What do we need after Zuma? (Polity 26 June 2017, reprinted in Daily Maverick and on enca.com)


Important as corruption and state capture are as features of the Jacob Zuma presidency, they do not represent the only elements that need to be addressed now and in the period that follows, should the removal of Zuma be secured. It is also important that we do not succumb to a tendency to see the problematic features of Zuma to date from Nkandla and ignore the corrupt and other questionable features that were already present at the time of Zuma’s election as ANC president in 2007. Continue reading

A freedom fighter reflects (City Press interview 25 June 2017)

A freedom fighter reflects

2017-06-25 06:03

Inside Apartheid’s Prison by Raymond SuttnerJacana Media

232 pages


A new edition of Raymond Suttner’s famed struggle memoir has been published.

Nicki Gules asks him about the impact, today, of prison and torture – and living a principled life in a time of corruption.

Was this a difficult book to write, reliving the experience of torture, imprisonment and your later break with the ANC and SACP? How are you affected by the trauma today?

The introduction is new but I had to repeatedly reread the original book in order to make corrections.

In doing this I realised that the prison experience was harder than I used to admit. I found this specifically in rereading letters that had had to pass through censors.

We concealed what we were actually experiencing because we were not allowed to write about our conditions. Regarding trauma, one often does not directly recognise its impact.

It can have an effect on one’s sleep, and other physical effects, at a much later stage. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, an autoimmune illness.

The rheumatologist I see believes it is related to my torture and prison experiences.

I now recognise that I experience physical pain, in my lower back for example, when I encounter stress, and stress was a given, daily feature in the prison experience.

You write about others who need to have their stories told.

What I mainly have in mind are people who live in little-known villages, who made important contributions that are relatively unknown.

Some are in the former bantustans, such as Venda, and in areas that may not even be on the maps.

These people generally cannot write their own stories and need to be interviewed, preferably in their own languages, and it is quite a time-consuming and costly project …

I came to realise this need when I did research for my book The ANC Underground. I recorded some very important stories, but in a limited way.

In some cases other scholars have picked up the thread and taken the work further.

You have paid a heavy price for your principles and integrity. With your professional and academic background, you could have been a rich man today. Was it worth it?

I never aspired to great wealth, but I took economic security for granted. I assumed I would be able to take care of the basic needs for retirement.

One of the effects of being where I am now, on the outside of various spaces, is that retirement is a lot more difficult than I had envisaged, though I did not think a great deal about those matters and was preoccupied with playing a political role.

But I am responsible for my own choices and finding a way of resolving these problems.

And I said in the book that I gained something immeasurable from having the opportunity to be part of the struggle for freedom, to be a freedom fighter.

Those two words ‘freedom fighter’ are seldom used anymore because they have been discredited in the eyes of many people.

They have been discredited partly by the crime and grime of the current leadership of the ANC and its allies in government.

We need to reclaim the notion of being a freedom fighter and encourage people to act out the ethical values that attach to the words …

To be called or claim to be a freedom fighter is something that has to be re-earned every day of one’s life by how one conducts oneself.

What advice would you give to others who take a path like yours?

The question of taking a path similar to mine may not arise, in that there is unlikely, I hope, to be a need for illegal and armed struggle against the current government.

But if there were to be a time when the current leadership were to try to hold on to power illegally, which is possible, it may be that those who resisted would have to mount a counter-force.

But even if one pursues purely legal struggle, we still need people to be fired by a sense of justice and compassion for the plight of the poor and marginalised – sharing the pain of those who are being evicted from their flimsy shelters into the winter nights, those without water or sanitation, those subjected to gender- or sexually-based violence …

A commitment to freedom is a lifetime commitment. One cannot expect results tomorrow …

One sometimes needs patience in building the organised capacity to remedy some problems.

You speak of your break with the ANC and SACP leading to severing ties with some people with whom you were close, especially Jeremy Cronin. What is it that you miss in these relationships?

I deal with Jeremy Cronin in a few pages because he and I used to be very close, having met in prison and worked together in the United Democratic Front, ANC and SACP, and writing books and doing other political work together.

That was a different time, when there were shared values regarding what some of us understood as creating the basis for ties of comradeship …

What I miss is no longer there, so that the loneliness I feel relates to the absence, not so much of specific people, but of relationships that comprise what I value.

