Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Breaking News 1 October 2008

Say it with a sting.....

Have one more for the road Chris....

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Mbeki's toughest test yet


An ageing Nelson Mandela's voluntary departure from the presidency in 1999 was a great moment.

But an even harder test arises where a relatively youthful leader, feeling himself to be in the middle of an innings well played, encounters a narrow majority of longtime comrades who vociferously disagree, for reasons he believes to be misinformed. What to do?

In facing this unprecedented test Thabo Mbeki has supplied a second great, and existentially tougher, example. "If men were angels, no government would be necessary," I wrote in Fit to Govern, quoting the great United States institution-builder, Alexander Hamilton, whom Mbeki had quoted before me. "If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." Mandela's strength was in the mythical currency of the angelic. Mbeki has meanwhile demonstrated that frail humans can fight hard but still, in the end, respect rules.

Mandela was no saint, but he seemed one. Mbeki and Zuma, by contrast, are systematically demonised by the colonial media. Even as Zapiro lampooned Zuma and Mbeki, in successive cartoons, as both rapists of justice, the legal and political developments suggested the opposite.

In Zuma's case (an aspect unchallenged by Mbeki's appeal) Judge Chris Nicholson looked to the established practice of public prosecutors in Trinidad and correctly granted Zuma the right to make representations. In Mbeki's case a demonised "dictator" graciously left office after the vote of a mere party political committee.

As these events unfolded it was strangely Nicholson who began to look like the runt of the litter, commenting, for instance, that he did not foresee the consequences of his decision, a suggestion that, if true, conjures less a goddess of justice than a bumbling and stumbling Mr Magoo.

"At its lowest then," Nicholson wrote, "[Mbeki's] decision to stand as party leader was controversial and not in accordance with the Westminster system we espouse in this country."

This was irrelevant to the point in issue, contradicted the ANC's constitution and was simply incomprehensible. Which "we" is it who "espouse" the Westminster system?Where and how? Westminster's House of Lords is utterly unelected while our National Council of Provinces is elected. We have a written Constitution, a Bill of Rights, term limits and a presidency, all of which Westminster lacks.

Wim Trengove's team's unforced error in sponsoring an unnecessary motion to strike Zuma's "political conspiracy" allegations led Nicholson on to this political terrain. It was the single most momentous misjudgement by a legal strategist in South Africa's history, apartheid and post-apartheid combined.

Even if these aspects (irrelevant to Zuma) are reversed on appeal, the damage to judicial prestige, the ANC, the National Prosecuting Authority, constitutional order and political stability -- to say nothing of Mbeki's person and presidency -- is historically unprecedented. Threats to policy continuity, financial market stability and the national welfare linger and expand. Mbeki's richest legacy is, ironically, his newest: the dignity and calm that he has laboured to restore amid the chaos sown by a muddled judge and the hubristic Trengove team.

Mbeki and Zuma suffer what British journalist Nick Davies calls "Flat Earth News": the casual recycling of "facts" by a media too profit-driven to investigate facts -- just as Europe believed the world to be flat until Columbus actually went and looked. For Mbeki flat earth news dictates supposedly ghastly legacies on "Aids and Zimbabwe", while Zuma has already faced the flat earth myth of the "generally corrupt relationship" discovered by Judge Hilary Squires.

The palpable Mbeki-brokered outbreak of democracy in Zimbabwe is already slowly reversing the flat earth news-flow there. But on HIV/Aids, flat earth stuff lingers.You will never see a Zapiro cartoon where Judge Edwin Cameron unbuckles to rape the goddess of truth, despite Cameron's metaphorically rapine association of ANC HIV/Aids policy with Nazi holocaust denial. Zackie Achmat, too, is apparently a non-rapist, despite the Treatment Action Campaign's spurious accusation that the ANC president deliberately killed millions of black people.

As Vicki Robinson wrote in her review of my book in the Mail & Guardian, Fit to Govern contains "a convincing argument for how Mbeki's stance on HIV/Aids has been misunderstood and in turn capitalised on by powerful individuals such as Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Edwin Cameron."

In a hopelessly speculative flat earth manoeuvre (for details, see my ThoughtLeader blog: "Gevisser on Aids: A Complicity of Opposites") Mark Gevisser comically imagines that Mbeki himself demanded, in June 2007, that the world should know him as an Aids denialist.To sustain this flat earth crap Gevisser (who studied creative writing at Yale) creatively ignored Mbeki's comments to the Financial Times mere weeks earlier: "Nobody has ever shown me where I did [deny that HIV causes Aids]. They say it. But you say where, when, they can't. It was never said. I never did … You have got to attend to HIV absolutely, but you have got to attend to these other matters." (April 3, 2007).

