Quote of the week

Mr Zuma is no ordinary litigant. He is the former President of the Republic, who remains a public figure and continues to wield significant political influence, while acting as an example to his supporters… He has a great deal of power to incite others to similarly defy court orders because his actions and any consequences, or lack thereof, are being closely observed by the public. If his conduct is met with impunity, he will do significant damage to the rule of law. As this Court noted in Mamabolo, “[n]o one familiar with our history can be unaware of the very special need to preserve the integrity of the rule of law”. Mr Zuma is subject to the laws of the Republic. No person enjoys exclusion or exemption from the sovereignty of our laws… It would be antithetical to the value of accountability if those who once held high office are not bound by the law.

Khampepe j
Secretary of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State v Zuma and Others (CCT 52/21) [2021] ZACC 18
2 June 2010

“I told you so”

Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so

I don’t often say I told you so, although I would lie if I denied that I am often tempted to do so. But in the wake of reports that the ANC National Working Committee (NWC) on Monday discussed the possibility of charging Cosatu leader, Zwelenzima Vavi, (or may have already decided to charge him), for insulting ANC leaders in public, I have to say: “Well I told you so”.

The Times reports that the ANC wants to charge Vavi as he is a card carrying member of the ANC. They argue that ANC Youth League president Julius Malema was also charged as an ANC member. They are very, very, cross with Vavi because last Thursday, he accused President Jacob Zuma of not taking action against corrupt ministers, specifically mentioning Minister of Cooperative Governance Sicelo Shiceka and Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda. Vavi said reports that Shiceka had lied in his CV and the conduct of Nyanda, who spent R500 000 on hotels in Cape Town, should be probed.

The tenderpreneurs in the ANC obviously did not like this talk of probing Ministers for corruption. What will be next? Charging President Zuma for taking money(“taking a bribe”, our courts called it) from a crook and then doing favours for that crook? Exposing the various business dealings of ANC leaders making a fast buck while service delivery flounders? I mean really, who does Vavi think he is? How can one effectively loot rule a country when one’s allies want to have corruption probed and exposed? Have you ever heard of such an absurd idea?

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Vavi is, of course, an ANC member and according to the ANC Constitution he is subject to the discipline of the ANC like any other member. It would therefore be perfectly legal to charge Vavi. I am sure if the right disciplinary committee is selected Vavi could also be found guilty of contravening section 25.5 of the ANC Constitution which prohibits any member from, inter alia: 

  • Behaviour which brings the organisation into disrepute or which manifests a flagrant violation of the moral integrity expected of members and public representatives or conduct unbecoming that of a member or public representative;
  • Behaving in such a way as to provoke serious divisions or a break-down of unity in the organisation;
  • Undermining the respect for or impeding the functioning of the structures of the organisation;
  • Prejudicing the integrity or repute of the organisation, its personnel or its operational capacity by: Impeding the activities of the organisation; Creating division within its ranks or membership; Doing any other act, which undermines its effectiveness as an organisation; or Acting on behalf of or in collaboration with: Counter-revolutionary forces.
  • That is exactly why I warned after the conviction of Julius Malema that it was a bad idea to find him guilty of criticising the President of the ANC. At the time I wrote:

    Surely, if this approach were to be strictly applied, it would stifle democratic debate within the ANC and would severely limit the freedom of expression enjoyed by ANC members. If an ANC member criticized one of his comrades because that comrade had been found guilty of corruption, say, disciplinary charges could be instituted against him or her for sowing division within the ANC. This would leave good members in the ANC who spoke out against the wrongdoing of comrades vulnerable and would make it rather difficult to raise questions about the conduct of fellow ANC members – even if this criticism is based on proven facts.

    And that is exactly what Vavi is now facing. Those who want to stop Vavi from speaking out about corruption in the ANC (so much the better to loot govern the country) are even using the Malema saga as an excuse to do so. This is the problem with curtailing freedom of expression and endorsing censorship: today it is being used against your enemies, but tomorrow it is being used against yourself – even when you speak the truth and are one of the good guys.

    The fact that the NWC even discussed the possibility of charging Vavi clearly means that the tenderpreneurs in the ANC are more stupid and vengeful than they are greedy (and that takes some doing). Charging Vavi would be a calamity for President Zuma and the ANC. Unlike Malema, who has no real power base, is being manipulated by a few rich benefactors to do their bidding, and could easily be dropped when he passes his sell-by date, Vavi is the leader of Cosatu. Without the organisational skills of Cosatu and the active support of its members, the ANC will find it difficult to get more than 50% of the vote at the next election.

    One assumes President Zuma and Mr Gwede Mantashe will outflank the tenderpreneurs on the NWC and will make sure that charges against Vavi never see the light of day. If they do not, the ANC would probably be done for as the governing party.  But what President Zuma will not do is to order an investigation into the credible allegations of corruption against Siphiwe Nyanda. If one lives in a glass house one is surely not going to throw the first stone.

    Meanwhile, all I can say to Zwelenzima Vavi is: “I told you so”. When Vavi supported President Zuma as the alternative to Thabo Mbeki and said Zuma was an unstoppable tsunami I warned that President Zuma was an African traditionalist and deeply conservative man who did not share the values held so dearly by Cosatu. Now Vavi is realising that this is indeed the case and that he had helped to elect a man that is ethically weak and holds reactionary views.

    Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
    The vision seriously intends to stay;
    If I could tell you I would let you know.

    Suppose all the lions get up and go,
    And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
    Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
    If I could tell you I would let you know. – – WH Auden “If I could Tell you”

    2015 Constitutionally Speaking | website created by Idea in a Forest