South Africa: Dirty, dirty politics

“My hands are clean,” presidential aspirant Cyril Ramaphosa seems to be saying in this file photo

“My hands are clean,” presidential aspirant Cyril Ramaphosa seems to be saying in this file photo

MY TURN WITH TICHAONA ZINDOGA
THE ruling African National Congress (ANC) is going for its elective congress in December to choose who is going to replace President Jacob Zuma as his term at the helm of the revolutionary party expires – and things are getting interesting here.

Nay, they are getting messier and dirtier. Which is the nature of politics, anyway. The inimitable cartoonist, Zapiro, has just called it the “Smear Season”: you should have seen yesterday’s cartoon!

The front runners in the presidential succession race such as Cyril Ramaphosa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Baleka Mbete, Jeff Radebe, Lindiwe Sisulu and Mathews Phosa are depicted in a “Freedom Park” holding their dogs that are all dropping poo and are amid a field of smelly, fly-infested dung.

An inscription on the gate of the park reads, “REMEMBER A LESS SMELLY ANC”. That is supposed to tell us about how the wars for Lithuli House, ANC Headquarters, are being fought.

Just as well, at the weekend, a newspaper reported a scandal concerning Vice President Ramaphosa alleging that he was having extra-marital relationships with up to seven women, some of whom he was paying school fees for under his charity work. The Sunday Independent newspaper obtained emails and other private communications exposing the alleged affairs.

It immediately set the tongues wagging. Ramaphosa is a married man, and also the chair of the South African National Aids Council. He was forced to defend himself. He admitted that he had had an affair but had resolved it with his wife, Tsepo Motsepe, sister to mogul businessman, Patrice.

He said he was not a “blesser”, a term used to describe rich older men who date young females for pleasure, adding that his charity work involved him supporting 30 females and 24 males. He immediately pointed an accusing political finger.

Said he in statement: “This latest episode extends far beyond an attempt at political smear. It represents an escalation of a dirty war against those who are working to restore the values, principles and integrity of the African National Congress and society.

“Resembling in many ways the ‘stratkom’ techniques of the apartheid-era, we have seen in recent weeks a number of attempts at disinformation directed at me and people with whom I am associated. These activities need to be seen within a broader campaign that has targeted several political leaders, trade unionists, journalists and civil society activists.

“Nearly all the people that have been targeted in this way have taken a public stand against the capture of our state institutions by outside interests and the looting of public resources.

“It is evident that there is a well-resourced, coordinated covert operation underway to prevent those responsible for wrongdoing from being held to account and for the integrity of our law enforcement agencies and other state institutions to be restored. “This operation appears to have access to resources within intelligence circles with the capability to intercept communications and hack private emails.”

In an interview with The Sunday Times he emphasised that he was being smeared and alleged that he was being “prevented at all costs from ascending to the position of president of the ANC”. According to him, some people had even said it will happen over their dead bodies.

“I have not committed any crimes, I have not stolen any money, I have not looted state resources,” he protested.

His wife is standing by him and has said: “It is very sad what is happening. It’s disappointing that people have to go to such lengths to discredit a person. I am very, very upset about it. We have been together for a very long time and are happily married. I support and respect him and I love him.”

Allies and friends
And to demonstrate that the whole game has become more political than just a matter of a man and his indiscretions, if any, his political allies have come to his defence. The Congress of South African Trade Unions, which has been supporting his presidential bid, is behind him.

Spokesperson of the labour body Sizwe Pamla was quoted in the media as saying while the federation agreed that the conduct of those who hold public positions should always be exemplary, people must not impose their principles on the deputy president.

“We don’t believe that any of us are qualified to be moral police. We’ve no reason to peek into the bedrooms of our public representatives,” said Pamla. ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu was even more emphatic – and dramatic. Mthembu has within the ANC polarised rumpus been so vocal in support of Ramaphosa and at a point in recent months urged Zuma to resign.

Mthembu said: “We are talking about the political agenda behind these revelations. Not the merits or demerits of these revelations. But there is a political agenda, and that political agenda is to damage the reputation of Ramaphosa so that he doesn’t become ANC president in December.”

Mthembu proclaimed Ramaphosa as “incorruptible” and added his support: “He is a person that I am rooting for, and he is the person that I would even advise my own branch to nominate him as president. He has a quality. We believe SA would be on a better trajectory if Ramaphosa would (be president)…”

Somewhere we read Mthembu calling this expose political cannibalism and in yet another instance he said he did not expect Ramaphosa to be a saint – or the ANC would be electing the Pope at the Vatican. Or something like that.

Smear season? Started long ago!
It may be interesting to note that Zapiro may be realising that it is “Smear season” right now that Ramaphosa has been stung. And, generally, the response to this scandal in the mainstream papers has been one of sympathy.

The corporate media establishment and business are generally in support of Ramaphosa – for reasons that are two fold: they appear to generally believe that he will make a good, business-friendly president who is not corruptible; and the same interests do not like the other front runner, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to take over.

She is Zuma’s ex-wife.
Zuma is openly backing her to succeed him in what is not only seen as some kind of nepotism but also the possibility that she may prevent him from getting arrested for alleged corruption and other issues.

Last time we checked he had over 700 criminal charges hanging over him. Nkosazana is a good diplomat and bureaucrat having served South Africa at home and at the African Union Commission. She would equally make a fantastic president. But then this is politics.

If you have been following South African issues closely, all the dirt that was being poured on President Zuma – including leaked emails, which are certainly not good in Cyril’s case – has been meant to rub off onto Nkosa- zana. She is herself not seen as scandalous and may actually be a saint when the skeletons of Marikana are dug up and tumbled before Ramaphosa.

But this is politics. Dirty politics.

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