What is the ruling class out to do in respect of Jacob Zuma’s shenanigans?
Since the ruling class don’t telegraph their punches, and since their control of the ideological state apparatus means that this apparatus doesn’t cover the ruling class qua ruling class, it follows that all one can do is monitor what the ISA does tell us and then try to figure out what it means.
The Mail and Guardian has a headline about Zuma being “off the hook” regarding Nkandla. Meanwhile, the Mail and Guardian‘s “Thoughtleader” website carries a syndicated article by William Saunderson-Meyer about how it is perfectly understandable that principled journalists are entitled to change their minds when they feel they have been wrong. This article concerns the editor of the Citizen, who wrote a mea culpa article about how he had conspired against Zuma, along with various other unnamed journalists, and now wanted to come clean. And the Sunday Times has had an article about the odiousness and childishness of the Economic Freedom Fighters in Parliament.
Perhaps these are unconnected. Perhaps not.
Zuma was never actually on the hook regarding Nkandla. What appears to have happened was that Zuma rather astutely organised that a quarter of a billion rand would be spent on “security upgrades” at his private residence — without leaving any fingerprints of his own, so that those who authorised the expenditure would be at pains to conceal what had happened, or at worst, could be sacrificed if a sacrifice were needed. Meanwhile, the money appears not to have been spent, but rather, to have been laundered, either going into Zuma’s purse through devious means or into the accounts of Zuma allies for unknown purposes.
The interesting thing about this process is that the Public Protector, who supposedly looked into the matter, did not actually notice that the bulk of the allocated money had not been spent on what it had supposedly been spent on. The jerry-built and absurdly overpriced structures concerned passed her by, somehow. She made no attempt to trace where the money had gone; essentially, her task was to attack President Zuma, on behalf of her friends in the Democratic Alliance, and not to attack big businesspeople who might have benefited but whose hostility the DA definitely did not need. Of course, she believed that this would harm Zuma, which would work only if the DA took the matter in hand.
Unfortunately, Zuma managed to delay and distract matters, being a consummate politician and good at procedural wrangling. As a result, everybody is now heartily sick of Nkandla, and meantime, a raft of prominent people have come out in support of Zuma’s right to have all the public money spent on his private residence that he pleases — meaning that a large number of people would go down with Zuma if Nkandla took him down, and they don’t want to go down.
Of course, Zuma accepted the money, for his own personal use in his private residence, and he should not have done so since it was misspent and he knew it was misspent because he could see it being misspent every time he went home, so he should pay back the money — but not even the Public Protector actually claimed that (she said “a portion of” the money, and you can argue that zero is actually a portion even if infinitely small).
But for that to be an issue, it has to be made into an issue, and the DA in Parliament, from the moment they decided to serve on the second Nkandla Committee, have been temporising and moderating their language and generally making it seem that they don’t think it’s such a big deal after all. It’s the EFF which has taken a stand, and the EFF which has tried to go to court to demand that the money be paid back — the DA is simply calling on the report of the second Nkandla Committee to be declared unconstitutional, which will probably turn out to be a no-hoper, in which case the DA is giving itself an excuse for letting the whole matter drop. And meanwhile the Public Protector, who has been putting on airs and throwing weight around which she doesn’t actually possess, is being hung out to dry, discovering now that it’s too late that the DA are not trustworthy friends if you don’t have money and are not white.
The Saunderson-Meyer article is interesting only because Saunderson-Meyer only produces stuff which is received wisdom for the right wing of the plutocratic elite, and makes them laugh because the plutocratic elite has no sense of humour at all. His article is, however, fairly serious; it praises a journalist for declaring his undying shame about having been nasty to Jacob Zuma. A couple of years ago, even a few months ago, such lickspittle behaviour would have aroused contempt in everybody, and the fact that Saunderson-Meyer stands up for the editor of the Citizen suggests that there has indeed been a sea-change.
The return of the repressed is what it is — the deservedly, and rightly, repressed. What the editor said was that he was very bad to criticise Jacob Zuma over the Shaik judgement, back in 2005. He shouldn’t have done it, he said. He was influenced by other foolish journalists! He was wrong! Jacob Zuma was innocent!
No, Jacob Zuma was not innocent. Judge Hilary Squires found Schabir Shaik guilty of soliciting bribes for Deputy President Zuma from the French company Thint. The bribes were duly paid, and Zuma carried out services in return for the bribes, by arranging for Shaik’s company to get the contract for credit-card driver’s licences, although the actual work would be done by Thint who would get the lion’s share of the money, but via Shaik’s company, which was incapable of fulfilling the contract itself. In other words, simple fronting, plain corruption for all to see, and Zuma was guilty, guilty, guilty, and the editor of the Citizen is a corrupt bullshitter, peddling bullshit which was last peddled in about 2008-9 when this bullshit had to be peddled in order to distract attention from the charges being dropped by a corrupt Director of Public Prosecutions. And Saunderson-Meyer is supporting this corrupt, much-discredited bullshit. Presumably it is being trotted out to distract attention from Nkandla and so forth.
