Sat Oct 22 15:40:32 SAST 2016

Opponents take dim view of all the president's actions, writes Eric Naki

By unknown | Oct 03, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

The suspension of the National Director of Public Prosecutions Vusi Pikoli might heighten calls for the elite Scorpions unit to be speedily incorporated into the SAPS or even disbanded completely.

Also, the action against Pikoli will increase the siege against President Thabo Mbeki by his detractors who want to turn everything he says or does against him.

While Mbeki's detractors were cautious in their reaction to the Pikoli suspension, they might still be studying the situation while preparing ammunition to attack the president.

It does not matter whether the action Mbeki took is good or bad, his opponents will always try to find fault in whatever he does or says.

The fact is, some in the ANC hate both Pikoli and Mbeki.

They would like to see Pikoli and his Scorpions vanish. At the same time, according to them, the sooner Mbeki quits the presidency at Luthuli House and the Union Buildings the better.

The period in the run-up to the ANC national conference in Limpopo in December has provided fertile ground for his opponents to dig deeper furrows.

He is facing the official opposition in the form of the DA, which issues no less than 10 press statements a day from leader Helen Zille and other spokesmen criticising the Mbeki government.

This "total onslaught" is exacerbated by concerted dissent from within the tripartite alliance because they want to push him out of power at all costs.

The DA wants National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to convene a special sitting of parliament to discuss the Pikoli "crisis".

With Mbeki already having appointed the Frene Ginwala Commission to investigate if Pikoli is fit to hold office, the chances of Mbete agreeing to the DA's request are zilch.

There is no doubt that Mbeki is losing the propaganda war in the public arena.

Besides, DA safety and security spokesman Dianne Kohler Barnard this week bombarded the media with statements on the Pikoli issue every second hour.

The odds seem stacked against Mbeki as reporters daily and weekly also compete for news angles that highlight his weaknesses.

Leaks to the media from news sources abound while faceless ANC party officials further facilitate the feeding frenzy against the man.

He is drowning in a sea of criticism - he has to account for every action he takes in government and explain every word he utters.

The question I have been asking myself since the start of the ANC presidential succession debate is whether Mbeki or his shadow or both are controversial. The impression you get is that everything about him has to be controversial - thanks to the ANC succession saga.

Anyone who supports or shows sympathy to Mbeki has the label "controversial" attached to them.

The controversial Thami Mazwai, Christine Qunta - the controversial lawyer or SABC board member, the controversial author Ronald Suresh Roberts . the list is long.

One journalist once said that Mbeki does not need to have imbongi to defend him from criticism.

Maybe the reason that Mazwai, Qunta, Roberts and others are "controversial" is because they provide a window into the other side of the man, the one that few dare to touch.

Some of the opposition to Mbeki's decision in government could be viewed against this background.

Though there might be legitimate criticism, his strengths - as exhibited in championing the fight against corruption and in growing the economy - get overshadowed by his weaknesses in public debates.

His dismissal of Nozizwe Madlala-Routeledge might have been loaded with political rhetoric, but what chief executive would tolerate someone who plays opposition within his company ranks? Which president the world over allows someone to act contrary to his policies?

When it was initially rumoured that Mbeki is to act against Jackie Selebi, the national Police Commissioner, for his alleged crime syndicate shenanigans, the immediate reaction was: why now?

Nobody wanted to commend Mbeki for acting at all. The latest is that he continues to protect Selebi.

Political analyst Sipho Seepe says the president acted within the law in the Pikoli issue and commended him for speedily appointing a commission, but says it should have been chaired by a judge or someone outside of the ANC.

Seepe, known for being an unashamed critic of the ANC government, said Mbeki had to do what he did against Pikoli under the circumstances.

"This is commendable and it must be welcomed," said Seepe. "Many people wanted the president to comment or explain the issue whereas the whole matter is self-explanatory."

It is my contention that as long as Mbeki acts against the hated Scorpions, he might be spared the wrath of his own comrades this time.

His action against Pikoli is feeding into what they want - to see the Scorpions discredited and subsequently immobilised. The merger of the unit with the SAPS is the least they desire; far better the corruption-busters were made to disband.

Mbeki's mistake is prioritising the fight against corruption and, in so doing, failing to discriminate who is involved.

Ideally, according to some in the ANC, if someone within the party or alliance committed a crime or corruption, the matter has to be discussed in a comradely manner at Luthuli House or in a party lekgotla somewhere.

According to them the discussion should go like this: "Comrade, we know you did this. Please stop it and don't do it again". And it ends there.

A slap on the wrist is what Mbeki has refused to do. He prefers culprits to face the full might of the law. This is at the heart of the problem.

While some might say Mbeki will go down in history of the ANC as having divided the party, he will also be written into the same history as having not tolerated corruption wherever it manifested itself.


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