Down with the Zuptas!
Zuma at last speaks; says nothing – high time for workers to break with the banana republic ruling party
Three weeks into the Guptagate scandal, the only thing that remains uncertain is what is the bigger joke – the government “investigation” or the President’s eventual attempt at disassociating himself from his obviously “generally corrupt” relationship with the Guptas. The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) calls on workers and struggling communities to join in the Sun City workers cry: down with the Zuptas!
President Zuma’s decision to finally comment has failed to restore his credibility. After boycotting the parliamentary debate on the matter (on the absurd grounds that he, the president, who is elected by parliament, is not a member of parliament!), Zuma saw fit to raise the matter while addressing the National House of Traditional Leaders. While dutifully labelling name-dropping “unfortunate”, Zuma’s main focus was a condemnation of opposition parties’ unpatriotic and “un-African” politicking around a debate “you end up not even understanding”. It may be that it is only Zuma who does not understand that this case of blatant abuse of public resources to accommodate the vanity of the head of state’s super-rich benefactors is a political question.
The president’s comment, in his comfort zone among unelected “traditional” rural despots, comes after the ANC leadership had gone to comical lengths to deflect attention from the elephant in the room – Zuma. In its zeal to protect the president, cabinet has made much of the fact that there was no evidence of any minister or the president having issued any instruction to authorise the landing. Instead, cabinet blamed “name dropping” by South African and Indian High Commission officials, threatening to classify this as “gross misconduct”. This is merely official recognition that “the culture of corruption and bribery around the president and the government he leads is so deeply entrenched that – without even having to take instructions from the president or one of his ministers …senior official would actually break the law ….to please the Guptas”, as Professor Pierre de Vos has observed.
The more the ANC leadership has attempted to defend Zuma, the more they have tied themselves in knots. Justice Minister Jeff Radebe now supports Zuma’s tortuous argument that Waterkloof Air Base is not a “national key point”, but a “strategic entry point.” The Commander-in-Chief of SA’s armed force, in other words has declared that the stringent security measures applicable to his Nkandla homestead, do not apply to the air force base located in the country’s capital!
As was to be expected, the team of directors-generals appointed to “investigate” the landing of the Gupta wedding plane at Waterkloof Air Base has fulfilled its mandate: not a single minister is to blame. Most important of all, it had nothing to do with president Zuma. Instead, in the despicable tradition of bourgeois hypocrisy, officials on the lower rungs of the food chain have been hung out to dry.
When attempting to absolve none other than the president, a heavy ransom is required. Eleven Tshwane Metro Police officers were arrested. Charges were to have been brought against 198 police officers in total and 296 private security employees. The cruel spitefulness of the ANC-elite is exemplified by the case of the most junior of the three SANDF officers suspended, “Movement Control Officer” Anderson. It defies belief that her duties of meeting VIP guests and serving them refreshments could have permitted her any role in the chain of command that led to the landing authorisation. Anderson, a SANDF employee of 25 years, reportedly stands to lose her entire pension and service benefits eight months before her scheduled retirement.
Now this entire scheme is unravelling spectacularly. Less than 48 hours after announcing that criminal charges would be brought including against high ranking police officers, charges have been dropped and suspensions lifted. The Tshwane Metro police officers would have been disciplined for insubordination had they refused to escort the president’s friends from Waterkloof to Sun City. Instead they were humiliated with arrest for obeying for what they had every reason to believe was a lawful instruction.
SA Zuptafied into banana republic
How is it possible that a family with at best a middle-ranking status in their country of origin, has in effect colonised the president of SA? For the landing of the private plane at the country’s most important air force base was only the most insolent example of the contempt this family has for the political elite including Zuma himself. The mealy-mouthed “apology” they have offered, probably through gritted teeth, about possible misjudgements the family may have made, merely adds insult to injury.
The Guptas’ breath-taking arrogance included demanding diplomatic passports on the grounds that the wedding entourage included cabinet ministers and other “dignitaries” amongst the Bollywood stars, that a part of Oliver Tambo International Airport be closed down specially for them, that special immigration facilities be availed, and rejecting the Minister of Defence’s offer of Pilane International Airport much closer to the wedding venue, Sun City, before circumventing her authority by invoking Zuma’s name to land at Waterkloof Airbase. The Guptas have distinguished themselves by the brazen, contemptuous attitude they have displayed towards the country’s ANC –led political elite and its people. There is a long catalogue of arrogance, the worst of which was undoubtedly the fact that ministers were informed of their fate in Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle not by the president but by the Guptas at their Saxonwold compound to which they had been summoned to hear their fate.
But the government’s attempts to limit the damage resemble the efforts of a bull picking up shards of broken glass from the floor of a China shop it had chosen as a mating venue. After years of practice, the ANC’s SA, for all its leadership’s desperate pretensions to achieve for the country a status in world affairs well above its real political and economic weight by campaigning for a seat on the UN Security Council and joining Brics, has graduated to the status of a banana republic.