So it would seem that the ruling elite has turned around and decided that Zuma is to be protected — or, at least, is not to be attacked as violently as before. Nkandla, like the bribery, and like so many of the other criminal activities which Zuma and his friends have undertaken, is to be swept partly under the carpet — it will remain, no doubt, rhetorically in the public eye, but it will no longer be represented as a tool which might remove Zuma. Perhaps it was already not such a tool — the ruling class is not homogeneous, and perhaps some of them decided not to use the judiciary against Zuma and therefore he cannot be charged with anything.
Meanwhile, after all the fuss which has been made about the former Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions and her perjury and fraud, and being put on trial for perjury and fraud, and accused of many other shenanigans, and basically held up as the main thing which is wrong with the DPP (although there is a hell of a lot wrong with it, and wrong with the whole South African legal, judicial, and criminal justice system) — suddenly everybody is soft-pedalling the fact that charges have been dropped by Zuma’s new Director of Public Prosecutions. What’s the big fuss? Hey, everybody — over there — look, it’s Oscar Pistorius! With no sign of a locator cuff padlocked to his blade! Pay attention to that, and to whatever else we tell you, but not to the crimes of the Zuma administration, we’re going to draw a line under those — for now.
What’s going on? Why row back? Zuma can’t actually hurt members of the ruling class, he is too afraid of them and they are too powerful, so why not attack him? Why not use him to undermine the ANC, and perhaps to install Cyril Ramaphosa in power a couple of years early, ensuring that a fully neoliberal figure is in office and ready to serve the elite? Only a couple of months ago it was the end of the world, Omar al-Bashir had escaped from the clutches of the torturers and murderers of the imperial elite and the local elite who serve the imperial elite were screaming blue murder — but now the tumult and the shouting has been artificially suppressed, as if the conductor has turned on the illuminated SILENCE sign.
The Sunday Times attack on the EFF (alongside the general attack on the EFF launched not only by the press but also by the DA itself) is suggestive. The article basically says that a few months ago it was acceptable to have the EFF attacking the ANC, but that this is no longer desirable and now such attacks, and the EFF’s criticism of Parliament as being no more than a front for state power, are childish and undesirable and to be condemned by everybody who is anybody — that is, by those who serve the ruling class. And, just to make the parallel plainer, the Saunderson-Meyer article also denounces the EFF and points out that the press used to uncritically support them, and that this was wrong, but that now the press has seen the light and is attacking them, as it should, just like the Citizen now realising that Zuma must be supported at all costs. Which is complete balderdash because the press has always attacked the EFF except for momentary periods when the EFF’s attacks on the government happen to coincide with ruling-class interests. But it casts a glaring light on what is going on.
It would appear that the ruling class has belatedly realised that in their adoption of campaigns like the Nkandla issue and the Marikana issue, they were furthering the aims of the EFF, who were much more sincerely concerned about such issues than the neoliberal parties, and whose constituency was much more sincerely incensed about such issues. When the DA preached about such matters, their audience blinked, but the EFF’s audience heard, and cheered, but did not decide to vote DA on that account — instead, they were delighted that the EFF’s stance was being confirmed even by their class enemies, and that the DA was going along with them. Hence the DA’s decision to support the repressive new Parliamentary rules which will facilitate the arrest and expulsion of MPs who dare to expose the misconduct of the Zuma gang in ways unseemly to ruling-class eyes. The idea is to settle the EFF’s hash, however much it makes nonsense of the DA’s pretense to support democracy and the rule of law.
What makes this urgent, probably, is the 2016 municipal elections. The ruling class was expecting to see the DA make big gains there, and perhaps issues like Nkandla were supposed to facilitate that. The assumption was that the EFF’s accomplishment in 2014 would be a momentary lapse, like CoPe’s success in 2009, and the DA would be able to swiftly collar their support. This doesn’t seem to be happening; installing a black dressmaker’s dummy as supposed head of the DA hasn’t been the triumphant success which was hoped for, and the attempt to wreck the EFF by using PAC entryists like Mngxitama to disrupt it has failed. Instead, the EFF may be using its PR gained through Parliament to set up some modest structures and, perhaps, get some more support — in which case it might actually do better in 2016 than in 2014, especially in areas of the Eastern Cape where it ought to have done well in 2014.
The DA’s big hope for 2016 is Port Elizabeth, and if the EFF does reasonably well there and gets, say, 7%, it might be able to prevent the DA from getting an overall majority. This is rather horrible for the DA, for it would then mean that it could only govern in collaboration with the ANC (since governing in collaboration with the EFF is unthinkable). In which case the DA’s supporters have to be prepped for the inevitable collusion with the ANC, and have to be weaned away from the automatic anti-ANC perspective which they’ve held for some time. So it’s necessary to make nice with Zuma again, for fear that otherwise some kind of radical leftist or liberal organisation might succeed.
And that’s our ruling class in a nutshell — bungling, opportunistic, corrupt political ignoramuses. Just the people into whose hands we should all put our lives!