No more protecting No 1: Zuma fellow travellers must go
Our key institutions must be guarded against the likes of Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Shaun Abrahams, and those who do their bidding
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is embroiled in yet another scandal. This time she has appointed a new chief executive officer, a man who has still not been cleared of allegations of misconduct from his previous job at the land reform department.
That’s not the real scandal, though. The real outrage is that no action has yet been taken against Mkhwebane, two weeks after she told the justice portfolio committee in parliament that the State Security Agency had a hand in the operational affairs of her office.
What is the secret service doing in the public protector’s office?With our horrendous crime statistics, shouldn’t the spying agencies be concerned with investigating murderers, cash heist kingpins and other miscreants instead of snooping on people who are supposedly the people’s protectors?
How can we expect any investigation at the NPA to hold politicians to account when her employees are being spied on 24/7?
Ten weeks after the embarrassment that is Jacob Zuma cleared out of the highest office in the land, it is worth remembering what his greatest crime is: he disemboweled key institutions and inserted his securocrat yes-men and women at the top of those organs.
He killed the Scorpions within six months of becoming ANC president because they were going after him. He inserted acquiescent toadies like Berning Ntlemeza as the head of the Hawks (the Scorpions’ replacement) and crime intelligence. He fired independent prosecutors and placed the sheepish Shaun Abrahams at the helm of the National Prosecuting Authority so that he wouldn’t be prosecuted. At the State Security Agency he made the man who leaked him the so-called “spy tapes”, Arthur Fraser, the director-general.He didn’t stop there. In 2016, upstanding men and women who could have been appointed public protector suddenly found themselves declared to not have security clearance. Guess who declared that they did not have clearance? The SSA. And guess who had security clearance and was the only candidate left for the committee to appoint: Busisiwe Mkhwebane. A woman alleged by the DA to have worked for the SSA.Meanwhile, Zuma turned state-run entities such as Eskom, Transnet and others into the Guptas’ piggy banks. Gupta-linked companies and individuals took a cut from every contract signed. For 10 years it was a free-for-all, hence the collapse of SA Airways and others.
Malusi Gigaba, the man who nearly collapsed the Home Affairs Department and our tourism industry, was a key player in the opening of doors for the Guptas.
So the real mission of all South Africans is not just righting the wrongs of what Zuma did by turning our country into a securocratic state ruled by smear campaigns, fear and spying. It is to restore these compromised institutions to their rightful place in our democratic state – capable entities run by people who owe allegiance to the constitution and the people.
The work to clear the stables at state-run companies is continuing apace under Pravin Gordhan. The new Eskom board is hard at work. Denel has a new board. Transnet is being shaken up. In just three months one can see that Gordhan realises that there is little time. Change has to come – fast.
So the swiftness of action that the Cyril Ramaphosa administration has displayed in business-related matters needs to translate to the institutions of accountability, of security and of state.
Abrahams is not rehabilitable. Mkhwebane has again and again showed that she understands her mandate clearly: to keep Zuma and his friends, from the Guptas to the Eskom looters, out of jail. How can people like these remain in office, in power, in this new dawn?
There is much to do for Cyril Ramaphosa. Unlike many who now say the man has already failed, I believe much has been achieved in his short tenure and with his very small margin of victory at the ANC conference in December.
More can be done to kick the Zuma fellow travellers out of our key institutions. Civil society must keep up the pressure on the likes of Mkhwebane and Abrahams. These are people who have done untold damage to our democracy in a very short space of time. Others who continue to do their bidding must also be challenged.
We don’t have much here in South Africa. Our institutions of accountability are the little we have. We must protect them. We must keep them safe.