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Weekly South African politics report

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By Sihle Mavuso

Politically, the past two weeks have been eventful for South Africa and all that reminded us of Vladimir Lenin’s famous line which goes like this: “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”

For months the country has been troubled by the Phala Phala farm scandal involving president Cyril Ramaphosa and the mystery of stolen dollars. Despite attempts to shield the president from accounting by his supporters everywhere, there are questions for him to answer.

Ramaphosa still owes the country an explanation regarding the source of the US dollars which were stolen from his farm in Phala Phala, Limpopo province. Equally, he still has to tell the nation battered by corruption scandals why he kept so much money at his farm instead of banking it as directed by the country’s financial laws.

Not to be left out, Ramaphosa still has to indicate why he wanted the matter to be kept under wrap as he never opened a case of theft. He also has to explain why he abused the country’s already stretched to recover the stolen money and to silence those who are allegedly behind

Until then, all attempts to hold the President accountable have previously failed the country was seemingly resigned to the fact that he will never account for it.

However, in the past two weeks, we have seen promising movements which means Ramaphosa may eventually be held accountable. Opposition parties in the national assembly have put aside their differences to hold Ramaphosa to account.

In a statement, they said the President will be held accountable, if need be, he will even be impeached for the alleged offences. This is indeed great news for our young democracy because the risk with not holding Ramaphosa to account is that it will promote impunity for those in power.

Of course, after the brave act by the opposition parties, we have seen one of those who have been shielding Ramaphosa finally yielding, opening him up to parliamentary scrutiny. National Assembly speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, opened up by allowing the establishment of an ad-hoc committee which will look at the Phala Phala matter.

Although the ANC, because of its majority in parliament, will be able to hold its own and defeat any attempts to impeach Ramaphosa, it will be weakened by the move. It will also be exposed that despite all the shaming it got from the Zondo commission for shielding former President Jacob Zuma even though it was clear that he should have been held accountable, it has not mended its ways.

In another promising development, the national assembly has finally agreed to launch a probe into the conduct of Zizi Kodwa, one of Ramaphosa’s chief defenders and lieutenants.

Kodwa is also a deputy minister in the Presidency.

The decision to probe means that more other senior figures who tried to quash the Phala Phala matter will also be probed and their abuse of power exposed.

We will recall that another high-profile figure, General Fannie Sehlahle Masemola, the national police commissioner, has already been trapped even before the IPID concludes its investigation of the conduct of senior police officers on the Phala Phala matter. Masemola has already thrown Ramaphosa under the bus by making a sworn statement where he said he was aware of the Phala Phala, but no official police case was opened. That is very significant as it proves that there was an attempt to quash it for good.

Ditching of minorities in KwaZulu-Natal

Elsewhere, in another political development in the country which should not go under the radar, the political changes both in the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and the provincial government.

Although the province has always carried the stigma of being the last bastion of the patriarch in a modern democracy, this week it tried to shed it off by appointing its first female premier, Nomusa Dube-Ncube. In return, Dube-Ncube, under the strict dictation of the ‘Taliban’ faction appointed a cabinet dominated by females.

However, all that was overshadowed by the fact that the changes came at the expense of non-racialism which the ANC has always been known for practising everywhere it is in power. For the first time, the provincial cabinet did not have a minority as its member.

In the past, the ANC in the province always had a member of the minority. To cite examples, it once had Maggie Govender as MEC for Public Works, and at some point, Inna Cronje was there as the MEC for finance. In the recently disbanded cabinet of former Premier Sihle Zikalala, the provincial cabinet had Ravi Pillay as the MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs.

It appears that to satisfy all the warring factions of the ANC in the province, the consideration for having a member of the minority was dumped. This is very dangerous because the ANC in the province is always carrying the stigma of tribalism – even though it has always elevated members who are from the nearby Eastern Cape province and sometimes from the Free State.

What makes this even more dangerous is the fact that the ditching of minorities came at a time when within the ANC circles in the province, some believe that campaigning and fielding candidates in minority groups dominated areas is a waste of scarce resources as they have already fallen to the hands of parties like the DA.

It does not end there. The same grouping believes that the ANC must stop trying to woo them back and focus on its key constituencies of poor blacks in townships and rural areas across the province. By dumping minorities at this hour, it signals that those who don’t like practising decent politics, those who believe in the politics of Donald Trump of sideling minorities are slowly having a stranglehold o the ANC in the province.

Mavuso is a current affairs journalist with www.iol.co.za. He is based in Durban and covers current affairs in SA and parts of the SADC region.