It is impossible to recreate that type of companionship or comradeship with people who have made choices that are antagonistic to what I see as the basis that had initially brought us together.

Given that you made so many sacrifices for the struggle in South Africa, do you feel that the way things have turned out has invalidated your efforts?

There are never any guarantees in these matters.

I was not sure that I would survive to see democracy in South Africa and I have learnt from other struggles that there can be setbacks or reversals of gains unless one is very vigilant.

I must admit that I did not think that the ANC or SACP would allow or encourage what has been done, that has undermined our democratic project.

But nothing is final and there are very many people who would like to see the democratic promise of 1994 restored.

I would go further and suggest that there is a need for ordinary people to ensure that they are more actively involved in democracy, and not simply through voting every five years.

That is what many of us hoped to see, and popular involvement may be the most powerful safeguard of our freedom.

Continue reading

The need for a revitalised politics after Zuma (Polity 14 June 2017, reprinted in Daily Maverick and enca.com)

When considering how to rebuild democratic life once the Jacob Zuma period passes, we need to recognise that, even without Zuma, many people feel alienated from political life and steps need to be taken to make people feel that politics is about them and not simply their representatives in Cape Town for whom they may vote every five years. Continue reading

‘State capture’ has been proved.   What do we do about it? (Polity 5 June 2017, reprinted in Daily Maverick and enca.com)

In the last week South Africans have experienced a bombardment of scandalous e-mails relating to the influence of the Gupta family on the presidency and a range of areas of government.  Some of these confirm what has already been known but others raise the bar for what represents a “scandal” to a level higher than many of us could have imagined.

It is not that scandalous, illegal and corrupt conduct and even evidence of state capture have been unknown until now. What may shock many of us is the amounts of money involved and character of this assault on the wellbeing of our country and insofar as it is primarily aimed at the fiscus, the pillage of resources needed to ensure the wellbeing of all our people.

Many of those who sponsored the rise of Jacob Zuma, did so despite there being strong evidence of his dishonesty and knowing that some of his backers were shady characters.  Many of his erstwhile political supporters are now trying to put a distance between Zuma and themselves.  While some may have had a level of tolerance for dishonest and irregular practice, as evidenced throughout the period of Zuma’s presidency, it has now reached a point where the very sovereignty and independence of the state is in question.

Evidence has been presented showing that the Gupta family have an inside track into what happens in government, where it concerns their interests.   They obtain information prior to decisions being made and minutes of meetings where these decisions are taken.  It appears that they receive CVs of future government employees before these individuals are appointed and that their recommendations or instructions are carried out.  Of course, it does not always happen through the sending of a CV, for there is a paper trail indicating a range of other ways whereby what the Guptas want done is implemented, no matter what the regulations may stipulate.

In most cases these have been positions that have a crucial bearing on the economic development of the country, ministries that are charged with key elements of economic transformation or that determine who heads various parastatals.  The very same ministries and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that have been earmarked to transform South Africa’a development, to spearhead the transformation of the country in order to address large scale inequalities have instead been used to cream off resources for the benefit of a few, in particular the Gupta family and their associates.

Malusi Gigaba, recently appointed Minister of Finance, has been shown in recent evidence to have played a key role in repositioning the SOEs to implement the re-directing of their core functions towards benefitting the Guptas. He continued to aid the Guptas when Minister of Home Affairs. Evidence shows, for example, that visa requirements for Indian nationals employed in Gupta enterprises appear to have been bypassed.

The e-mails corroborate earlier evidence of widespread deviation from the regulations applicable to procurement and other processes necessary to ensure the country’s energy needs and other essential elements of the South African state and economy. Much of this started with the replacing of board members in key SOEs in the period of tenure of Gigaba and has continued into the present.

It also explains that the partisan role of law enforcement agencies do not simply derive from incompetence or apparent lack of integrity of individuals like Berning Ntlemeza, dismissed head of the Hawks, Shaun Abrahams, head of the National Prosecuting Authority or Tom Moyane, Commissioner of the South African Revenue Services (SARS).  They focused much of their attention on individuals like former Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan and other former SARS employees against whom an attempted prosecution collapsed. On the other hand there has been blindness in relation to certain categories of irregularity and criminality, perpetrated by those with links to the president or the Guptas.

