Calls mount for urgent action
By Lukmon Akintola
There are growing fears in South Africa that elements within the ruling African National Congress, ANC may soon initiate a far-reaching process of change that may result in the party of Nelson Mandela taking steps to dump embattled President Jacob Zuma.
This is coming following a gale of fresh revelations as to the depth of the rot within the administration that has in the past few days seen the President refund monies spent to refurbish his Nkandla home, more disclosures that the South African Airways debt amassed by his crony, Dudu Myeni may have escalated beyond the one billion rand mark and continued calls by business and industry leaders that Zuma is incompetent and should be eased off now in the overall interest of South Africa and the South African economy.
And despite his spirited efforts to carry on as if everything is well under his control in South Africa, South African strongman, President Jacob Zuma is clearly standing on tenterhooks, a Difference survey has revealed.
Further underscoring the fact of Zuma’s troubled house, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba in an interview with Bloomberg in New York, admitted admitted that the shock delivered in the Municipal elections is but a taste of what awaits the ANC during the National Election in 2019.
“If the situation stays as it is, the risk of losing power is there,” Malusi Gigaba, the home affairs minister, said in an interview in New York on Monday. “The ANC is divided. The center doesn’t seem to be holding. We need address that.”
While the ANC has dominated South African politics since the end of apartheid in 1994, it’s facing rising discontent as the economy barely grows and unemployment stands at 27 percent, among the highest levels globally. The party suffered its worst electoral result to date in municipal voting on Aug. 3, when it lost control of the cities of Johannesburg, the main economic hub, Pretoria, the capital, and Port Elizabeth.
“The elections drove a cold and brutal message that we can never take the support of the people for granted,” Gigaba, 45, said. “You have an unprecedented level of people who are feeling pessimistic, who feel the country is not going in the right direction. They say there are no jobs, there are high levels of corruption, crime is high.”
The party’s divisions have been worsened, according to Gigaba, by a police investigation into Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, which may lead to his arrest. President Jacob Zuma has dismissed Gordhan’s request to fire the nation’s tax chief for insubordination and delayed his attempts to install a new board at the loss-making state airline. Opposition politicians have accused the head of state of using the probe to install a more pliant Treasury chief.
The prospect of Gordhan being fired sparked a sell-off in the rand and raised speculation that the nation’s credit rating may be cut to junk by the end of the year.
The investigation of Gordhan centers on allegations that he oversaw the establishment of an illicit investigative unit when he headed the national tax agency. While the probe must be allowed to continue and follow due process, it needs to be done quickly, Gigaba said.
“It adds to the poisonous environment,” he said. “It needs to be dealt with. Let those who are investigating speed up their investigations so that the matter is closed. It must not hurt the economy.”
Gigaba dismissed a call last month by the ANC Youth League, which he formerly headed, for the party’s next major policy conference to be brought forward from late 2017, when it will vote to give Zuma another term or elect a new party leader.
An ill-prepared conference “would replace one problem with a new one,” he said. “The worst thing the ANC can do is rush into an elective conference without a proper analysis of the challenges it’s facing, occasioned by the recent elections. We shouldn’t jump the gun. We’d be making a terrible mistake.’