I believe when she wanted Parliament to amend the Constitution in order to alter the function of the Reserve Bank to not only focus on inflation targetting, she knew what she was doing. I do not, for one moment, want to believe that she did not know that she had acted somewhat ultra vires (outside her scope). It seems to me she was banking on support from somewhere. It could have been Parliament (President and his minions). However, when the Speaker of the National Assembly decided to oppose her, she seems to have realized that her game was up.
The Public Protector’s ‘recommendations’ need to be seen against that greater political backdrop. The common narrative in the public domain, one supported by thousands of leaked Gupta emails, is that the President, and by extension the Gupta family, is set to capture the Treasury. By appointing Malusi Gigaba and Sifiso Buthelezi as finance minister and deputy respectively, the plan seems to be coming together. Next in line for capture was the Reserve Bank which, according to this plan, would need to be nationalized. Mkhwebane’s recommendation falls perfectly in line with this thesis. The application by the Speaker took the wind out of her sails. After all, the President cannot be seen to be endorsing the Public Protector against Parliament, the very institution that he leads.
Coming soon after the ANC policy conference, what all of this shows is the fluid nature of power. Power refuses to be static. It shifts and swings pretty much like a pendulum. The dynamic nature of power means that you can have it today but lose it tomorrow. The ANC policy conference was somewhat a confirmation of the fact that there are some within the ANC who want to fight to have the organization reclaim its former glory as ‘leader of society’. These are the ones, like Joel Netshitenze and others, who fought (in the policy conference) to have the adjective ‘white’ be removed from ‘monopoly capital’. Indeed, it is undoubtedly obvious that after 23 years of democracy that the economy is still in the hands of our white brothers and sisters. That much cannot be denied.
Erstwhile President Thabo Mbeki said as much when talked about two nations: one white and the other black.
His thesis was that the rich were the whites and those living in poverty were predominantly black. The addition of the adjective ‘white’ in monopoly capital (which the ANC and SACP have identified as far back as the 1960s as the enemy) was somewhat a problem in a country still grappling with legacies of the system of racial segregation. The fact that it subsequently transpired that the term ‘white monopoly capital’ was the brainchild of Bell Pottinger, in their quest to not only help shift attention away from the Guptas but to engender racial tension in the country, was a godsend and a confirmation of the unease that some in the ANC have about it. Netshitenze and those who shared his view must have felt somewhat vindicated at Nasrec. No political organization, least of all one with the credentials of the ANC, can take their cue from another entity least of all a spin doctoring one with the reputation of Bell Pottinger.
Back to the Public Protector: Unfortunately she has increasingly been seen as lacking the fierce independence of her predecessor. Now having had to back down, she is left with an egg all over her face. The sad part of this saga is that taxpayers’ money will be used to pay the legal costs for a case that was non-starter from the onset. But that is South Africa for you.
Author: Lolonga Tali lives in King William’s Town and contributes regularly to the Daily Dispatch. He holds a BA ED (English & History), a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism and a Master of Philosophy in SA Politics & Political Economy.