William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

Time to have Faith in the ANC’s ‘good story’?

Keep your friends close but your enemies closer, is what the mafia don advised. It’s a Machiavellian strategy that President Jacob Zuma has embraced and is taking to absurd lengths with his new Cabinet.

It is now a veritable army of ministers and deputy ministers that oversees South Africa’s government. This week’s oath taking ceremony was a marathon three-hour affair, demanding the services of four judges. And incidentally, the ceremony was so full of stutters, japes, giggles and childish ribaldry that as a civic occasion it mustered as about dignity as a kindergarten playtime.

There are now 72 people in Zuma’s billion-rand-a-year Cabinet: 35 ministers and 37 deputy ministers (good help is hard to find). Rumour has it that for meetings involving the full ministerial entourage of aides and advisers, they are looking at hiring Newlands when in Cape Town or Loftus when in Pretoria.

Truly, Africa is rising. The poor old United States has to deal with its problems deploying a mere 15 cabinet appointees. The United Kingdom limps along with 22.

Given that the ANC has 249 members in the National Assembly, an ANC parliamentarian statistically has an almost 30% chance of becoming a Cabinet minister. Not bad odds for hitting the gravy train lotto, which delivers a salary of R1.7-million for a deputy and R2.1-million for a minister, as well as R1-million vehicles, blue-light convoys, luxury housing, free air travel for self and family, and 24-hour security.

On top that, there is an almost 0% chance of being fired. Although Zuma did dump Lulu Xingwana, minister for women, children and people with disabilities, that’s a rare punishment in the ANC. During former president Thabo Mbeki’s reign a ministerial post was a job for life. Or at least until your presidential patron unexpectedly got ‘recalled’.

Mbeki didn’t fire a single minister. He admittedly did fire one deputy Health minister, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, a competent and honourable woman who resisted the prevailing zeitgeist of HIV/Aids denialism and recourse to the eye-of-newt, toe-of-frog remedies peddled by her boss, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

In fact, the only way for the nation to be rid of an incompetent during the Mbeki years was to pray for death to intervene. Divine justice, alas, is rarely obligingly swift, although the driver of the heavenly chariot did eventually come and bundle up the whisky-fumed remains of Tshabalala-Msimang, and not a moment too soon.

Zuma has always been canny in his deployment of appointees whose overriding, sometimes only, qualifications for the job are personal loyalty. That’s why there is very little chance of the Zuma recall that many commentators were predicting in the run up to the general election.

His approach draws on the Lyndon B Johnson theory of political appointments. The rough-tongued former American president memorably explained thus his surprise inclusion of a particularly disruptive and unpleasant individual into the White House inner circle: “It’s probably better to have him on the tent inside pissing out, than on the outside of the tent pissing in.”

Although Zuma’s most fervent loyalists, those in the critical security cluster – police, intelligence and justice – have been dispersed to other portfolios, this doesn’t materially weaken Zuma. If the Nkandla scandal and Marikana massacre chickens ever do manage to flutter home in the face of barrage of fire being hurled at them, the loyalists who should bear responsibility will be safely otherwise engaged.

Since Zuma spent most of his first term not actually governing the country, but manoeuvring in order to secure a second, one must hope that the steps he has taken to entrench his position will now allow him to actually pay attention to leading the nation.

It certainly could do some presidential attention. Gross domestic product dropped by 0.6% in the first quarter, the first such decline since the international financial system woes of five years ago. With the trade unionists much weakened in the tripartite alliance, this is Zuma’s opportunity to continue to talk left (‘radical economic transformation’) and walk right (the National Development Plan).

But Zuma is covering all bases. He has also created a single ministry to house the government information service, the state broadcaster, the communications sector regulator, South Africa’s international marketing agency and the media diversity agency. This new ministry of propaganda, pardon, communication, is headed by Faith Muthambathi, who has a wide streak of antipathy towards the media, which she has in the past castigated for ‘distorting’ the ANC’s ‘good story’.

It seems that all that’s necessary for the good times to roll is that we have a little Faith …

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    • Balt Verhagen

      I still think that FF+ Mulder’s characterisation of the ANC’s achievements possibly being a ‘good story’ but a ‘sad one’ so very, very apt.

