The ANC Integrity Commission (IC) released a statement condemning the media, opinion makers, and commentators for seeing it as “toothless.” This statement issued by the Chairperson of the Integrity Commission, George Mashamba, warrants a closer examination.
The statement citing its Terms of Reference reiterates that “it is the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson who are authorised and entrusted with full responsibility to engage the media and release any media statements on the work of the Commission.”
It states, “Neither of them has to date released any of the Commission’s report or media statement on Phala Phala. We view the latest media reports as nothing but an attempt to put the Integrity Commission in disarray, undermine its credibility and legitimacy, and ultimately the value of its recommendations. The Commission reiterates its rejection of the irresponsible referencing by some in the media, including opinion makers and analysts, to the Integrity Commission as “toothless.” The Commission remains steadfast and committed to carrying out its mandate without fear or favour.”
Naturally, given the ANC elective season and moment’s intensity, such a disowning of its leaked progress update on Phala Phala was to be expected. It does not take much to line-for-line pick apart this statement as showing a substandard attempt at deflection for its accusing everyone else, including the media, opinion makers, and analysts, while not owning up to the IC’s failure to handle its work or take itself seriously in the organisational setting.
The legitimacy of the report, while denied by the IC, is not derived from it being leaked, unsigned, or ultimately disowned. Its authenticity lies in the fact that ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, for the first time since the opening of the case by Arthur Fraser in June last year, coincidently took the party’s national executive committee (NEC) into confidence last week.
Is it pure coincidence that Ramaphosa chose Friday’s first day of the NEC to use his political report to engage this matter? The IC Report on, among others, Phala Phala was an item for the last NEC sitting before the conference. If anything beyond all reasonable doubt proves the progress report authentic, it is this inexplicable act of Ramaphosa. I, unfortunately, cannot take the IC seriously in this clumsy damage control communication statement it released.
It, unfortunately, is porous in many ways and must explain why Ramaphosa never took the IC into his confidence. Suddenly, he [apparently devoid of the IC progress report recommendation] does precisely what the disowned progress report recommended.
Furthermore, with this statement, the Integrity Commission inadvertently communicates the ambivalent and compromised space it breathes and functions. Some of these should be laid squarely before the Commission while others in the crosswinds of a supplanted standard organisational disciplinary processes aided by a dysfunctional Secretary General’s Office (SGO) and an undeniably weak NEC.
We dare not pretend that the ANC never had disciplinary infrastructure and procedures as accommodated in its constitution. Remember how the disciplinary processes defined by its constitution were followed in at least two historical moments, among many. We lived through the functional role of disciplinary procedures of the ANC in the instances of the action taken against the then ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leadership with Julius Malema as its head.
We also saw how disciplinary processes were followed duly in the former ANC Western Cape Chairperson Marius Fransman’s situation. That disciplinary process ultimately exonerated Fransman. We could reduce the fact that Fransman never was cleared, perhaps to the power politics of the then Secretary General Gwede Mantashe.
The existence of an Integrity Commission, separate from its relationship and coexistence with the constitutionally defined standard ANC Disciplinary infrastructure, remains the challenge lost in the translation. While its raison d’être has the protection of the ANC’s reputation as its fundamental premise and central pillar, it still needs to prove consistent in actualising that mandate.
Such failure emanates from the means for its functionality. The IC ordinarily does not act alone and cannot initiate action against any member. It responds to and actions meetings with those the SGO submits. If the SGO does not present plausible cases for investigation, the IC, regardless of what it reads or may come across anywhere in public space, can do very little, if anything, about it. Herein lies the nub of its dysfunctionality that makes a mockery of the IC’s mandate to ensure the organisation’s reputation is intact.
Ordinarily, any member would be subjected to a recognised disciplinary process as catered for in the constitution of the ANC. What happened to the disciplinary procedures of the ANC? Before one engages the IC, we must ask why the ANC’s disciplinary processes were repurposed if not supplanted by a 2012 IC structure. It is now a historical fact that the IC supplanted the DC processes of the ANC.
In the case of the suspended ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule, no record exists of any due constitutional processes followed defining disciplinary procedures that ultimately presented a ruling. Let’s seek to understand what is condensed in today’s ANC discipline space. One asks again what has happened to the constitutional disciplinary structures of the ANC as it pertains to processes to be followed.
One could hold that the flouting of disciplinary procedures is not a 2022 issue but originates from an earlier time. In that case, we must look at observed processes over time to make the angle wider than individuals and ask for a standard constitutional disciplinary process and its absence.
As with all organisations, members who join by free will automatically subject themselves to the constitution and rules that inform the membership. Therefore, one cannot conveniently hide behind legal processes to abdicate one’s responsibility to account at an organisational level.
It is essential to identify what the IC cannot dispute.
1. It is given that ordinarily, the IC does not initiate any case against any member of its own accord. Thus, it has yet to protect the reputation of the ANC consistently.
2. With the advent of the IC, we have seen a deliberate attempt of the ANC to outsource its responsibility to discipline its members informed by its constitutionally endorsed policy guidelines for disciplinary processes.
3. The IC cannot pretend itself exempted from the factional identity of the ANC when, by its admission, every structure of the ANC, from branches to the National Office Bearers (NOB’s) protest is riddled with the cancer of factionalism. Such when its reports attest something else.
