April 10, 2009

2009: Electing the incorruptibles?

Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 2.1. - First Quarter 2009) — newritings @ 5:00 pm

New or recycled Agenda?

A brief selection of the concerns of the political parties contesting for the votes of 23 million South African voters this April 22 is of great interest not only for what it says but for what it is trying to avoid. In the case of the ruling party, its manifesto on corruption is quite bland and some of its key manifesto goals of the last election are omitted. In the 2004 manifesto the ANC committed itself to a peoples contract which, “working within communities and within government, to play its part in forging this People’s Contract for a Better South Africa, inspired by its commitment to democratic consultation, mass participation and volunteerism, Moral Regeneration as well as people-centered and people-driven development.”

One may recall that the formally unstated but genuine reasons for ousting – sorry recall – of President Mbeki, amongst others includes, the charge of presidentialism and marginalisation of the party, neoliberalism, etc. The ANC, now with some of its wings shed through the formation of breakaway Congress of the People (COPE), finds itself between a rock and a hard place: it cannot ditch the Mbeki legacy in public and in speeches whilst silently it is trying to veer away from Mbekism. Reading the 2009 Manifesto one is struck not by the radicalism but the lack of it. I do not see the radical break with neoliberalism. I know what some of my Party (left) friends inside the alliance may be thinking, ie, it is not a programme but our men who will drive the programme for genuine transformation; just elect them and you will see. I guess this is a people’s contract of a special type? If so, why not spell out the details for this contract more radically as some people say it is from the former.

This brief review of the Manifesto on crime and corruption – because of its immense support and as holder of the aspirations of the vast majority of the poor and working people – will focus on the ANC and reflect briefly on some parties with liberation movement credentials and the official opposition, the DA, etc.

Voom Voom Zuma

The ANC and its president Jacob Zuma got a big boost …Monday when the National Prosecuting Authority decided to drop charges against him. The official reasons appear to be that there was collusion between the Scorpions (Head Leonard McCarthy) and the NPA (head Bulelani Ncuka) to prosecute Jacob Zuma to get him out of the race to lead the ANC and the party. Take a look at this: (more on the site of the NPA and various South African newspapers),

Its gripping reading, spy vs spy stuff:

BN: So you the only one who can just save this country from its madness

LM: hmm

BN: You know

BN: I just can’t believe it, I really can’t believe it, I don’t know, so we also busy now

LM: Hmm

BN: And a

LM: And what does the big man say, is he oraait,

BN: I don’t know,

BN: I want to, I will try to call him later tonight, he is in a meeting the whole day, at Shell house of all places (laughs)


BN: I am not doing well, I am now going to compete with you for that job at the WB

There are many things to chew on: the Zuma camp has for a long time complained that the public services and the security agencies in particular have been used against their leader. Interestingly, the tapes have been provided by the Zuma camp relying on bugging work of Military Intelligence. We must watch this space, but suffice it to say, that:

– instruments of government must be exercised fairly without fear or favour to all persons, and

– the selective use of prosecutions does not – and it is a point made even by the NPA, whether Zuma is innocent or not.

The scorpion has lost its sting?

Long before the release of these “tapes” the Scorpions so long championed in the 2004 ANC manifesto and which was voted upon by millions is not longer. The SACP, a key alliance partner and loyal to the new ANC president Zuma, welcomed the news of the dissolution of the scorpions (SACP: 13 February 2008) and its merging with the South African police services, SAPS “to create a new organized crime unit under the direct control of SAPS.” They argued that the SACP have complained for years that the “legislation creating the Scorpions as a unit located within the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions was fundamentally flawed. The combination of investigative and prosecutorial functions under one body was inconsistent with the whole practices of the separation of powers, thus this arrangement was always liable to be abused and violate the rights of individuals as contained in our constitution.”

The SACPs was concerned that the “creation of two separate centres for criminal investigations, one located in the police and the other in the NDPP. This had already created a serious turf battle between these two investigative arms in our criminal justice system, seriously impairing our capacity to fight crime, including organized crime.” Importantly, they voiced concern that the investigative work of the Scorpions, including its intelligence gathering, “was not subject to the same oversight mechanisms as the SAPS and intelligence agencies. The Scorpions, as shown by the so-called Special Browse Mole Report, was also illegally and unofficially involved in collecting political intelligence, something that is way beyond its mandate.

The Scorpions’ use of private security and intelligence agencies, neither vetted nor sworn into secrecy posed a very serious threat to the security of our country. “

All this does not explain why in 2004, the unions, and the SACP and other progressive voices did not oppose the strengthening of the Scorpions in their manifesto in 2004? Was it because some prominent ANC members were subject to investigations? Anyway, history will reflect that in 2004 the manifesto read:

* Strengthen the prosecution system and the Scorpions, improve co-ordination among all law-enforcement and intelligence agencies and set up additional special courts especially to deal with abuse of women and children and commercial crimes.

