S AT U R D AY S TA R

INSIGHT

December 21

2013

17

ONE TO WATCH: Julius Malema and his EFF.

CONTROVERSY: Zwelinzima Vavi and the e-toll battle.

INTO THE FRAY: Dr Mamphele Ramphele and AgangSA.

QUESTIONS: The role of the Gupta family.

It has been a year of discontent
And yet, post-Mandela and beneath the surface, things have begun to shift
CRAIG DODDS

S

O THIS is it. Life after Mandela. It has been a horrible year, of economic pain and political division, soured by scandal. On the surface, things could hardly be worse. Nkandla and the outlines of a grand cover-up, Guptagate, the battle over e-tolling, the Vavi affair, the drip-feed of revelations from the Marikana Commission of Inquiry , Malawi (yes, Malawi) and now, the death of Mandela. It has been a horrible year. Yet beneath the surface, things have begun to shift. New possibilities beckon and Mandela’s death demands a new resolve. A teenaged democracy on the cusp of maturity finds itself alone, without that benign presence it relied on for comfort. The mourning of Mandela held up a mirror for us to gaze into and showed we are, flawed as we may be, ready for this. For one thing, while we seem to have been lurching from one crisis to another over the past few years, with the disquieting suspicion that whoever was at the helm was either sleeping or lost, a plan has been taking shape. This year, the government has shrugged off the sceptics and demonstrated the will to put the National Development Plan (NDP) into action – even if the details of how that will happen still need to be hammered out. Remarkably , in a society obsessed with its differences, there is a growing sense of shared belief in this plan, even if everyone has their own interpretation of what it involves and many doubt the state’s capacity to see it through. Business leaders credit President Jacob Zuma with persuading them, at a watershed meeting following the World Economic Forum in Davos in January , that his government was serious about the plan. Now there is talk of unprecedented co-operation between business and government in getting it off the ground. Given that the labour movement

is deeply suspicious of the NDP , seeing it as a re-incarnation of the hated Growth, Employment and Redistribution Project it believed it had consigned to the dustbin when it helped to oust Thabo Mbeki, this has inevitably led to tension between the ANC government and its labour allies. In July , that tension took an ugly turn. The tawdry , but hardly unheard of, sexual encounter between Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and a junior colleague plugged into the current of division and set off a cascade of shocks to the alliance that may yet culminate in a split. As business, government and much of civil society thinking has converged around the NDP, a powerful element in the labour movement, focused on Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, has strained against its traditional bonds with the ANC. That the governing party may have calculated that the threat of economic stagnation is the greater of the two evils is suggested by its decision to implement the youth wage subsidy and to make the NDP the centrepiece of its election campaign, despite opposition from Cosatu. Nothing is certain yet, but the aftermath of the global economic crisis may have pushed the ANC into a corner where it can no longer contain all the disparate ideological currents that once coalesced around the liberation struggle. For better or worse, then, a changed ANC has emerged from the contest over e-tolling, the youth wage subsidy and the NDP , and the voice of labour has been muted in the process. A splintering and the formation of a new workers’ party is on the cards as a result, with unpredictable consequences for the political future. The consensus around the NDP has also squeezed opposition parties, leaving very little room for meaningful policy alternatives. They may protest about the rate of progress and quibble about the details, but opposition parties in Parliament have all endorsed the

A NEW ERA: Military helicopters fly past the new statue of Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
plan. If not for the politics of identity there would be little to choose between them and even here, the differences are beginning to blur, with greater than ever co-operation between them. Outside the legislature, however, a new political beast prowls. Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters, launched officially in October, will test the extent of the NDP consensus with its radical proposals for instant nationalisation without compensation. For those without jobs, houses or hope, and ANC supporters angry with the party’s leadership, this messianic vision may be appealing. Also new to the fray is Mamphela Ramphele’s AgangSA. Far more considered in its thinking, it has battled to gain traction. Meanwhile, efforts to jolt the listless public service into life have gathered pace. Little by little, steps such as the ban on government officials doing business with the state, a beefed up Public Service Commission and the setting of professional standards should help to get dysfunctional areas of the state working again. It has been a horrible year, made uglier by the sinister attempts to keep a lid on the Nkandla debacle and the president’s constant proximity to scandal. As the booing of Zuma at the FNB Stadium last week showed, public patience is wearing thin. But under the choppy waters of political contest and intrigue, stronger currents are forming and, in the long run, the fixation on one man’s foibles could prove to have been no more than a temporary distraction.

PICTURE: CHRIS COLLINGRIDGE
If the passing of Mandela signals the moment when the nation must step forward and choose its future, and if the shifting of forces has shown it new paths, this year of discontent may soon be no more than an unpleasant memory . And Zuma, today’s villain, may prove to have been instrumental in shaping a vastly different future to the days when he was the object of national scorn.

Bail for suspects who had 89 postponements
PALESA MANALENG
AFTER more than five years awaiting trial, Jabulani Radebe and his co-accused, Mthuli Dube, were finally released on bail recently by the Kuruman Regional Court in the Northern Cape. After 89 postponements – including the retirement of Upington Regional Court magistrate Christo Jacobs in the middle of the proceedings – the two men will now spend Christmas with their families while awaiting a new trial date next year. Both first-time offenders, Dube and Radebe are accused of taking part in a Kuruman cash-in-transit robbery involving more than R200 000 in 2008. “I was in the witness stand when magistrate Jacobs retired,” recalls Dube. “The last time I saw him was on the 2nd February 2011. After that, the trial came to a standstill.” Though Regional Court president Khandilizwe Nqadala ordered the retired magistrate to return to conclude the case, Jacobs has not yet done so. For the past two years, there have been repeated postponements and the matter was never heard. According to the Magistrate’s Commission, a magistrate may not retire if they still have cases on their roll. If a magistrate is suspended, retrenched or dies, cases have to be reheard from scratch. As in Radebe and Dube’s case, this can add months to an awaitingtrial detainee’s time in detention. Dube has kept a diary from the day he was arrested, documenting every date and postponement since his incarceration. With help from the Wits Justice Project (WJP) – who have followed the case since early last year – Dube and Radebe sought advice from lawyers at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies. The men were released on bail in terms of the new section 49G legislation – 49G of the Correctional Services Act, 11 of 1998 – which means a remand detainee may not be detained for a period exceeding two years without the case being brought to the court’s attention. The court then reassesses the detention and bail conditions of the accused given the amount of time already spent in detention. Clearly , Radebe and Dube’s case qualified. However, when Dube and Radebe were eventually placed on the high court roll for the 49G hearing, they were told that their original charge sheet and transcripts were missing and the case came to a halt once again. “The Kimberly High Court has been waiting for this charge sheet since January this year and the entire time we had to stay in prison waiting for the charge sheet to show up,” Dube told the WJP on his release in Joburg this week. As a result, the two men were forced to await their hearing behind bars in both the Kuruman and Upington correctional centres. “The prison was so crowded, there were gangsters and people stealing from each other,” Dube said. Many prisoners suffer from TB and HIV , and prison conditions are inhumane. “We would sit there for 23 hours of the day doing nothing. When we got the hour to exercise, I used it to

AGONISING: Mthuli Radebe’s diary records the disappointments.
call my wife and to ask her to get hold of people who could help us with our situation.” At the time of going to press, no comment had been received from the Department of Justice. ● Manaleng and Herrmannsen work for the department of journalism’s Wits Justice Project at the University of the Witwatersrand.

HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: Jabulani Radebe

PICTURES: KYLA HERRMANNSEN