Presidential spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga protested that Business Day "fails adequately to separate the opinions of the author, Mark Gevisser, from the opinions of President Thabo Mbeki, when [it] writes that 'Gevisser says Mbeki spoke of his denialism as recently as June this year when he again questioned the link between HIV and Aids'." (November 18 2007).

Recently Gevisser conceded in the Sunday Times that Mbeki rejects Gevisser's attempts at mind reading. As with Zimbabwe, Mbeki's legacy on Aids policy will eventually be argued by facts and not by partisan implantation of words in Mbeki's mouth or by ongoing censorship of arguments such as mine.

M & G
Posted by Sonny Cox at 10:29 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Labels: denialism., Thabo Mbeki demise.
Arms: How Mbeki meddled


In his application to the Constitutional Court last week, former president Thabo Mbeki denied under oath that he had meddled in the prosecution of ANC president Jacob Zuma.

But there is a wider question -- whether Mbeki had a history of imposing his will on nominally independent state institutions.

Commenting on Mbeki's televised resignation address, his biographer Mark Gevisser concluded that even if Judge Chris Nicholson's inferences are successfully challenged, "the odour of two incidents in particular will remain part of Mbeki's legacy: Bulelani Ngcuka's 'prima facie' statement and Mbeki's part in it; and the evidence of Vusi Pikoli before the Ginwala commission. The arms deal looms, too …"

The arms deal scandal presented Mbeki's administration with its biggest reputational challenge. Did he interfere? Here is the evidence:

Dumping Heath: a case study in distortion
January 19 2001: Mbeki goes on television explaining his decision to exclude then-judge Willem Heath and his Special Investigating Unit (SIU) from the multi-agency probe of the arms deal.

Heath's inclusion was supported by Parliament's ANC-dominated public accounts committee, Scopa, and opposition parties. Mbeki and the ANC leadership felt, however, that Heath was politically insolent and feared he could use his powers to apply to cancel the arms contracts.

In his broadcast Mbeki cited a November 2000 Constitutional Court judgement which found that Heath, as a judge heading the SIU, violated the constitutional principle of a separation of powers.

He claimed the court had "directed that we act 'without undue delay' to replace Judge Heath with somebody else who is not a judge". Mbeki failed to mention that the court had given a year's indulgence -- and that Heath had offered to resign as a judge.

Mbeki also cited an opinion given to then-justice minister Penuell Maduna by advocates Frank Kahn, then Western Cape director of public prosecutions, and Jan Lubbe, a consultant to the SIU.

He emphasised their saying that "at this stage there is no prima facie evidence in law" of criminality in the arms deal. Glaringly, he omitted to say that Kahn and Lubbe had, in fact, recommended an investigation as "warranted" and had found "sufficient grounds" to involve the SIU (or, to comply with the Constitutional Court judgement, a reconstituted SIU).

That letter (or how to emasculate Parliament)
January 19 2001: On the same day that Mbeki excludes Heath's SIU from the arms deal probe, then-deputy president Jacob Zuma signs a lengthy letter to Gavin Woods, then chair of Scopa.

Copied to foreign governments and the principal arms contracting companies, the missive badgered Woods over Scopa's findings about irregularities in the arms deal and its demand for a multi-agency investigation which would include the SIU.

The letter-- which turned out be written by Mbeki -- and a series of interventions by the ANC leadership soon brought the ANC majority in Scopa, and thus Scopa itself, to heel.

The pressure started shortly after Scopa's November 2 2000 resolution recommending the probe, when Scopa's ANC members were summoned by the ANC's governance committee. According to Andrew Feinstein, then Scopa's ranking ANC member, Zuma and former chief whip Tony Yengeni were present, as was Mbeki's close confidant Essop Pahad. In a "ferocious diatribe" Pahad demanded that Scopa withdraw the resolution. Pahad has denied the ­allegation.

After the ANC sacked Feinstein and reconstituted its Scopa contingent, Scopa dropped its insistence on a full investigation of the arms deal.

Despite the controversy around "Zuma's" letter to Woods -- and the fact that Shaik trial Judge Hilary Squires accepted it as evidence that Zuma tried to derail the arms deal probe -- Mbeki did not publicly own up to writing it.

