Lindiwe Sisulu is a target of an orchestrated political campaign


By: Clyde Ramalaine

It is common knowledge that a campaign is a work undertaken in an organised and active way towards a particular goal, typically a political or social one. Campaigns usually adopt certain themes, specific messaging and have targeted end focus. Since campaigning takes place in structured fashion de-campaigning also adopts the same organised pursuit, since it is primarily aimed at defaming and assassinating someone’s character for a specific political end.

Lindiwe Sisulu, a senior member of the leading ANC party has consistently held senior positions in various previous cabinets.

In 2017 she was a contender for ANC high office. There is little doubt that Sisulu has earned her own space and presence both in ANC and SA political leadership settings. This acknowledgement comes no devoid of the prevailing reality and volatility of the politics of fear that in this epoch appears rife. It is important to contextualise Sisulu’s current negative media presence as manifesting in frames of an orchestrated campaign with an undeniable political agenda in the aim of denigrating her, tainting her with unethical conduct, and thus to make the case for her as untrustworthy, someone of bad judgment and suspect in leadership.

To appreciate this ongoing orchestrated campaigning against her, we must remember that she recently was accused of having employed senior ANC leaders such as the ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini, Advocate Menzi Simelane and former Spy boss Mo Shaick among others. No sooner had she made these appointments, the campaign against her was intensified. South Africa is led by a dominant narrative and sponsored mainstream media in categorising political leadership in frames of juxtaposed natural “demons” and natural “angels.”
Unfortunately, Sisulu’s choices for Dlamini [which remains a justifiable choice if facts and not negative sentiment is the subject] and others have her now in full sight of those responsible for this framing of political leadership. Sisulu’s long successful history in leading among others Human Settlements, Defense, DIRCO, Public Administration ministries continues in her new Human Settlements Water and Sanitation portfolio. While it’s the president’s prerogative to appoint ministers, what cannot be disputed is the competency of Sisulu who has distinguished herself in every assignment of government ministry. In every deployment, she has proved herself as innovative, principled and ethical in her conduct. Her success story continues in the new portfolio of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation.

As part of her leadership foresight and innovation, Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation under her leadership this year unveiled a first in SA history of a Water Master Plan (WMP). The WMP is hailed a great success by the internationally renowned, Global Water Research. However, despite this, the Water Master Plan was shot down with claims of it not having any cabinet approval since it was never canvassed in that forum. As was expected, the merits and business case for its existence defined by an endemic water crisis, are unfortunately sacrificed for political expediency. In this setting, it appears the naysayers are busy to retard the intention of Sisulu’s leadership on this score.

Every campaign, we also know has a beneficiary group or constituency. This begs the question: In whose interest is the vilification of Sisulu in this era? What did she do so radically to deserve a full-blown campaign to defame her? Whose political economy is considered under threat, that expresses discomfort with her entrenched growth in SA circles? There is little doubt that the upcoming ANC’s national general council (NGC) is at the centre of this malicious campaign against Sisulu. It is well known that there is a group within the ANC that is very unhappy with Cyril Ramaphosa, who they accuse of failing to implement the ANC’s Nasrec conference resolutions. It has been widely reported that this group, called radical economic transformation (RET) forces, plans to use the NGC to recall Ramaphosa. We are told Sisulu is hugely favoured by this group who want her to replace Ramaphosa. This is clearly what makes her the target of this sustained, vicious campaign.

It can be argued that Sisulu was demoted from the DIRCO office due to her stance on the unilateral intervention of USA President Donald Trump on the Jerusalem Capital saga and her decision to downgrade the Israeli Embassy, which, by the way was her political party’s decision. There is little reason to doubt that Ramaphosa was intensely lobbied by the group which was with Trump on this score. Sisulu appears to have fallen out of favour when she also on an occasion appeared on a platform in the Free State with Secretary-General of the ANC, Ace Magashule.

Is it possible that her accepting a task to represent the ANC in a foreign country also stirred the ire of Ramaphosa? In November 2019 she was accused of using her ministry’s budget to run for ANC deputy presidency. There have also been media reports that she is assembling a team of politicians around her to launch a campaign for high office. It didn’t help when Sisulu called for an investigation into claims by Tokyo Sexwale that the Nasrec conference was bought.

