Why Duarte’s ‘Calls for Ramaphosa to come clean is misplaced and unfair’ is flawed

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By: Clyde Ramalaine

Separating the chaff from the wheat is an axiom generally used to distinguish between the substance and the flaky. News 24 on August 15, 2019, carried an article in content essentially attributed to ANC bigwig, Jessie Duarte. In such, she enters the discourse in attempts of rebutting a demand for ANC and SA President Ramaphosa to ‘come clean’ on his CR17 campaign funding.

Duarte, as cited in the article, said, “There is no requirement in law that leaders should declare donations made to internal campaigns. It is not correct to impose some kind of standard after the fact, and to do so with respect to only one campaign, writes Jessie Duarte.

Perhaps it’s firstly important to accept that the ANC relays a polarised context with Luthuli House its headquarters leading in this polarization. It is also a congested space of interest however defined. There is little doubt that the current National Office Bearers (NOB’s) for whatever reason attest factions and at times factions-of-factions depending on what and who constitutes the subject matter. We will remember how Deputy President DD Mabuza accused the office of the SGO and in particular the DSG as the one who took his name to the Integrity Commission. We also know that the current chairperson Gwede Mantashe in his previous position as SG were not always on par with the DSG we know this from an era in 2017 when some of the ANC NOB’s were booed at a May 1, COSATU rally when others were given a free pass. This incident sparked division at the time. The current context of the ANC regardless of how it may advance the elusive unity attests an entrenched factional description and one where people feel it their entitled rights to differ in public from one another.

Secondly, let us extend due credit to the DSG Jessie Duarte in acknowledging that she has always supported ANC Presidents regardless of their complex challenges. This is not new we know she supported presidents Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and it is unfair to see her current support of Ramaphosa as unique with necessarily an aim of redeeming her apparent reputation or in need of trying to buy face. Anyone who follows ANC politics knows that Duarte has always rallied behind ANC presidents in acknowledgment of their elected status as the legitimate faces of the organization she has been associated with over an elongated period of time. Reading her current support of Ramaphosa in a vacuum is, therefore, disingenuous and necessarily will lead to an ad-hominem argument when her track record on this score details nothing but consistency.  Her support of Ramaphosa in this era and in particular on the issue of the unfolding court-cases with the Public Protector is also not unique but stands in the tradition of an ANC that recently released a statement attributed to its Official Spokesperson, Pule Mabe. There may be a debate on who was part of that statement in its compilation since it was speculated that the SGO office, with Ace Magashule as head, did not necessarily agree with the penning of it given the known polluted environment.

We may equally ask in view of the ANCs official statement on supporting its president as articulated by Mabe, why any office-bearer beyond that seeks to direct the traffic of discourse along with his/her personal views when there is an official position in existence. We may ask what then in the political context shifted so drastically since the last statement that warrants an office bearer to pen a note?

Thirdly, an important point to make here and now is to admit we are not clear if this article presents the personal or official views of the DSG on the subject that has come to define in prominence a discourse over the last month. The article closes in reference to her official elected designation in the ANC, which is a common knowledge subject.

We also know that ANC Officials and leadership no different to all are entitled to have opinions on a broad range of subject matter that defines issues of national interest. Having, therefore, an opinion even a public one regardless of how troublesome it presents in discourse is not a sin in the ANC but welcomed. To this extent, a usual disclaimer of ‘personal capacity’ is used as generic to distinguish between an official and personal view. Not that this necessarily helps the subject matter as less convoluted given the contradictory tides of ANC politics. However, reaching the end of the op-ed does not leave us any wiser if the ANC-DSG, Jessie Duarte in this instance purely shares her entitled personal opinion or if she consciously writes with grey reference to an official office position.

Fourthly, let us also not claim we know Duarte was directing her views to an external audience of the ANC understood in Opposition parties or whether it is a broad swipe to also include formations of internal audiences who equally are calling for the president to take the ANC and SA into his confidence on the subject matter. She will forgive us to deduce that she is addressing this article to both external and internal audiences.

The fifth issue, which really emanates from the third aspect, is the very plausible and even potentially cynical claim that her conflation of personal and official opinion as relayed in this op-ed inadvertently creates the impression that there are multiple SG offices functional in the ANC at present. If the views are official than that is borne out by a clarification on the part of the ANC usually from the office of the Secretary-General, Ace Magashule. Therefore, the absence of a clear disclaimer of ‘personal capacity’ and official capacity perhaps vibrates in the background warrant clarifying. We note she did not make use of any disclaimer in both her article or in her Stephen Groottes interview.