Divisions in Zuma faction revealed
The Gupta family has become a magnifying glass simultaneously concentrating the rays of light burning a damaging hole into what is left of Zuma’s personal political credibility, and melting away the aura of an all-powerful united juggernaut ruthlessly exercising the dominance established over party and country by his faction’s crushing victory at Mangaung. None of the pre-conference divisions that plagued the ANC in a number of provinces has been resolved. Even Zuma’s credentials as an underground operative and head of intelligence has been unable to prevent the emergence for the first time, in the form of South Africa First, of a breakaway from the veterans of the ANC’s former military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe despite attempt to buy their support through the establishment of a special department for them.
Zuma’s presidency was born corrupt. He began his ascent to the top in the arms deal scandal. Since then he has spent his presidency manipulating the institutions of state to serve not so much the interests of the elite, but his own personal interests. His approach to appointments in key institutions of state has been so brazenly self-serving that Business Day described it as the “Zumafication of the state”. Zuma has so far managed to escape the consequences of the notion that there is no corruptor without a corruptee by defying the High Court order ruling that the tapes on which the decision to drop the charges was based be handed over to the DA.
It cannot be excluded that a tipping point maybe reached where, Zuma, the beneficiary of the recall of his predecessor, may become a victim of the precedent his coalition established. The idea that Zuma will be head of the ANC and the country for another five years must, after this latest scandal, create the possibility that the eyes of even his most loyal supporters could be opened. At the time when opposition to Mbeki mounted before he was recalled as ANC head and toppled as the country’s president, the idea that anyone could be worse would have seemed fanciful. Zuma has achieved the feat of plumbing even lower depths than his predecessor.
Corruption makes the capitalist world go round
Repulsive as the relationship between Zuma and the Guptas is, there is no fundamental difference between this relationship and that between the ANC and the capitalist class in SA and internationally. In all capitalist societies, the relation between the political and economic elite is as incestuous, and in the final analysis, behind a more sophisticated veneer in the advanced capitalist counties, just as corrupt. Corruption oils the capitalist machine internationally – from Haliburton’s corrupt profiteering from the Iraq War to British Aerospace’s corrupt sale of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia and Germany’s Ferro Staal’s involvement in the SA arms deal scandal.
For all the soap-opera like dominance of Zuma’s persona over the scandal, in the final analysis, the president merely personifies, in the most repulsive manner, the material interests of the aspirant black capitalist class that the ANC was created to advance. This class dreams of course of the day when the demographics of the composition of those in control of the commanding heights of the economy will correspond with their numbers in the population – that blacks will make up the majority of the capitalist ruling class in SA. But it is nearly two decades since the end of apartheid, and yet “black chips” – black-owned shares – make up no more than 2% of shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange according to the authoritative Empowerdex. This has given rise to right wing populist tendencies – the championing of the ideas of nationalisation to advance the interests of this parasitic minority under the pretext that they wish to empower the working class majority, by a current presently in a minority in the ANC.
The current majority of the ANC elite is too cowardly to antagonise the predominantly white capitalist class and has accordingly renounced nationalisation, removing even the word from its policy documents at the ANC’s Mangaung conference. At the same time the Zuma faction is too terrified of arousing the appetite of the working class for radical action against the capitalists. Squeezed between the owners and consumers of the country’s wealth and its producers, the petty bourgeois have nothing left but looting and grovelling before the ruling elite. This is what establishes a direct line between Marikana and Waterkloof – bowing and scraping before the rich and powerful masters and doing their bidding.
Down with the Zuptas!
Zuma’s skin may have been saved, but the Gupta scandal has done serious damage to the ANC. The best slogan describing the relationship between the ANC elite and the Guptas was given by the workers at Sun City during their protest against the Guptas’ racism “Down with the Zuptas!”
The WASP calls on workers and struggling communities across South Africa to join in this call – this latest scandal shows with grotesque clarity that it is only the organised working class can lift SA out of this capitalist dead-end. The Zuma-faction in government may present the façade of an all-powerful juggernaut crushing all opposition before it. Yet precisely the exercise of that power is divisive. Even the most blindly loyal to the ruling clique must now take into consideration that Zuma could become the victim of the precedent his coalition established when recalling Mbeki. Any capitalist government is a giant on chicken’s feet – once the working class majority understands its power and organises to rule itself.
WASP believes the Zupta scandal shows it is high time for workers in Cosatu to say “Not in our name!” to try and rescue their federation from being dragged down with the ANC – to organise and fight to take Cosatu out of the Tripartite Alliance. We urge workers still in Cosatu to forge unite in action with the many who are so repulsed that they are leaving the federation’s affiliates, and all workers regardless of union affiliation to take on the task of rebuilding a truly worker-controlled, corruption-free trade union federation. It is time to reclaim the class independence of the working class and support WASP to unite to fight corruption by eradicating its root, capitalism, contest the 2014 elections and fight for the socialist transformation of society.
WASP also calls for all trade unions, workers committees and organised working class communities to demand the recall of Zuma and the entire ANC government, for the release of the Guptagate report and for the prosecution of the Guptas – not only for laws that were broken linked to the Waterkloof landing but also for any corrupt business dealings – as well as of Zuma and his cabinet.