This past week Sisulu hosted a national Housing Indaba at Birchwood hotel and brought under one roof critical stakeholders in the human settlement space. This occasion, which again had at aim carving out a cogent plan for service delivery was questioned by those active in the campaign against her. Needless to say, the gathering (Indaba) with definitive outcomes welcomed by the Human Settlements sector, turned out a great success despite those who have the unique agenda of vilifying Sisulu.

Apparently a memorandum with her as the ultimate recipient en-route to her office was diverted and leaked to the media. Sisulu, no dissimilar to anyone else was wholly surprised to be made to entertain questions on a document that she until now had not laid an eye on, and which she never signed an acknowledgement of receipt by her office. These ongoing acts confirm an orchestrated campaign that has also infiltrated her office. It appears a proposal from the Director-General supported by Deputy Minister Mahlobo’s is now the subject of public speculation.

The panel comprising among others former minister Gugile Nkwinti is derided and castigated as lacking expertise in the water sector. Those who are active in her political assassination failed to propose the so-called better-qualified people as alternatives for due consideration by Sisulu. It is an open secret that Sisulu has oversight over two colossal departments if the functionary context of each of these is considered in objectivity. We know this since there is sufficient evidence to confirm that for example in the water sector alone, the infrastructure backlog is legendary by any imaginable proportion.

The value and necessity of the two respective departments under the leadership of Sisulu is too significant to be subjected to this petulance. It remains my submission that he two respective departments of (Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation) that Minister Sisulu has leadership over not only vital but are also immense in size, therefore, warranting now meticulous attention..

It is important to appreciate that there is an act that enables the establishing of these panels was designed and taken through as legislation under the leadership of the then Former Minister Kader Asmal. Her departure points remain, the (sanitation) panel came into existence in another era under the leadership of the late Winnie- Madikizela Mandela when Tokyo Sexwale was the Minister of Human Settlements. Today this same panel is led by Former Minister Nkwinti, with a group of people who are duly qualified with due credentials as evidence of post-graduate qualification understood in Master’s Degrees, including among others from Research, Engineering, Science, Investment, Public Finance, Project Management, and Business Administration and on Profiling.

The same group equally include two PhD candidates and one PhD holder out of a group of six. The Chair (Nkwinti) without his sectoral experience, he too is a postgraduate education holder. Another issue was raised on gender, yet the panel includes two women, meaning the gender requirements are met. Perhaps we must first understand the mandate of the Panel. In the abundance of clarity, the mandate of the panel is and remains to: deal with building a case/plan for sanitation infrastructure, IT infrastructure, municipality debt backlogs, profiling/advocacy to strengthen public relations, advise the Minister on how to raise money for all forms of infrastructure-related projects since the departmental budget has been significantly reduced.

This work naturally involves having a wider reach to all stakeholders, across both the private sector and municipalities that are indebted to the department. It will be the responsibility of this panel to advise the Minister on which municipalities must be placed under administration, specifically on matters of water and sanitation. The chosen panel members preside over both past government experience and expertise (therefore suitable). There are two women in the panel, so the question on gender is equally misplaced.

The principle for the appointment of advisors and support to political principles is a worldwide recognised phenomenon. To substantiate such an assertion we can only consider the existing Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who in his designation relies on a group of 50 advisors, confirming the appointment of advisors as a global phenomenon. Ramaphosa also has a multi-million rand budget he spends on a pool of advisors and special envoys.

Given the aforementioned, it becomes difficult to ascertain what the challenge with the compiled group from a skills-set may be. In her capacity as minister, Sisulu is enjoined by the duty of her office to lead and should do so without the clamouring noises of her loud and increasing pool of detractors. From what we can gather, Sisulu has committed to consider the leaked memorandum upon her being afforded access to it as directed through the known and correct channels which appear compromised.

It appears Minister Sisulu remains resolute in the face of this ongoing orchestrated campaign. She has stayed the course and has not been intimidated. As someone who cut her proverbial teeth in politics, she seems cognisant to understand the origin and nature of this campaign. She appears gravitating as encouraged that her work attracts both praise and condemnation and remains resolute to work even harder to fulfil the mandate of her entrusted assignment in a broader conviction of what the masses need. She appears less perturbed by those who have become immune to the challenges of a South Africa that continues to define disparities that are not justified. This malicious campaign and the deafening silence around it aimed at a competent female leader clearly throws into doubt whether the ANC and this country are ready and willing to be led by a woman.

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
A Lifelong Social Justice Activist Political Commentator & Writer is a SARChi D. Phil candidate in Political Science with the University of Johannesburg. Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation – The Thinking Masses of SA