You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2012.

Well it is certainly not Julius.

Last night his expulsion from the ANC and the ANC Youth League was confirmed by the ruling party’s national disciplinary committee.

His ‘fixer’, secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, was suspended for a year – making any attempt to ‘rule-by-wire’ difficult. The appeals committee chaired by Cyril Ramaphosa also confirmed the three-year suspension of the other key Malema ally,  Floyd Shivambu.

Malema is out of the game and I don’t expect to hear much from his traditional defenders, Tokyo Sexwale, Thandi Modise, Mathews Phosa, Fikile Mbalula, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Tony Yengeni. They are going to be exploring other strategies … more about that below.

Malema has been sunk by a combination of his own hubris and of bad luck. He might still be greeted like a rock star by striking Numsa workers, but he just doesn’t have the gravitas to coalesce a radical alternative to the ANC around himself.

I expect he is going to be busy trying to keep himself out of prison on tax evasion and corruption charges for the next several years. It’s a stitch-up, but he has made so many mistakes that it has been a relatively easy one.

The strategy of his core group is going to have to be to make as much noise in the lead-up to Mangaung as possible. They are good at this, earning their colours in the trashing of Mbeki in the lead-up to Polokwane. But that time around they were coached and backed by Zuma and his cronies and by the SACP and Cosatu … which makes the Nkandla Crew’s huffy outrage at his conduct a little difficult to swallow … this time Malema and friends are on their own and their backs are to the wall. I cannot see them achieving a momentum that could realistically effect the outcome of the Mangaung contest.

So what could threaten Zuma?

The word on the street is that with KZN and the Eastern Cape wrapped up Zuma is unassailable going into Mangaung.

But Mangaung is a long way away and the street is not always right. Our TV screens have been resplendent with the big-boned ladies cutting Zuma cakes and singing Zuma songs – but in our parochial soap opera version of Götterdämmerung the chubbier maiden hasn’t even started singing.  (Here is a discussion of  “it aint over till the fat lady sings”.)

I have assumed that the main threat to Zuma’s relection at Mangaung is the unlikely possibility of the National Prosecuting Authority reinstituting fraud and corruption charges against him.

This remains a threat, but a more serious and immediate one seems to be emerging around what appears to have been a widespread sacking by Zuma’s security chiefs of at least one secret fund allocated for clandestine anti-crime operations.

The tip of this iceberg is the accusation that crime intelligence boss and apparent Zuma ally Richard Mdluli had his children, wife and girl-friends listed as agents to be paid out of the fund.

The next layer of the iceberg sloshing at sea level is the accusation that police minister Nathi Mthethwa used the fund to pay for aspects of the renovation of his country home.

Below the surface is a looming mass of allegations that many, perhaps most, of the ANC security commissars – the closest of Zuma’s allies –  have been using this and similar funds as automatic teller machines.

It is the fact that Richard Mdluli has been reinstated – despite these serious corruption allegations and even more serious allegations that he murdered a love rival – that rings the really big red alarm bells. I think Jeremy Gordin hinted the loudest and the most eloquently that it is definitely worth considering that the protection is coming from the very top and must be motivated by the possibility that Mdluli has the goods on Zuma  … catch that story here.

There is no successful drawing of a link from this scandal directly to Zuma, but if I look at the renovation of his house and the character of the empire he is building in Nkandla I must wonder whether the proceeds of the looting of this intelligence fund – and of a host of other stores of cash dotted about the security establishment –  have flowed upwards and if they have, how high?

If Zuma is derailed – and I have this as a “Black Swan” possibility only* –  Kgalema Motlanthe is waiting in the wings. I am under the impression that the Motlanthe alternative is being deliberately kept alive and viable because of the real risks of the main candidate drowning in his own sleaze.

