Zuma is on an unchecked executive joyride

We have had enough of President Zuma’s exuberant executive latitude, which he exercises with much impunity. It is pushing us to the cliff, writes YONELA DIKO

The recent proclamations by President Jacob Zuma to institute a Specialist Investigative Unit (SIU) investigation into the Public Service Sector Education and Training and Alfred Nzo municipality is a move that is rightfully interpreted as a punitive measure against the second biggest region in Eastern Cape for not supporting his self-serving plans and survival ambitions.

It is also a backwards investigation (which will serve to justify the sacking of SACP General Secretary from his cabinet post) which reveals just how Zuma has possibly reconfigured both the ANC and the country’s institutions in all sorts of regrettable ways.

Zuma has not only been unwilling to be constrained by the ANC constitution and its resolutions but he has equally not been ready to accept the constraints that the country’s established governing ethos and constitution attach to the office. Frankly, the President seems to have gone rogue.

The Secretary-General of the ANC has constantly expressed apprehension about the President’s unilateral decision making which the ANC resolutions forbid. The S-G has also consistently expressed discomfort about the President’s reluctance to consult the ANC and other stakeholders on his consequential decisions.  But even the S-G has been hamstrung by a National Executive Committee that has relinquished its powers and duties as leaders of the governing party and leaders of our people.

The latest cabinet reshuffle by the President, six months after his earlier one, which moved ministers around who were only six months into their jobs, is reckless and irresponsible even by the President’s low standards. There has been not one, not in the NEC, no MPs, ANC veterans, not even civil society in its multiple formations that have been able to temper Zuma’s reckless leadership style.

The ANC Constitution is clear that the President shall, under the overall supervision of the NEC, orient and direct the activities of the ANC. Today, watching NEC members going over the edge defending the President’s unilateral decision making you would think it is, in fact, the NEC that works under the supervision of the President.

Two months before Zuma concludes his calamitous term as ANC President, the nation can only make one conclusion about his Presidency: It has exhausted the nation. We have long lost our peace of mind and with each day our country is drifting deeper and deeper into an abyss. The ANC Conference feels like our long-awaited horizon.

For the last ten years at least, the president has been on an executive power joyride, speeding through decisions without the slightest concern as to who gets hurt and who gets run over, as long as it pleases him and his cabal. He has been indifferent to constitutional limits on executive power and where there is no stated constitutional limit he has only been stopped by the test of rationality. I think the President has gone mad, said one ordinary citizen after the latest reshuffle.

With two months before the ANC elective congress, which will mark the official end of Zuma’s reign in the ANC, everyone is asking: what in the world is Zuma up to?

Analysts have proffered several plausible explanations, that the unnecessary and expensive nuclear deal that has not been moving as fast as he would have liked has embittered him and he has decided to choose his most pliant minister, the ever so compliant and reckless David Mahlobo, as the man to push the on-button. Others think the President is realising that his proxy is facing a tougher than expected election battle and he wants to line his post-presidency life with so much cash to cushion himself whatever storms may come.

The President and his proxies have clearly seen the limits of their tired revolutionary slogans and as a result, they have witnessed their opponents daily growing into a palpable commanding lead. What are his options? To push the country over the edge using executive latitude, and if they can’t intimidate enough delegates to toe the line, they can create enough chaos for the conference to be postponed indefinitely.

The blunt truth is that the President is effectively refusing to relinquish power.

There is, however, no trickery and mischief that can remove the fact that his devastating era has come to an end. With that realisation comes a critical question for all of us to ask ourselves: how do we ensure that we never find ourselves in this situation we are in again?

The primary preoccupation of the ANC has always been the social and economic condition of the black majority of our people, Africans in particular. As the ANC has said too many times, the measure of whether the ANC is fulfilling its historical mission and mandate is how the material condition of our people is changing.

OR Tambo said: “We must proceed from the position that our task is to win a revolution. Political revolutions are about the capture of state power and its use to advance the objectives of fundamental social transformation. This task must be carried out consciously and intentionally by the revolutionary forces to bring about profound change in favour of the social classes and strata that have gained power. Without the victory of the revolution, revolutionary changes are not possible. The state is a vital feature in that effort to bring about those revolutionary changes because a new society cannot be built within the existing framework.”

One of the key state tools to advance the fundamentals of social change that Tambo spoke of is the State Owned Enterprises. What has happened, however, under this administration is that SOEs have become a site of struggle with politicians and power-brokers contesting for self-enrichment instead of using these institutions as tools for revolutionary change.

As a result, the Zuma administration has managed to squander and loot the resources of this country. The biggest problem in South Africa today is lack of accountability by our own government. It is affecting all aspects of our lives, the perception about our county, and as we have seen it is corrupting everything from private sector to various layers of government and individuals.

The ANC National Elective Conference in December has but one critical task: A complete rebirth and a complete breakaway from this current leadership crisis. It’s the only thing that must happen.

Diko is a media strategist and consultant

 

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