This may be seen as part of the process of breaking resistance to the redesigned role of the state, comprising a series of key institutions that are to be captured.  Some of these individuals may well be unaware of the broader picture, of which they are a part and simply doing what they understand as pleasing those who appointed them.  But the manner of law enforcement is a crucial part of ensuring that the state is enabled to perform its “Guptarised” or “Zupta” functions.

There has previously been much talk of the hollowing out of institutions or their dysfunctionality or tendency to operate on an irregular basis.  What the e-mails and the recently released research on state capture shows is that this is not simply the result of some individuals having an appetite that cannot be satisfied without corrupt activities or undermining the rules and regulations applicable in the entities with which they interact or within which they operate. (See Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is being stolen, May 2017, produced by a range of organisations and available, inter alia, on the website: pari.org.za)

They demonstrate that there have been conscious steps taken to bypass procedures and decision-making processes of state entities in order to ensure not only that huge profits are made but that key decisions are prepared outside the state and that these serve the interests of non-state entities, in particular the Gupta family.

In order to capture the state, in this case, it has not been through a conventional coup where an army general takes power but through ensuring that what needs to be done is effected through the appointment of individuals who act on behalf of and are ultimately answerable to no authority other than the Gupta family.

Constitutionally, these (Gupta-anointed) office bearers may have to appear in cabinet or in parliament and be subjected to grilling. But ultimately it is not these constitutionally charged bodies to which they believe themselves and are in fact accountable.  It is not even a question of what they believe but the reality that it is the Guptas to whom they are accountable and who will decide whether or not they continue to hold office or are removed.  In order to align ministries with the achievement of broader goals of capture, first Nhlanhla Nene and then Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas had to be removed.  The appointment of Gigaba as Finance Minister was to place the Treasury in “safe hands” as far as the project is concerned.

It is astonishing that a state with one of the most advanced constitutions in the world can have many of its most crucial procedures bypassed in order to benefit a family. When that happens the state is no longer independent. It has not been conquered through military power but its leaders have ceded sovereign powers to decide what should be done with a substantial part of its economic resources to a family.

Evidence appears to show that the Zuma family amongst others have benefitted greatly from this relationship.  Zuma may fear that this may not last.  Consequently, in the tradition of many disreputable dictators there is an e-mail requesting the United Arab Emirates to allow him to treat Dubai as his second home. A palatial residence has been purchased for him. This is denied and the DA has challenged him to sue if it is not true.

Members of his family or at least one, Duduzane Zuma, own very expensive property and he has a residence permit in Dubai. Duduzane Zuma emerges as an important go between for the Guptas in facilitating meetings and other processes that ensure that they have the president and government in general do what they require. For this he has been amply rewarded.

Very many South Africans are outraged and have been left reeling by the sheer audacity of what has been revealed.  Many want to reclaim back their country.  How is this to be achieved?  When actions so outrageous have been publicly revealed one would expect a government to fall or a leader to resign.  Regrettably those are not traditions that have been followed by the ANC-led government, especially under Zuma where many, despite demonstrating ignominious conduct, continue to hold office.

The ANC itself while fearing loss of power in 2019 as a result of Zuma’s actions is unable to develop the will to remove him.  It is important that, ANC members who oppose state capture, the various opposition parties and forces in civil society should find a way of coordinating their actions and demands.  A “unifying vision” needs to be developed in order to provide a basis for creating the force that will oust Zuma.  It should preferably also create the framework for a genuine “national dialogue”, that is, one that does not see the problems of our democracy as settled with the removal of Zuma, but prepares for confronting all the problems of renewal. These go beyond the formal political arena and also find expression in areas including land questions, violence especially against women and other vulnerable people, and addressing broader questions of inequality, unemployment and ways of responding to problems of education at all levels.




Launches for Inside Apartheid’s Prison confirmed at this stage.

12 June Troyeville hotel, booking through (laurence@troyevillehotel.co.za) 19:00 for 19:30, discussant Chris Langefeld, music provided by Charles Leonard’s vinyls

20 June Bookdealers Blubird centre, Illovo 6 for 6.30, discussant Ms Athambile Masola

28 June Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre launch

July UNISA/ University of Pretoria launch, date to be confirmed

July: PACSA Pietermaritzburg launch, date to be confirmed

August: UCT launch, hosted by Faculty of law, Centre for law and society, date to be confirmed.

August: Durban launch hosted by Durban University of Technology Urban Futures Centre and Ikes/Adams, date to be confirmed