Of course there have been consistent attempts to flick dirt in the general direction of Motlanthe – and some of it has stuck … and some of that for good reason. He was central to efforts to secure oil allocations from Saddam Hussein for ANC donor Sandi Majali and ‘has never fully answered questions about his role in the Iraq/UN oil-for-food scandal as well as the Pamodzi loans,  hoax emails and Bell Helicopter parts for Iran scandals/disputes’. There is a useful ‘dusting off the alternative’ article on Motlanthe in last week’s Mail and Guardian … catch that here.

(Note: I realise from the comments section below that it is possible to think that I am suggesting that the transmission mechanism by which such a corruption crisis could bring down Zuma is via a court case. That is not what I meant .. anyway that would take too long to play out to impact upon the process. Such a crisis could bring Zuma down by motivating a broad coalition of groups and individuals within the ANC – specifically those who have been backing Motlanthe, but with new anti-corruption allies … and ANC patriots desperate to save their organisation  – to choose the alternative. I think there is much militating against this outcome, but I discuss that below.)

Julius ahead?

A Motlanthe alternative would be unlikely to risk its own credibility by treating Malema any differently from how he has been treated by the ANC disciplinary process.

The final line of appeal is to the National Executive Committee of the ANC – but there Malema’s potential allies need to concentrate on battles they can win … not on hopeless causes.

Looking towards a further horizon, perhaps 10 or 20 years on, no-one should be surprised to see Julius Malema – older, wiser and more dangerous – back in the game. His instinctive feel for the tactics of political mobilisation are unparalleled – it is his grasp of strategy and principle that have let him down this time around.

But for now the game moves on and our attention needs to shift away from the activities of those who wish the President harm and onto the harm he might do/have done to himself.

* A “Black Swan Event” is a metaphor developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book The Black Swan and refers to events with a disproportionately high-impact which are both hard-to-predict and rare.

This is a screenshot from the front page of the ANC’s website accessed early this morning:

It’s those latest press statements I am interested in.

That’s the last five major releases from the Ruling Party, every one of which is exclusively concerned with the vicious battle taking place within the organisation.

Working backwards:

April 4 – Comrade Julius Malema’s immediate suspension pending Disciplinary Proceedings

This statement records the National Disciplinary Committee’s decision to suspend Malema immediately after he said “….It is under President Zuma that we have seen the youth of the ANC being traumatised, being expelled from their own home. It is under President Zuma we have seen a critical voice being suppressed We have seen under President Zuma, democracy being replaced with dictatorship.”

The statement further spells out in detail Malema’s exclusion from any and all structure related to the ANC and forbids him to make statements pertaining to the organisation.

April 5 – ANC statement on The Star newspaper article

This is a slightly confusing (partly because I don’t have access to the report it is criticising) attack on The Star for publishing an article alleging tension among members of the ANC top six over appropriate action to take against Malema and the Youth League. It concerns who met who, when and with what intention – and the statement is a disavowal of the allegation that Thandi Modise and Mathews Phosa were at odds with Gwede Mantashe over severity of action to take against the ANC Youth League.

April 12 – NDCA statement on appeal hearing

This one is purely an announcement by Cyril Ramaphosa in his capacity as head of the National Disciplinary Committee of Appeal that the application to postpone the appeal hearing of Julius Malema, Sindiso Magaqa and Floyd Shivambu had been turned down.

April 15 – ANC statement on the decision of the ANCYL NEC

This one is a strongly worded attack on the NEC of the ANCYL which that morning had decided to ignore the suspension of Julius Malema. “We would like to advise the ANCYL NEC that regrettably their decision to undermine and defy the decision of the NDC effectively defines the organisation outside of the ANC Constitutional parameters.”

April 16 – The ANC statement on Floyd Shivambu Article

Which brings us to yesterday: “The African National Congress is appalled at the crude, uncouth, disrespectful and insulting attack on Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa by Floyd Shivambu in the weekend newspapers” said Jackson Mthembu.

***

This is the moment that a parent attempting to make sense of a group of angry children crying well he started it!well he threw my dolly over the wall! … screams: ENOUGH – GO TO YOUR ROOM – ALL OF YOU – RIGHT NOW!

