A political powerplay is unfolding within the ranks of the ANC and at the centre of this tug-a-war is a populist that once clad the gold, green and black regalia of the ruling party.
Julius Malema and the ANC ‘war’ against CR17
Julius Malema’s EFF announced, on Monday, that its application to have the infamous CR17 bank statements unsealed was approved by the Pretoria High Court. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, on 16 and 17 March 2021, is when the court will consider the Red Berets’ bid to declassify Ramaphosa’s campaign documents.
A journal of sealed transactions that propelled the president to the helm of the ANC Top Six in Nasrec 2017 is Malema’s fianchetto checkmate and if he has his way with the courts, it could either be the biggest political score in his ambitions to take down ‘Goliath’, or the greatest dent in his pursuit for credibility.
The coordinated attack on South Africa’s judiciary
In recent weeks, the subject of the CR17 bank statements has been less about the ‘shoddy’ donors who backed the president’s campaign. Sure, there is a lot of juice there. It could shed a lot more light on Ramaphosa’s dealings with the private sector and give credence to a lot of the ‘kitchen Cabinet’ talk surrounding his tenure.
However, of great interest is the presence — if any — of judges to which Malema has claimed on numerous occasions that there are at least 46 listed.
A strong claim that holds frightening implications if true. Interestingly, though, the former president’s defiance towards the Constitutional Court’s ruling on his State Capture Inquiry appearance is centred around the same rhetoric spewed by his protege.
In a letter published hours after he was a no-show at Johannesburg’s Old Chambers, Jacob Zuma specifically laid the assault on the integrity of Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and Gauteng judge president Dunstan Mlambo.
“We sit with some judges who have assisted the incumbent President to hide from society what on the face of it seem to be bribes obtained in order to win an internal ANC election. We sit with some judges who sealed those records simply because such records may reveal that some of them, while presiding in our courts, have had their hands filled with the proverbial 30 pieces of silver,” Zuma wrote.
The former president scoffed at the thought of walking himself into a ‘mouse trap’ — the State Capture Inquiry, in this context — designed to assassinate his character.
A mastermind at chess and a revered intelligence operative, Zuma’s moving pieces, identical in strategy to Malema’s, has lured Ramaphosa into a snare.
Ramaphosa dares Zuma, Malema to prove ‘CR17’ claims
The president, though, appears unshaken by the attack on the integrity of the Constitution under his watch. In his weekly Monday newsletters, he issued a stern warning to Zuma and Malema: provide irrefutable proof of your claims or face the full might of the law.
He warned that South Africans should heed the threat of political elites who are hell-bent on undermining the fabric of our democracy with “statements that demonstrate a disdain for the basic principles of our Constitution.”
“Of particular concern are recent utterances directed at the judiciary, in which some judges are accused, without any evidence, of pursuing interests other than the cause of justice. Judges have been accused of political agendas and some have even been accused of accepting bribes,” Ramaphosa wrote.
He gave two reasons for his concerns with these accusations:
- If it’s true, it could set a precedent for the dismantling of South Africa’s judicial system; and
- without evidence, these accusations undermine the judiciary “and the important function that it performs in our democracy.”
“We interfere with the functioning of our courts and weaken the rule of law when we attack the judiciary. Our failure to implement our courts’ injunctions weakens our constitutional democracy,” Ramaphosa warned.
Political chess: Who will call ‘checkmate’?
With all the players’ pieces set up for a thrilling showdown, the president might be prompted to make the first move when the Pretoria High Court rules on the CR17 bank statements in three weeks.
Simmering below that, however, is an attempt by the Zondo commission to close the walls on Zuma, forcing him to make his next powerplay sooner than he may have wanted.
In court papers filed with the Constitutional Court on Monday, the inquiry noted that while a two-year jail term is chief to its pursuits to find Zuma in contempt for his no-show, there is room for leniency — a suspension of the application — if he agrees to testify before 31 March 2021.
Per News24, should Zuma latch on to the rope, he would have to provide Zondo with two outstanding affidavits on evidence regarding his dealings in the business of Eskom and PRASA.
Of course, there is still the clause Zuma, perhaps, fears the most — having no way out of dodging probes since the ConCourt judgment clearly stipulated that for every question the former president doesn’t wish to answer, he must provide reasons for why it may implicate him in wrongdoing.
With the future of South Africa’s political landscape on the brink of a cataclysmic shift, the pendulum keeps swinging and soon, it will determine whose pieces will survive the endgame.