In the last few days and weeks President Jacob Zuma has released advocate Michael Donen’s report on the Oilgate inquiry, sacked Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka, suspended National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele, pending the outcome of a Section 9 Inquiry, and appointed a commission of inquiry in terms of the Constitution to investigate allegations of wrongdoing in the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages (arms deal).

All this and a full-blown cabinet reshuffle amid the African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema’s disciplinary hearing, which is presently being conducted by the ANC.

Undoubtedly this will go a long way towards ridding the president of his unwanted tag as the most indecisive leader in South African history.

What it won’t do is shake the impression that much of the action that is currently being taken arises out of the need to cement the president’s second term rather than any appreciation of the necessity for taking these steps as a matter of urgency.

In this regard the Oilgate and arms deal issues were not previously the centre of government focus despite years of pressure and a seemingly endless supply of allegations of wrongdoing.

This begs the question — why now?

Some are of the view that the revelations from both Oilgate and the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages inquiry would negatively impact on Zuma’s rivals — Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale — ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in Manguang in 2012.

At this stage it is difficult to assess whether that is the case.

If however we then add in Malema’s disciplinary hearing these beliefs do not appear as far-fetched as others would have us believe.

During the run-up to and post-Polokwane Malema made staggering attacks on then president Thabo Mbeki, all of which were seemingly done without any need for disciplinary action by Zuma.

Subsequent to Zuma becoming president, Malema has been a one-man economy destroyer and at the centre of racial polarisation.

Yet only when Malema turned on Zuma himself was the need to rein him in finally demonstrated.

Of course Malema attacked Botswana, whites and everything else but Juju raging on is nothing new.

His error, it seems, was to turn on Zuma at the ANCYL elective conference where nobody was left in any doubt that the league supported Motlanthe as the next ANC president.

Anybody who has followed the president’s career knows he is a master tactician who you underestimate at your peril.

Accordingly the steps he has taken over the past few weeks will be designed to entrench his position at the top, address the national concerns over two ministers and Cele while starting to map out the road towards Manguang.

The response, if any, should become clearer around the time of the continuation of Malema’s hearing.

If Zuma is going to face fierce opposition in Bloemfontein then my guess is that those leading it will need to revive Malema’s standing if they are to have any chance.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows and provided that we don’t see a repeat of Polokwane and the lead up thereto then it’s democracy in action.


Michael Trapido

Michael Trapido

Mike Trapido is a criminal attorney and publicist having also worked as an editor and journalist. He was born in Johannesburg and attended HA Jack and Highlands North High Schools. He married Robyn...

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