      To paraphrase Mark Antony at Caesr’s corpse: Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs…shrunk to this little (bloated) measure? Fare thee well.

    • J.L. Strydom

      I seriously think Zuma has a Zimbabwe style presidency in mind. What the hell – if Robert can do it, so can I!

    • Laika

      The outcome of the ANC’s commitment to ‘revolution’ – which means in plain English, turning society upside down is clear. The most talented, capable and ethical Mr Gordhan is sent to sort out local government, a cesspit of ANC corruption and rewards for deployees. The unethical, bullying Ms J-P is rewarded with Energy, which requires a global leader like Gordhan to inspire confidence. The ANC’s vision appears to be to put the bottom on the top, and send the top to the bottom. It is a vision for mediocrity at best, and for chaos at worst.

    • Peter Loveland

      Decisions, decisions …. was the tear brought to me eye as a result of your light, amusing repartee or was it the stark realization that some of the facts that you revealed are down right scary …………. sigh !!

    • Baz

      @ J L Strydom , hear what you say-
      what if EFF becomes the ruling partyafter the 2019 elections- then we will see a “robert styled” presidency coming to fore. Zuma’s preparing the way UNLESS: some minor parites do a coalition with the official opposition of the day and South Africa finally goes towards the direction it should have gone from the inception of 1994., first ever democratic election held in South Africa.
      Only time will reveal any efforts to avoid such a disasterous event ever happening in our pollitical arena.May the majority of our loyal voters wake up before it’s too late.

    • http://paulwhelanwriting.blogspot.com Paul Whelan

      Wonderful stuff! While the ANC are forcing apologies for the Clown Cartoon WSM does a far better demolition job.

    • Zingi

      There is no good story when it comes to the anc especially when the talk is only about succeses and nothing about their failures.

    • ConCision

      How Zuma Administers
      Cabinet Ministers
      “You scratch my back
      And I’ll scratch yours”
      Even if you have no clue
      What it is you’re supposed to do

      Make sure you save me from the heat
      And I’ll make sure you have a seat
      No matter if you steal or cheat
      Money is where our two minds meet

      Come join me in the ANC elite
      For corruption we are hard to beat.

    • besani

      I find it improper to refer to former Minister Tshabalala ‘whisky-fumed remains’

    • http://www.iww.co.za Joe Malapela

      William knows that it is being grossly dishonest and insincere to compare South Africa with the US and United Kingdom. These two are first world countries whose development and infra-structures have been established many centuries ago.
      The Mandela government is only 20 years old and it inherited an infra-structure that was meant for approximately 20 percent of the population.

      Currently the government is battling( they have said so) to build an infra-structure that will adequately meet the needs of 50million South Africans and many more foreigners.Soweto, the biggest township for Blacks that was built by the Apartheid regime, only got its streets fully tarred less than ten years ago during the Executive Mayor Masondo’s tenure. The surrounding smaller areas that were the exclusively for Whites like Roodepoort and Mondeor were tarred decades ago.

      Recently, most boycotts have come from residents of the ‘old’ Black township like Bekkersdal, The cry is for water and sanitation. Can William honestly say that Zuma’s government is being wastful for establishing a department for Water and Sanitation? Come on Willie be honest!!!

    • WSM

      @Joe Malapela: if only it were so simple that creating yet another ministry would solve the problem. Delivery and bureaucrats is not a straight line correlation.

    • Mark

      @joe malapela, the only thing the government is battling with is coming to terms with the fact that it’s job is to improve all our lives and just take money from the people and bejewel the lives of a few. Case in point: the R200 million used on JZs house could better have been used to build approximately 10 new schools.

      Acellor mital put forward this amount of money back in 2009 to build 10 schools over a period of 7 years.

      So please drop the apartheid story, because that card has become as worn out as the general response we get from government ministers of “no comment”.

      If our government was as socially aware and motivated as they claim to be, nobody from any ministry would have approved the release of that much money for one person’s lifestyle.

      The only good story that the ANC has to tell, is that it is good to be a politician, good to be above the law and good to use tax payers money for personal upliftment.

      The shabby state this country sits in is a direct reflection of Jacob Zuma and his ineptitude as a president.

    • Joseph Coates

      @ ConCision
      Love your short poem -it sums up our government of the day, so beautifully!