I suppose many citizens have been begging the ANC to clean its shop .. and in particular to close down the threatening thuggery in the ANCYL.

But I can’t help worrying that the only reason the leadership has acted is factional, and concerned with the power struggle leading up to Mangaung … and if its motivations are suspect, how it actually deals with the problem might leave things worse off than they were previously.

I, for one, will be watching with interest whether the ANC Youth League will attempt some form of mass mobilisation to put pressure on the processes of regional conferences mandating delegates towards Mangaung … and perhaps earlier at the June policy conference.

I am unsure of the League’s capacity. I suspect they are all wind and bluster … and that the central leadership of the mother body will keep them divided by offering inducements to elements less strongly tied to Malema and his cronies.

But they (the leaders of ANCYL) are clearly going to give it a whirl – which will make the next few months more interesting than they were going to be already.

There is a part of me that is delighted this ANC leadership is getting its comeuppance – through harvesting what it sowed in the lead-up to Polokwane.

But there is another part that is sickened by the spectacle of the crazed old dog madly chasing its tail and occasionally yelping in pain as it manages to get in a nip and tear out tufts of fur and bits of skin from its bleeding body.

Right.

I have got to find a way of continuing to populate this website. The reasons posts are becoming infrequent and irregular is that almost every day I produce bespoke and paid for research. I have less time every week to write specifically for nicborain.wordpress.com … except the occasional philosophical musings, which probably have a … very specific? … readership.

I am going to continue the philosophical and theoretical musings. I am finishing the last few chapters of Jared Diamond’s extraordinary “Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive” – Penguin 2005. As background reading to my professional work trying to make sense of politics and economics in the sub-continent (or anywhere in the world for that matter) it is seminal … I cannot recommend it highly enough.

So I will review it here. And I will keep raising issues associated with the epistemology of what I do – and other obscure matters of concern to me.

However, I will also start posting summaries of my recent views, interviews and perspectives … the first set of these below:

Iran, MTN and US secret power

The big issue of the week – in a lot of universes, but particularly the financial market’s – was  the $4.2-billion lawsuit launched against MTN last week by Turkcell in the United States District Court of Columbia in Washington DC. The Mail & Guardian had way the best coverage – see here  for a good backgrounder.

MTN investors took a serious bath on the news. The basic allegation of Turkcell is that MTN’s ‘Project Snooker’, driven by then CEO Phuthuma Nhleko (with some help) was a successful attempt to ‘buy’ (with cash, arms and South African diplomatic support) a preferential operating licence in Iran.

For me the link between this issue, the fact that the South African government had appeared to fold to US sanctions demands on oil imports from Iran (or at least to flip-flop confusingly) and the leaked documentation from close to Kgalema Motlanthe seeming to prove attempts to get government support for Bell Helicopter deliveries to Iran – potentially hurting his (Motlanthe’s) presidential ambitions – was a series of stories that raised the spectre of US secret power working it’s powerful and implacable will.

It looks like the Bell Helicopter with SA government support stuff was established:

 Through access to recordings and confidential documents – understood to have also been obtained and analysed by US intelligence agencies

according to the Sunday Times, but the documents that informed the Turkcell case appear to have been leaked by a disgruntled former MTN manager and South Africa’s flip-flop on oil could be based purely on the extreme nature of proposed US punishment for those who break sanctions against Iran.

So the sexy story of US spies fiddling in our politics doesn’t have a good evidential basis (although I have no doubt that US secret power is exercised every day throughout the world … perhaps not always with German-like efficiency and certainly with lots of unintended consequences.)

The MTN story … and South African oil imports … still has a way to run, so watch this space.

Malema summarily suspeded, Top Six unity press conference, Cyril for president and the interminable Mangaung contest.