Now only opposition parties to the ANC speak of the Scorpions. What will replace is put in the manifesto as “Establish and strengthen the new unit to fight organised crime.”

IT is not surprising that the first out of the post will be the breakaway COPE to campaign for the Scorpions as amongst its leaders are former ANC leaders, most of them close to the ousted Mbeki. COPE promises voters that it will “strengthen the South African Police Service (SAPS) by ensuring that the SAPS delivers a quality, professional, non-partisan service to the members of the public, in terms of the Constitution and that visible policing is made a matter of priority; with the SAPS improve its capacity to fight crime through increasing the numbers of personnel and the quality of the training of the plain clothes police and increase the crime intelligence gathering capability of the police; reinstate the Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions) along the lines recommended by the Khampepe Judicial Commission, and empower them to focus on organised crime, including corruption in both the public and private sectors.

The DA for its part says it will introduce “legislation to recreate the Directorate of Special Operations (the Scorpions), give them the powers they need to wage war on the corrupt, and ensure that they report directly to the Director of Public Prosecutions, not any political figure. Furthermore it calls for an impartial appointment system of the of the National Director of Public Prosecutions and more resources for crime fighting agencies.

Other smaller parties too commit to reinstating the scorpions (Azapo), whilst the ACDP says that it will fight “corruption by re-establishing the Scorpions and strengthening the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority and other anti-corruption units”. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) calls for the retension or reinstatement of the Scorpions.

Some concluding remarks

This brief survey is not about the Scorpions only, but equally about what these parties say in their manifestos about the vitally important issue of governance. Importantly many see the connection between crime and corruption, although the programmes may not satisfy us all, it is a good conceptual connection.

The Pan African Congress goes as far as to say that it will introduce a state of emergency on crime and luckily did not go as far as their ex President Stanley Magoba who was keen to cut off hands ala Saudi Arabia as part of the fight to combat crime.

Azapo says that it will ban individual ownership of guns, and only allow police to rightfully bear arms. This is important given that weapons are often used in extortion, and threats, to commitment corruption (bribery, fraud), etc.

The charismatic leader of UDM Bantu Holomisa is what one hears when reading their manifesto especially when he says that “much of the infighting in the ANC has been driven by the desire to cash in on these lucrative state contracts, not because of any policy differences. The ruling party has also institutionalised nepotism with its so-called ‘deployment of cadres’, which elevates party membership above qualification or ability, and which has bred a culture of mediocrity, incompetence and corruption in many parts of the civil service as well as municipalities…”

The IFP in its manifesto calls for professionalisation and provincialisation and not surprising decentralised police functions given its assumed l power base in the KZN province. It takes a swipe at the ruling party thus: There must be a crackdown on corruption. The present tolerance of corruption and cronyism, especially in government, must be rejected by all. Any instances of corruption by SAPS members, including senior leaders, must be dealt with particularly harshly.

In closing

Luckily we do not only vote for good sounding words, and there are many. When voting we must remember that internationally this right was a long battle against the propertied classes, and in our case, those classified White by our law at that time. History shows that since the “people” got the vote, various efforts by elites were contrived to limit or deprive them of voting. What people need are real choices, and if one read the documents on this one aspect, sadly there are no real divergent views on paper.

It is true that the culture of work, and the values and ethos of parties and movements do make a difference. You decide: do you want top-down approach to tackling crime and corruption? Do we only need an institution from outside or is this a complex phenomenon that involves the economy, social and political systems and actors together… but how?

People vote for different reasons, traditional support for parties of liberation, whilst others choose those who protect their interests. But I am not one to believe that people are stupid and an unthinking mob, and I swear as we grow older as a democracy,we will begin to choose more wisely and hopefully then a closer relation will be struck between the promises made during election time and when a party again comes to get a mandate.

So when you cast your vote this April or anytime and anywhere in the world, note what Gandhi once asked: “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?” Any party that comes in must truly democratise our society and deliver on all the lofty (yet basic) promises, so essential for a nascent democracy.

So in page 2 we reproduce only the crime and corruption and morality related clauses of the manifestos, however, since I believe that the fight for democracy, justice and accountable democracy is related to more than just these clauses we advise to read the full manifestos.


  1. […] · 2009: Electing the uncorruptables? […]

    Pingback by Contents « newritings — April 16, 2009 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

  2. […] parties when 23 million voters go to the polls this April 22, 2009. In the  article “2009: electing the incorruptibles” (in this edition) I trace what some of the leading parties are promising the electorate. You […]

    Pingback by The South African Update « newritings — April 18, 2009 @ 10:57 pm | Reply

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