Critics have long seen Mbeki and the ANC's crackdown on Scopa as a first instance of the emasculation of Parliament and a violation of the separation of powers.

Editing the JIT report, shielding the executive
October 2001: Then-auditor general Shauket Fakie meets Mbeki and mini­sters Alec Erwin, Trevor Manuel and Mosiuoa Lekota, presenting them with a draft of the joint investigation team's (JIT) report on the arms deal.

With Heath's SIU excluded from the multi-agency probe into the arms deal, the JIT consisted of Fakie's office, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Public Protector. They were due to release their report to Parliament at the end of October 2001. But after the meeting with Mbeki and his ministers the draft (in fact drafts, as up to that point each agency had prepared a separate report) was furiously rewritten. A final, unified report was presented to Parliament only in mid-November.

Fakie repeatedly defended his actions, saying the law gave him no choice but to seek comment from the executive before publication. He also claimed no "material" changes had resulted.

When arms deal bidder-turned-whistle-blower Richard Young gained access to the draft reports through access to information litigation, a different picture emerged. It seemed that evidence tending to contradict the executive's version on the probity the main arms deal contracts had been omitted or toned down.

A set of handwritten notes resulting from Fakie's meeting with Mbeki and his ministers strongly indicated that Fakie succumbed to the politicians' demands. These included an instruction for the substitution of a finding by Fakie's team that former defence minister Joe Modise had interfered to ensure the selection of BAE System's Hawk jet trainers with the Public Protector's finding that the Hawk selection was (justifiably) made for strategic reasons.

A separate note, but in the same handwriting as the notes recording changes to be made as a result of Fakie's meeting with Mbeki and the ministers, stated the need to insert in the overall conclusion that "the joint investigation team found no evidence of impropriety, fraud or corruption by Cabinet, government or individual ministers".

Indeed, the final report concluded that "no evidence was found of any improper or unlawful conduct by government" and that the irregularities exposed in the report "cannot be ascribed to the president or Cabinet ministers".

Mbeki and his ministers got what they wanted.
Bouncing Hefer: if at first you don't succeed …

November 11 2003: Mbeki amends the Hefer Commission's terms of reference, changing its mandate from determining whether then-prosecutions boss Bulelani Ngcuka had been an apartheid spy, to whether Mo Shaik and Mac Maharaj's claims to that effect were true.

The change may appear negligible, but the effect was significant: it turned the commission, initially tasked with establishing the objective truth about Ngcuka, into a forum in which two men closely associated with Zuma had to prove their own allegations -- or face humiliation, which they did.

Mbeki appointed Judge Joos Hefer in September 2003 after City Press claimed Ngcuka might have spied for the apartheid police. Shaik and Maharaj backed the allegations, based on a 1989 probe by their ANC intelligence unit.

Hefer took his mandate seriously enough to demand intelligence files in state hands. But he noted in his report: "Although the obvious and most reliable source of [Ngcuka's alleged registration as a source] was the records in possession of the state intelligence and security services, I was consistently ... refused access to the records."

Mbeki then stepped in. Rather than order the release of the records, he changed Hefer's mandate. On the same day, Mbeki's director general, Frank Chikane, wrote to Hefer saying "the President has unfettered access to all information in the possession of the state intelligence and security structures. These structures have made no allegations that bear on the matters being considered by the commission."

Chikane's assurance was ambiguous. Hefer noted in his report that he "remained firmly convinced that these agencies were in possession of information that was still relevant", but he backed down, bound as he was by Mbeki's new mandate putting the onus on Shaik and Maharaj to prove their claims. Under rigorous cross-examination and without recourse to intelligence files, the duo failed dismally. Hefer concluded that Ngcuka "probably never acted as an agent".

Slagging the SFO -- a case of selective enthusiasm
January 15 2007: The SABC interviews Mbeki following a Mail & Guardian exposé that Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) wanted South African help in investigating R1-billion in "commissions" paid by BAE Systems during the arms deal. Mbeki sticks to the official line that there was no corruption affecting government and the main contracts, and adds: "That conclusion will stand whatever investigation the British are doing."

At the time, and subsequently, a wealth of new information dislodged by foreign investigations cast doubt on the exonerations issued by South Africa's joint investigation team. Investigators in Britain and Germany both requested legal assistance from South Africa to pursue leads.