I don’t know about you, but I am royally gatvol of press reports about ANC internecine struggles … during the course of the week this is what I had to say about various strands of this interminable story:

First I looked at City Press going out on a limb with contending ANC factional lists for Mangaung…  most interestingly putting Cyril Ramaphosa on both the pro-Zuma and the pro-Motlanthe lists … to become president of South Africa in 2014!

“You read right. Not ANC president, and not in 2012 … the Mangaung conference looks sewn up in favour of President Zuma, but even his supporters are starting to point to Ramaphosa as president, saying the billionaire businessman will do a better job of running the country” (from City Press).

I can’t assess the probability of a Ramaphosa presidency … but we can only hope.

I also had to comment to journalists over last weekend about a potential run by Mathews Phosa, essentially as a stalking horse and test marketing campaign for Kgalema Motlanthe. He (Phosa) has no prospects of slipping in himself, but both he and Motlanthe have been seen to be standing firm with their ANC Youth League allies over the last week and it is not inconceivable that they will have worked out a tag-team strategy between them.

Later in the week came the summary suspension of Julius Malema about which I said:

Julius Malema was yesterday suspended with immediate effect from the ANC and from participating in any way in the organisation’s activities or the activities of the Youth League. While this particular suspension is temporary, several different strands of disciplinary action against Malema make the implementation of a full suspension (lasting at least 3 years) inevitable.
In preparation for the Malema suspension the ‘Top Six’ of the ANC held a joint press conference to present a united front to condemn “bickering and negative lobbying” in the ruling party. Of particular concern was the recent incident in which Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was invited to address and ANCYL rally where he found himself “in compromising situations of being implicated in statements where ANC leadership is denigrated and insulted” (that all comes from official ANC press statements.)
Behind the show of unity are two broad camps, with President Jacob Zuma, Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and National Chairperson Baleka Mbete broadly backing Zuma’s re-election at Mangaumg in December; and Treasurer General Mathews Phosa, Deputy Secretary General Thandi Modise and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe having consistently been much closer to Julius Malema and long assumed to back a leadership slate that would be headed by Kgalema Motlanthe and might include Tokyo Sexwale.
I do not expect the noise generated by the internecine struggle to die down until Mangaung itself. At this stage the Zuma camp is in an extremely strong position and this is the light in which the suspension of Malema needs to be seen.

I did a whole lot more radio interviews and bits and pieces about all of this … but I am becoming unspeakably bored with the whole issue. I think the ANC Top Six press conference was an attempt to get the focus onto the policy discussion documents and away from the draining and fracturing internecine squabbles. Can’t help but feel that might be a good idea.

Zimbabwe and Eddie Cross

The most interesting story of my week came about as a result of the consulting work I do for Religare Noah Capital Markets (Pty) Ltd, which is a member of the JSE and an authorised Financial Services Provider. Religare Noah brings Eddie Cross (Zimbabwe member of parliament for Bulawayo South, economist and Movement for Democratic Change Policy Coordinator General) to speak to, especially, mining and metals investors about once a year and I had a chance to listen in on his input.

Basically Eddie Cross  reckons that by October this year Zimbabwe will have undergone a fundamental transformation and that our northern neighbour will be well on the path to recovery – politically and economically – by then.

It is a huge story, but obviously the details are bespoke to Noah Religare and its clients. From my perspective I have known Eddie Cross to err on the side of being too positive and upbeat about Zimbabwe (as I have been … consistently calling the bottom for almost ten years … embarrassing, I know) but I was convinced that a combination of SADC unanimity and strong G8 backing … and the fact that Zanu-PF is out of options and fatally riven with factions, means that change is more likely than it has been in years. An endless stalemate is still a possiblity and more catastrophic scenarios, with the continued assasination of central players (like that of General Solomon Majuru) are options … but there are grounds for cautioius optimism.

I hope you have a restful long weekend … and a really good Friday …

I am an independent political analyst focusing on Southern Africa and I specialise in examining political and policy risks for financial markets.

A significant portion of my income is currently derived from BNP Paribas Cadiz Securities (Pty) Ltd.

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