In the sixth instance to reduce this as an ‘unfair’ singling out of CR17 campaign defined by negative narrative with the aim of tarnishing Ramaphosa, when other candidates are not demanded to come clean, is also not in respect of the facts we all know. Regardless of whether we at a personal group level want to know it or not. May we remind Duarte and all others who purport selective amnesia on this score. The facts confirm a history wherein a SA president (Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa) in parliament was asked a question by the leader of the Opposition Mmusi Maimane as to a donation of R500k received for his CR17 campaign. Keep in mind at the time of the campaigning the president was the deputy president of the ANC and SA. The president had rightful and ample space not to answer the question by using his parliamentary privilege and right to defer in presenting a thoroughly researched and validated answer. He would have underscored how serious he takes parliament as a place of accountability.

Shall we remind Duarte and others, the President chose not to exact that privilege instead he strayed into spaces of morality about if his son was guilty, he would personally take him to a police station. He then presented diverse versions on the subject of the source and for what purposes this was received. The president on several instances pleaded absenteeism of any knowledge on CR17 campaign funding donors, less in who made up these.

This by itself presents the president answerable to come clean since it is now common knowledge that the president was intimately apprised of names, sizes of contribution and reciprocal requests to honour gatherings of donors. He is answerable not in conflated easily draped campaign funding escapism but since on the matter of Watson donation, his second submission albeit written still confirms his categorical denial of any knowledge on who contributed to his campaign any funding, of which the meagre R500k in a coagulum of +R1bn amount adopts the centre stage. We, therefore, cannot make campaign fundraising in a generic sense the central issue when the R500k from Bosasa a questionable entity that has grossly benefitted from state tenders and its owner Gavin Watson is explicitly the true central aspect. This matter brought information in a claim of a case to the PP and she subsequently investigated and made findings against the president. How that pans out ultimately in court rulings for or against him on diverse aspects do not automatically exonerate him in being answerable framed in a call to ‘come clean’. Shifting the goalposts to other candidates when no one hitherto has equally brought forth information to the PP on the subject matter is simply a deflection.

Let us remind ourselves in the honesty of conviction that this moment like all others in other epochs demands us to engage the subject of a president in a moral contradiction. There is until now one person and one person only who had findings on such subject made against him. Until those who easily advance and throw around names of ANC candidates produce information, not even evidence, in a formal sense, for the PP to investigate and concluded on, we are compelled to see their antics as pure deflection.

Ramaphosa himself in his last public statement hinted at this claim in the cryptic verbiage of “quite a bit of money was raised by all candidates of the ANC.” This may or may not be true in its own space, it, however, is not the subject at hand nor a justification for his current predicament which starts and ends with his choice to answer a question he in the sobriety of an applied mind could have deferred. To this extent, he has himself and not the Opposition parties, the Public Protector or any of those who never endorsed his campaign or presidency to blame. Claiming victimhood here is what McWhorter warned in his theory of victimology.

Ramaphosa at the center of demands to come clean comes informed by his personal lexicon of clean-up as that which defines his reign. Thus, the obligation is thrust on him in a twofold sense, firstly he came on the ticket of moral cleaning up campaign and secondly his office in constitutionality imbibes and exudes a choice for a morality that is underscored by transparency. Even if his personal choice for a morality defined in claims of a campaign against ‘state capture’ was not a factor, he still remains obligated for the inherent identify the office of the president holds in a constitutional democracy. This hour like all before requires leadership not cheap escapism in legal or even court victories when he chooses to stand naked in the morality of an organization that is in excess of a century old. Despite having perceptibly won a few court verdicts in the volley of a PP legal warfare the sun has long not set on this matter.

In the seventh  instance, when Duarte no different to some come to the defense of Ramaphosa, in the current unfolding debate on a president answerable on information that emanates from a set of  investigations opts to frame it as ‘misplaced and unfair debate’, we are compelled to pause and engage what she says and perhaps and imply with the ANC and not an individual as the central aspect. We warrant not being penurious on the matter at hand.

