Dear President Zuma
It has been nearly two years since I had an opportunity to address you. To be precise, on 12 August 2015 I penned a column while I was editor of The Citizen in which I apologized to you for being part of a media-driven agenda that sought your downfall. Well, this time the message is not to repeat my apology.
The aim is to look back and interrogate whether anything has changed since then. Mr President, I have unwelcome news for you. I’m sad to inform you that nothing has changed, in fact things have taken a turn for the worse. The mere fact that I find myself having to address you on a different platform from the one I used in 2015 should serve as enough proof to the many Doubting Thomases of the heavy price paid by those who speak out against ethical breaches in the media and biased reporting against you and the ANC. The aim is regime change and not to inform the public truthfully. I will at the right time shed more light on this.
My aim today is to alert you to the sad reality that not only is the agenda to demonise and bring you down being vigorously pursued by the media – it has now been joined by many of your own comrades, many of who serve in Parliament and both the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) and Cabinet you lead. Nothing lays bare this collusion more than the mushrooming of campaigns openly backed by big businesses and masquerade as anti-corruption drives, yet have revealed themselves as nothing but anti-Zuma projects.
In your State of the Nation Address in February, you were unapologetic about radical transformation of the economy which you insisted needed fundamental change in the structure, and system of ownership, management and control so that it can be in favour of poor South Africans. In your speech, you correctly painted a picture of how blacks continue to be marginalised from meaningfully participating in the economy and vowed that this had to end.
These are bold and noble plans. However I’m afraid you and your government won’t accomplish any of these while your team comprises a few comrades who serve at your pleasure in Cabinet, yet are hell-bent on conniving with the opposition and sinister campaigns to bring your demise. It is a well-known fact that the most effective leaders are those who surround themselves with the right people who work towards a common goal. Sadly, this cannot be said about your team which is now infested with self-serving individuals working against you.
A shining example is your Finance Minister and SA’s de facto president, Pravin Gordhan, who is the chief impediment to your goal of radical economic transformation that you alluded to in your State of the Nation Address.
It’s mentioning the obvious to say 23 years after democracy South Africa remains firmly in the capture of white monopoly capital. Here are reasons why someone like you who seeks radical socio-economic transformation and your Minister of Finance are incompatible: Gordhan, a protective cloak of white-owned and controlled business and media, locally and globally, serves as impenetrable armoury for the Finance Minister, shielding him against multiple allegations of corruption. Gordhan, like his predecessor, Trevor Manuel, was ushered into high office without the requisite financial qualifications or skillset. There was little resistance from the business sector, media, and risk analysts who would typically decry the “inappropriateness” of such appointments.
It is not surprising then that both South African and global business rose in a collective, almost predatory defence of the Finance Minister, when law-enforcement agencies probed him for his alleged involvement in the establishment of an illegally established “rogue unit” within SARS. It should not shock us then that in the main, business and media never queried why Gordhan dismissed the CIEX investigation into apartheid corruption, with such ease, or why he scoffed at calls for remedial action on the illegal lifeboat to Bankorp from the Reserve Bank under apartheid, which benefitted ABSA post-apartheid and caused a loss of billions of rand in revenue to the State.
Gordhan currently holds shares in more than 35 listed companies, in banking, mining, real estate, retail and telecommunications. His portfolio includes a holding in the Bidvest Group, the largest shareholder in Comair. Interestingly, there has been no newspaper headlines or street posters on a conflict of interest as Gordhan steers the direction of South African Airways (SAA), or as he spearheads crucial decisions within the financial sector. Business takes diligent care of their chief caretaker. There are some things that are best left unsaid – after all, Gordhan’s alleged ties to tobacco barons is hardly the conversation of gentlemen.
It is on the wing of white monopoly capital that Gordhan has found sanctity, even in the face of damning evidence. This ill-gotten sanctity, forged on the spoke of a conspiratorial silence, has given rise to an arrogance that has seen Gordhan belittling any investigation into any misconduct on his part, or those of his associates and allies.
A few days ago, Weekly Xposé published a story on Gordhan allegedly benefitting unduly from a R11m pension pay-out. The website, which has been unfairly accused of peddling fake news, ran the story after a conscientious, rigorous process of verification. No fake news publication ever takes such steps. Disappointingly, instead of providing answers to two straight forward questions, Weekly Xposé received a somewhat undignified and half-hearted response totally unbefitting of a Cabinet minister. Unsurprisingly, instead of providing answers, Gordhan is playing victim, saying there’s a campaign against him. So far none of his supporters from the liberal right to the left have made any comments.
