Picture: REUTERS/Odd Andersen/Pool – Southern African Development Community (SADC) Chairperson Joyce Banda in Qunu in December 2013.
By Sihle Mavuso
Like all scandals, the Phala Phala one is refusing to go away even after some frantic and sometimes illegal efforts to kill it, water it down by finding scapegoats and even allegedly crippling state institutions to bury it.
Again, like all scandals by presidents, they dominated the news cycle for months and sometimes even for years – take for instance the Nkandla scandal that tainted former President Jacob Zuma.
It is for that reason that even in this week’s political news wrap-up, Phala Phala, which has left ANC President, Cyril Ramaphosa, on a backfoot, still tops the news charts and the political agenda of South Africa.
Also topping the news cycle this week is the upcoming ANC elective conference which will be held in December next month at Nasrec in Gauteng.
Although the official nomination figures have not been released yet, it has become clear that the race to the party’s presidency will be between the incumbent Ramaphosa and his former minister of health and senior ANC NEC member, Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Again, as the conference draws closer, it has become clear that another lawfare, just like in the run-up to the 2017 elective conference at Nasrec, will be the order of the day.
The Phala Phala scandal
This week the Phala Phala scandal took another turn when the speaker of Parliament, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula granted an extension to a request by the retired Chief Justice, Sandile Ngcobo, to have their deadline extended.
The panel led by Justice Ngcobo is tasked with making recommendations on whether there are grounds to impeach Ramaphosa for the scandal or not. According to Parliament, Ngcobo said the work before them was a lot hence they needed time to analyse and make their recommendations.
The extension has given Ramaphosa some time to breathe as his internal ANC enemies were always banking on it to weaken him ahead of the elective conference. That was after the report of the party’s Integrity Commission led by George Mashamba had said the scandal has put the ANC into disrepute.
That report was the major focus point during the ANC NEC’s meeting which concluded on Sunday and Ramaphosa and his allies had to form a defence line when his detractors tried to force him to step aside.
However, it is not over as those who want to oust him are banking on it. Any negative findings will arm them and once again force him to adopt a defensive posture.
ANC nominations and Free State dispute
As the nominations for the ANC’s elective conference are about to fold, a new trend has started to emerge that will likely shape the future. It has emerged that branches that are not happy with the outcome are ready to go to court to seek a reprieve.
This has become clear in the Free State where some branches are claiming that what reached the provincial office in Bloemfontein is not what transpired on the ground. In that regard, they have already written to the provincial and national offices to address this matter of face court actions.
The Free State province was the epicentre of the ‘lawfare’ that ensued ahead of the 2017 conference and several regions and branches which were pro-Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma were disqualified by the court.
AU PSC meeting in Durban and peace in Africa
On the African continent, the African Union (AU) trekked back to Durban in South Africa to host its second retreat for the peace and security council (PSC) and the African peer review mechanism.
The whole idea behind this retreat was to share the best practices among countries so that future conflicts in the continent are prevented and the 2063 goal of the AU of a war-free Africa is achieved.
Among those who took part was former Malawian president, Dr Joyce Banda, who succeeded the late Bingu Wa Mutharika in 2012.
She was a panellist in a discussion titled “the nexus between governance, peace and security in Africa”.
Most panellists concurred that if African youth issues are properly addressed, there would be fewer conflicts in the troubled continent facing wars, terrorism and violent protests.
Another think tank that took part in the conference is Durban-based Accord (African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes), a civil society organisation working throughout Africa to bring creative African solutions to the challenges posed by conflict on the continent.
The think tank’s founder and chief executive, Dr Vasu Gounden, delivered a speech on behalf of Graca Machel, their chair of the board of trustees.
Gounden said the continent’s record on conflict prevention is embarrassingly poor, yet it is known that it is cheaper to prevent a conflict than deploying peacekeepers once a peace deal has been inked.
Eswatini turmoil and SADC chairperson visit
Closer to the South African borders, the kingdom of Eswatini continued to burn as King Mswati III digs in on convening a national dialogue that would likely show him how his people have turned against him and they want multi-party democracy.
In the past week, the kingdom’s security forces unleashed violence on protestors in the towns of Mbabane and Manzini. In return, the so-called international solidarity forces tried to fight back by attacking selected key people and installations.
In one incident, they attempted to attack one of the royal residences where the Queen Mother, Ntombi Twala, the ailing biological mother of the king, lives. In the process, a soldier guarding the palace was injured.
Later in the week, the government of the Kingdom announced that the annual school leaving exams have been suspended after the violence made it impossible to conduct them.
Kenya’s presidential term
In East Africa, a proposal by a member of parliament from the party of President William Ruto to have the two-term limit set aside.
The proposal was meant with murmurs since it meant that Ruto could run for office until he decided otherwise. This would have taken the country back to the period of former President Daniel Arap Moi, who served the country between 1978 and 2002 and it was alleged that he was ruling with an iron fist.
Mavuso is a senior current affairs journalist at www.iol.co.za and he is based in Durban.