Government has denied claims that it obstructed these requests. It is a fact, however, that the SFO has received very little concrete assistance since it first requested it in 2006, and that German investigators had received none when they closed their probe earlier this year.

Mbeki and key members of the executive, it seemed, found it hard to muster the same enthusiasm for the fight against corruption that they showed when Zuma was in the dock.

Comments by Sonny

When will the 'arms deal' be laid to rest.
Posted by Sonny Cox at 5:31 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Labels: ANC Arms Deal, ANC Thabo Mbeki, corruption.
Cosatu takes aim at Shilowa


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The African National Congress (ANC) leadership in Gauteng meets on Wednesday to nominate a successor to outgoing Premier Mbhazima Shilowa, who has been branded a hypocrite by his former trade-union movement.

Shilowa announced his resignation on Monday, saying it was out of loyalty to ousted president Thabo Mbeki, who was removed from office by the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), of which Shilowa was a former general secretary, lashed out at him on Wednesday.

Cosatu welcomed his resignation and said he must leave office immediately.

"We believe that we can't entrust ill-disciplined cadres with the responsibility of being the guardians of the state resources."

It was "unacceptable" that Shilowa said he would find it difficult to defend the decision of the NEC of the ANC to remove Mbeki from office.

"We do not take kindly to his continuous criticism of that decision to recall Thabo Mbeki ... He does not have any authority to lambaste the ANC NEC decision in public," Cosatu said.

The trade-union movement traced past comments by Shilowa as far back as 1999, when he, according to the statement, said he would "make mincemeat of Cosatu if it ever makes his life difficult as premier".

In announcing his resignation, Shilowa said: "I am resigning due to my convictions that while the ANC has the right to recall any of its deployed cadres, the decision needs to be based on solid facts, be fair and just.

"I also did not feel that I will be able to, with conviction, publicly explain or defend the NEC's decision on comrade Thabo Mbeki.

"You stand by your own if you think they've been wrongly dealt with. I'm doing no more than that," he added.

The ANC, in a statement on Tuesday, said: "As the ANC we disapprove of this unbecoming behaviour of a long-serving ANC member.

"We expect comrade Shilowa to observe discipline, behave honestly and carry out loyally the decisions of the majority and of higher bodies."

The ANC provincial executive committee will nominate three candidates at a meeting, starting at 3pm, to take over from Shilowa, said spokesperson Nkenke Kekana.

The names would be forwarded to the national leadership for a decision.

Media reports have suggested the frontrunners to be provincial minister of finance Paul Mashatile and provincial minister of education Angie Motshekga.

The name of the new Gauteng premier would be known "at the earliest, by Friday", said Kekana.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Alliance defended Shilowa's legacy in a statement on Wednesday, and described the attacks on him as extraordinary.

"How is it that despite Shilowa's earlier immense popularity in the ANC in Gauteng, there is not a single ANC member who is now willing to defend him?," asked DA Gauteng leader Jack Bloom.

"The ANC's Stalinist slip is showing. This not a party where Shilowa belongs," said Bloom.

Compelling reasons
Meanwhile, the Young Communist League on Wednesday urged Shilowa to provide compelling reasons as to why he should remain in the ANC.

"Individual members who are engaged in such wrongful activities only demonstrate that they have reached a point of a lost confidence in the movement that deployed them to public office ... it is not sufficient to resign from a public deployment," said deputy secretary Phindile Kunene.

"It is equally wrong in the extreme to elevate an individual leader and pay allegiance to him at the expense of the unity and cohesion of our broader democratic movement," she said.

YCL Gauteng secretary Alex Mashilo said Shilowa's condemnation of Mbeki's recall and resignation was a gross misconduct against the ANC.

"We are not calling for his head, but he should explain why he has behaved in that manner."

"Unity is important. When constitutional structures make decisions, one has to abide by them," Mashilo said.

Kunene said the YCL in Gauteng welcomed Shilowa's resignation as he was a part of numerous projects that undermined the poor.

Kunene said the Igoli 2002 plan, Gautrain and Blue IQ projects did not favour the poor.

She said Shilowa had also failed to lessen the gap between private and public schools.

Mashilo, however, did not disclose who the YCL was backing to take over Shilowa's position.

"We are convening a special provincial executive meeting to discuss our preferred candidate today [Wednesday] at 5pm," he said.


Comments by Sonny

Soon Jacob Zuma will become a victim of his own folly.
Posted by Sonny Cox at 5:20 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Labels: Cosatu vs Shilowa

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