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Mbeki's catch-22

By unknown | Feb 07, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

Beleaguered President Thabo Mbeki will deliver his State of the Nation address in Parliament tomorrow amid unabating tensions within the ANC.

For now, the executive is dominated by the Mbeki camp, while the party, in the space of one month since the ANC national conference, is run by the Zuma faction, who now dominate the NEC, NWC and Parliament, down to the party sub-committees.

As a way to completely obliterate the Mbeki influence at every level, the Zuma group's next targets are provincial governments and party lower structures.

It will be Mbeki's last speech in which he will make announcements and will be able to implement. This is so because when he stands in the Parliament podium next year he will be to pronounce on issues that will be implemented by another president, who will be elected a few months later.

Mbeki will be speaking amid little fanfare that has characterised the annual opening of Parliament. This after Speaker Baleka Mbete, who is also ANC national chairman and head of the party's crucial political parliamentary committee, has cut off this year's theme decorations, something the DA's chief whip Ian Davidson describes as "another illustration of the ANC's tendency to abuse state institutions to promote certain interests within the ruling party".

Mbete ruled that the unveiling of Parliament's theme for 2008 would be postponed until after Mbeki's address. This will, therefore, be removing one of the key issues that symbolise a good working relationship between the executive and the legislature.

"It is clear that this move is intended to undermine the president and reduce the impact of the state of the nation speech," says Davidson.

Previously, there was no difference between the two spheres as the ANC parliamentarians used to rubber-stamp executive decisions. However, indications are that this may not be the case from now onwards. The executive is likely to come under a lot of faction-based whipping from Mbete.

Mbeki and his executive will be facing the toughest time of their reign. He will have to use his mouth to pronounce on issues that his heart will be against because he is not in charge anymore.

Topping those issues is that the Scorpions will be disbanded and incorporated into the SAPS by June. He will have to say this despite knowing very well that the elite crime-busting unit has done an excellent job against organised crime and high-level corruption since its formation in 1999.

His party president, Zuma, and his new allies want the unit to disappear from the scene within six months, come rain or shine.

Mbeki will find it hard to do what Helen Zille, DA leader, advised him to do, defy the ANC so as to save his legacy by announcing that he will retain the Scorpions and the country needs it.

Even if his heart tells him that a media tribunal under which the media will have to account to Parliament and, therefore, limit its freedom, is an unwise decision, he will have to either seal off his mouth or mumble on the issue.

His colleagues on the ANC benches will be noting every word he utters for any contradictions.

The boldness he adopted at the party's 51st national conference in Stellenbosch in 2002, where he told "ultra-leftists" within the ANC to shut up, combined with the daring attitude he displayed in Polokwane when he warned the openly hostile audience against unhealthy position-mongering and manufacturing of "untruth" against opponents, could be dangerous for him this time.

He would be wary to acceded to Zille's call to defy the Zuma camp's move to dissolve the Scorpions or establish a judicial commission of inquiry into the arms deal.

The DA leader went too far when she asked Mbeki to repudiate the ANC's core doctrine - the national democratic revolution (NDR) - which she says is undemocratic and responsible for the country's current crises. She seems to forget that Mbeki and the NDR are inseparable. In fact, the NDR is what gave birth to him.

But Mbeki has to fall in line even if his heart and his mouth struggle to communicate tomorrow on the issue of the Scorpions and whether the ANC must implement a media tribunal. Should he follow Zille's Damascus Road and act against the Zuma tsunami, 2009 will be too far for him.

Mbeki would rather consider advice from Sandra Botha, the DA's parliamentary leader, to continue with his path to further grow the economy.

Botha says the president must recommit himself to promoting economic growth beyond the stipulated 6 percent level, give attention to the criminal justice system to ensure incidents of murder, rape and armed robbery, among others, are reduced.

Botha also advised Mbeki to:

l Announce a comprehensive anti-crime strategy - more police and detectives;

l Capacitate forensic laboratories and address court backlogs;

l Reinstate anti-poaching, family violence, child protection and anti-corruption units and commandos;

l Increase government service delivery capacity, instead of centralised control;

l Acknowledge and address the matric pass decline;

l Commit more resources to primary and secondary schooling (improve literacy, numeracy and language);

l Improve maths and science passes in the higher grade;

l Stop budget cut-backs to provincial hospitals and address staff and equipment shortages;

l Roll out antiretrovirals to 500000 HIV-positive people currently not receiving them;

l Expedite housing delivery, instead of using administrative benchmarks;

l Condemn human rights abuses - stop shielding Sudan, Belarus, DRC, Mynmar and Cuba; and

l Acknowledge failure of quiet diplomacy in Zimbabwe.

But Botha's call for Mbeki to announce rapid reversal of the centralised wage bargaining if the ANC is to achieve its target of halving unemployment by 2014, would not only be rejected by Mbeki, but it would also not sit well with ANC alliance partners, especially Cosatu.


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