It appears Gordhan has learnt well from his white masters. He has become very fluent in the language of arrogance. Gordhan has received public sympathy from most corners of ‘professional’ civil society organisations, the media, political parties including the three largest, the ANC, DA and EFF for what is perceived as a war within government against those perceived as corrupt with intent to capture the state for corruption and self-enrichment.
Gordhan and his fleet of supporters portray him as a man who puts South Africa first, but this is not true, for Gordhan has had the power to exercise a meaningful and positive role in transforming the economy; not once, but twice. He has failed dismally. He has routinely and consistently placed the interests of white capital at the fore. He has retarded any move towards economic transformation under the guise of economic stability, as he services his principals; white capital. The truth is that your Finance Minister is an impediment to any agenda of radical economic transformation.
Gordhan, once viewed as a respected anti-apartheid activist, is most likely to be remembered primarily as a benefactor and beneficiary of white monopoly capital, like many of the finance ministers who have gone before him. That your finance minister is working against you and has become a law unto himself is no longer in question. Recently there were reports that Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas would no longer appear at the same events as you or attend public events where you were scheduled to speak.
Since that report was made, indeed Gordhan nor his deputy have been seen with you at important forums. The media, opposition parties and some within your party and its alliance partners, are in concert that you are unable to fire Gordhan due to what market and public reaction could be as it is thought this would spell your end and potentially lead to your recall as state president. Gordhan is aware of this and it seems he is using it to his full advantage and to your detriment. It’s time you proved to all and sundry, that you, and not the markets nor shameless currency manipulators and riggers are in charge.
These are the times that call for bold, confident, courageous leadership. The ability of any leader to adapt and make decisive decisions under pressure are essential to success. Your test lies in whether you will muster the courage to reshuffle your cabinet and kick out those working against you, led by your Finance Minister.
Mr President, you and the ANC must now realise that Gordhan could be a voter liability rather than an asset as he has shown with continued relaxation of regulations for the business sector and his refusal to agree to banking sector inquiry over bias and unfair banking practices including unfair fee structures and foreign exchange dealings. Gordhan has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that he sees himself having only one constituency – the liberal white business sector and its various branches, and he has unashamedly cast his mast on it. It will be an indictment on you if under your stewardship, we continue to be conned by so-called experts, a situation that has led to the continuation of the abuse of the poor and the working class by white business in cahoots with those you and the ANC have deployed in government.
Gordhan’s continued presence in the Cabinet is now risking the livelihoods of the poor and jobless whilst promoting the rich. The various allegations of impropriety against him are not to be excluded. Reports that Gordhan and his deputy this week embarked on an unauthorised overseas trip apparently without your knowledge lays bare their real motives. Their plan had nothing to do with selling SA as a safe investment destination. It was to the contrary, a self-serving move in that the pair might be aware that you might reshuffle the Cabinet anytime soon. Their plan was when this happened, they had to be away from home and in the company of powerful global business where they could lobby as much support as possible for themselves and to make you look reckless. Mr President, surely the time to reshuffle cabinet is now.
The father of SA’s democracy Nelson Mandela crafted his legacy by advocating for peace, human rights and reconciliation, values that permeate throughout the world. Your predecessor, Thabo Mbeki’s legacy might be tainted by AIDS denialism, but there are millions in SA and on the African continent who will forever admire him for being an African nationalist driven by a desire to emancipate Africa from racial oppression and colonialism.
Mr President, you risk being remembered only for Nkandla unless you take bold and decisive steps – and that time is now. Delivering on your promise of land expropriation without compensation and other forms of radical economic transformation offers you a perfect chance to build a solid legacy.
Remember, the people that you seek to emancipate and empower do not own the Rand and the Land. Mr President, the reshuffle might come at a cost, but that price will be minuscule compared to the cost of maintaining the status quo. Time is not on your side though. You only have two years. For you to achieve your goal, you need a team of men and women who share your vision. Sadly, Gordhan and his ilk in Cabinet are no such individuals. They must go.
Steven Motale is the former Editor of The Citizen
This letter was originally published on the Weekly Xpose website.