorship of certain publications. The Protection of Information Bill which has been withdrawn — for now — criminalises the publication of “sensitive information” if it is deemed to threaten the “national interest”. Meanwhile, amendments to the National Key Points Act would, if passed, impose a media blackout on the coverage of strikes, protests, demonstrations, industrial accidents and criminal attacks. These pieces of legislation, taken together, give the ANC government as much power to exert control over the print and broadcasting media as the apartheid government had.

The constitutionally prescribed principle of local and provincial government autonomy is also under threat. This strikes to the heart of the democratic project of the party I lead, which is why the ANC is making menacing sounds. Our project relies on winning elections in more and more places. The more elections we win, the more opportunities we have to provide an alternative to the ANC. The more we get it right, the more threatened the ANC becomes. And, the more threatened the ANC becomes, the more likely it is to take unconstitutional measures to counteract the threat.

And this is exactly what we are seeing.

The 17th Constitutional Amendment Bill gazetted last year is designed to strip away the power of municipalities and with it the federal principles rooted in our Constitution. If the bill were to be passed in its current form, it would reduce municipalities to little more than agents of national government, regardless of the party in charge and its electoral mandate. The ANC’s periodic threat to scrap or reduce the number of provinces would, if carried out, amount to the same thing at provincial level.

We need to be aware of the ANC’s agenda here. The ANC will say that reducing provincial and municipal autonomy is necessary for service delivery. It will talk of the need for “increased co-ordination” and other such euphemisms designed to conceal its real intent. But any rational observer of our politics knows that it is not provincial and local autonomy that hamper service delivery. It is the ANC’s policy of deploying cadres, often without the requisite skills, to all centres of power, itself an unconstitutional practice. This is why the only provincial and local administrations that work are not run by the ANC. In the DA, we reject cadre deployment. We appoint the right people in the right places. The result, over time, is better service delivery and more opportunities for citizens.

What is rarely realised, or analysed, in the studies of the tragic phenomenon known as the “failed state” is that its root cause is cadre deployment. Cadre deployment is a lever of power abuse. It is used by the ruling clique of the ruling party to place its political allies in all positions of power and influence, inside and outside the state. The purpose is to entrench the inner circle’s power and promote its enrichment. The inevitable trajectory is this: centralisation of power, cadre deployment, cronyism, corruption and the criminal state. This involves the destruction of the Constitution. It means the death of the economy, as capital and skills flee for safer environments. It means increased poverty and unemployment and all the associated evils.

It also destroys the capacity of the state to deliver services. But when the people rise in revolt, the ruling clique uses the institutions of state, designed to protect the people, against the people. The police, the army and the so-called independent electoral commission become institutions that protect the ruling elite.

All these developments point to one thing: our covenant so cherished by presidents F. W. de Klerk and Mandela and every genuine patriot is in danger. The counter- revolution has begun.

Ironically, while people like Malema rail against the counter-revolutionaries, they do not understand that they are the real counter-revolutionaries. They are undermining the Constitution and we are protecting it. Malema and his cohorts want to take us back to a time when the party, not the Constitution, reigned supreme. They want one set of laws for the powerful and another for everybody else.

Some people question me when I state that our top priority is to protect the Constitution. They say it should be service delivery. Now I know that you cannot live in a Constitution or eat a Constitution. But unless we protect our Constitution, we will enter the cycle that leads to a failed state in which fewer and fewer can improve the quality of their lives.

Unless we protect the Constitution, there will not be service delivery. It is the Constitution that obliges the state to realise progressively socioeconomic rights like housing, education, health care, food, water and security. The Constitution doesn’t just limit power abuse, it places an obligation on the party in power to deliver to the poor. If the ANC is capable of removing impediments to its power, it is quite capable of ignoring its constitutional duty to the most marginalised South Africans.

3 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

No kidding! This is all true and the ANC continues to broaden the path they are on. Zuma has proven that he's more interested in sowing his wild oats and grabbing money to worry about the country and its people. When they fail they down-grade the constitution. This constitution was once held up as the most democratic in the world (barf) and now look what it means....15 years later.

Anonymous said...


Talking about a revolution...
Like a whisper...

Autonomy for the Western Cape NOW!!!

Max said...

The last sentence is so true and also very frightening. The savages will not stop until all opposition is crushed, as they make more ground, they become more brave. I am convinced that this was their plan from 1994, Mandela included. The white population was too strong to be defeat after the elections, so they used a policy of intimidation, murder, dis-entitlement and hate speech to create fear and break down unity among white people. Their plan has worked very well so far look how many whites have left the country, and how many have been murdered. Malema's now stirring up of the black youth and his blatant hate speech against whites is not just Malema madness, it is well thought out plan and is quietly supported by the ANC leadership.
We must listen very carefully to what these evil savages are saying for their next move is not far of.