4. The IC cannot deny that its Chairperson, Mashamba is on record from its August 2020 statement to have categorically stated that the IC never cleared Mantashe, the ANC Chairperson, and the then Deputy President David “DD” Mabuza. Since this record is the official position of the IC, why is the IC comfortable with having its non-clearing ignored therefore allowing these leaders to serve?
As ordinary people observing this statement, we must conclude that the IC is toothless and is not even taken seriously by its own NEC. Why are Mantashe and Mabuza serving in the ANC and Cabinet positions (until recently Mabuza was deputy president) while not cleared by the IC, and in what capacity or who empowers them to serve?
5. The IC report of August 2022 made recommendations on two NEC members, namely Zweli Mkhize and Zizi Kodwa. In the annual report tabled by Mashamba at the last NEC meeting in July, the party elders picked apart Kodwa’s (the then Deputy Intelligence Minister) defence over his involvement with a former executive of tech company EOH and called him a liar.
6. The IC cannot deny that its 2022 interaction with Ramaphosa was its first. This President has at least had to face the IC on diverse matters twice, albeit all anchored on the integrity of the ANC, which is in question.
6.1 Its 2021 report details its engagement with Ramaphosa on the issue of monies for the CR17 campaign. It admits that it pursued the matter to meet with the President for over 18 months. During this period, the President informed them that the matter was legal and that he could not speak on such matters. As far back as 2018, it requested to meet with the President when the issue of CR17 and Bosasa funding was first raised. This meeting came as a result of the IC’s initiation.
6.2. The Phala Phala details the sequel to its November 19, 2022 zoom meeting with Ramaphosa. The IC cannot deny that it entertained the ANC President on Phala Phala twice and even afforded him legal representation, a privilege not generally extended to others who have appeared before it. Its inconsistency sees its disowned but currently leaked progress report on Phala Phala, instead of being decisive, hide behind blaming everyone for bringing the ANC into disrepute out of its need to treat Ramaphosa special.
Again Ramaphosa, though now faced with a different subject (Phala Phala) was unhelpful. His now stuck record and claim, as we all know by now, was the ongoing multi-structured investigations and processes that disallow him from engaging any content on Phala Phala.
7. The IC can’t deny that by its own admission; it met twice with Ramaphosa in July and September. Despite these sessions, which it declares as robust and engaging, it is none the wiser since what they know of Phala Phala is not what they heard from the President but what is in the media.
Since Ramaphosa chose to speak in his political report on the Phala Phala matter, we can assume that the IC progress report is firstly authentic and secondly leaked, notwithstanding the farcical attempt to disown it. The content of the leaked progress report is borne out by the actions of a questionable member and leader of the ANC, namely Ramaphosa, who strangely did precisely what the disowned report says.
8. The disowned Phala Phala progress report represents the IC’s confusion about who brought the ANC into disrepute. It underscores the IC as detailing a toxic factional and confusing space regarding the Phala Phala matter. Its disowned progress report chokes on even categorically stating Ramaphosa as having brought the party into disrepute. Instead, it recommends and begs Ramaphosa to take the NEC in his confidence when the president, until now, refuses to do exactly that.
How can the IC be offended by a claim of it being toothless? Its own Chairperson in 2020 conceded it is a toothless structure with no bite since it can only make recommendations locating the NEC as the structure that should act on its recommendations.
In conclusion, the circulated “Progress Report’ of the IC, disowned or not, details a true reflection of how the IC is open to manipulation for political agendas. In this instance, it is a pathetic attempt to give Ramaphosa another chance to take the NEC into his confidence. The proverbial elephant in the room remains; despite meeting twice with Ramaphosa, the IC remains unclear about what happened except what they heard in the media. The question ordinary people inside and outside the ANC have is why must Ramaphosa be begged to come clean about Phala Phala – what makes him so unique?
We ask how the IC can suggest it is not sure who brought the ANC in disrepute when it is a matter of record that there was a robbery that was not reported. A robbery detailing millions of foreign currency which until now cannot be explained? An unfortunate incident that has a foreign country, Namibia and its president involved. Yes, foreign currency millions stashed in couches and mattresses at the house of Ramaphosa?
How can the ANC and its IC be unperturbed by a president claiming the stashed millions are proceeds from farm sales – meaning he is moonlighting while holding a constitutional office in SA as president? I am afraid the IC cannot blame factions for these Phala Phala crimes. If the IC remotely takes its mandate seriously, it warrants to have recommended that Ramaphosa step aside for having brought the organisation into disrepute.
Hence the statement by the IC did little to deny its toothless state and inadvertently exposed its manipulated reality since it cannot escape the factional identity of the ANC.
I am deliberately not engaging the known internal contradictions of powerplay between its Chairperson and its powerful secretary Sue Rabkin. Condemning those who articulate its inconsistencies and pointing out its manipulated state as a toothless structure does nothing since one can argue that the IC does not take its work seriously. The IC cannot disown its Phala Phala progress report if the facts around it are considered.
Dr Clyde Ramalaine is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Centre for African Leadership Development. He holds a PhD in Politics and International Affairs from the University of Johannesburg.