The debate on political party funding transparency is an old one, yet it hitherto adopts a truculent legislative expression inconclusiveness. Meaning while the debate is raised regularly from various angles of political interests until now, finality evades us and it remains open-ended in regard to definitive laws and legislation that attest enactment. To, therefore, assert there is no law prohibiting the soliciting of fund for political campaigning is a fair assessment perhaps only in regard to its current grey legal standing.

However, beyond the absence of a legal enactment in the directive of the subject in frames of party fundraising remains a cardinal aspect of a moral subject that neither the ANC or anyone who hopes to lead society can easily dismiss. Easily claiming other ANC candidates that participated in 2017 or even before also raised funds is perhaps misplaced and a haphazard deflection from the real issue. Irrespective of whether previous candidates needed and subsequently raised money; we have as a matter of truth never before known what those figures implied. The ANC itself cannot show any substantive records of what its previous candidates raised, therefore data on this remains speculative.

What we do know today is that Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign back in 2017 and beyond translated to +R1bn in donations. This truth stands in its own shadow and cannot be conflated in a generic campaign of fundraising deflection of a conveniently crafted labyrinth.

What then constitutes the wheat in this call of a president to ‘come clean’?

The more fundamental question ANC members and leaders such as Duarte and all must in the sincerity of love for the ANC engage is this since we now know what it cost to win an ANC presidency contest (notwithstanding in final 179 votes) has become the new standard. Meaning, come 2023 and beyond the base is R1bn. This by extension implies only billionaire campaigns can win ANC elections. This is the undeniable reality that no spin-doctoring can obfuscate.

  • The fundamental new challenge for the ANC which perhaps people like Duarte are in this sense oblivious to is to engage what it means to know a single candidate’s campaign to become ANC president needed north of R1bn.
  • The ANC at an existential level must necessarily also engage the fundamental influence of a moribund capital in determining presidents when it in valorized sense claims itself a democratic organization where branches are the final arbiters of leadership.
  • It has to ask does the raising of such exorbitant figures for ANC candidates that’s square off to the proverbial Kilimanjaro of ANC summit does not make an utter mockery of its easily advanced democratic organization claims?
  •  It must engage if ANC presidential elections as a praxis now attest as possible to be outrightly a commodity that can be bought by the highest bidder. Being occupied to defend Ramaphosa with one’s bums to use a colloquial expression does not deal with the attending polemic of what the CR17 campaign in funding bequeathed the ANC as it’s legacy as a new thing to the ANC.
  • It on another level simply cannot be that the defence of an individual in a crafted description by an external audience as last hope of redemption clouds internal leaders to absolve accountability by the sheer defense when the ANC is slipping into an abyss of unaccountability return as it relates to its claim of leading as a moral leader.
  • Any genuine leader or member of the ANC will always know that defending a person at the expense of the organization is short-sighted and often not in respect of its values and morals.

I will postulate this funding-debate is far from over and extends itself beyond an easily picket-fences claim of the absence of current legal frames that outlaws fundraising, but essentially must be cognisant to understand, engage and confront in abnegation of mind the very real threat of moral degradation as the experiential reality of the 107-Year-old organization. The ANC’s verbal anti-corruption stance and its articulated disdain for vote-buying speak to its moral character real or aspired and that obligates an ascetic engagement of the subject at hand in this epoch. To seek to frame the campaign fundraising different from the cancerous demon of corruption, when claims are leveled of state capture in the prepaid presidency is to confirm a selective handle on organizational and leadership probity.

Lastly Duarte, therefore, cannot claim the demand of a Ramaphosa coming clean as misplaced, and attempt to straight-jacket  it in claims of: there is no base to argue any contravention of any law that does not in the first place exists, when she equally seek to champion a morality of the ANC while turning a blind eye to the gangrene of capital’s direct influence on electing ANC presidents as a now a precedent henceforth understood in billionaire status. Meaning Duarte like all others may merely be kicking the can further down the road in not confronting the fundamental question – of what this means for this presidency and all future elections.

At some point  the ANC owes it to itself and those it lads in societal description to pensively reflect in hope of redemption to engage  the demon of capital and how it continues to erode the fibre of its moral character and redirect its cause, when in its sophism continue to advance itself a democratic organisation where the presidents are elected with branches as its base. Or it must admit the ANC is for sale, its branches in vote-buying to determine an outcome. This moment is defining for the ANC and to fool around with personality politics is to not discern this moment.

Political Commentator and analyst for AfricaNews24-7