Sipho Pityana. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

Sipho Pityana. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

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The Gupta family holds its annual South African of the Year awards banquet later this month. Or was it last month? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. The last winner I recall was Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, someone the Guptas still need to capture and that is always best started off with some flattery. The one person who won’t be on the shortlist this year is Sipho Pityana, who has in a few short weeks come to stand for all the good things I used to associate with the ANC. Courage, integrity and consistency. Pityana shocked guests at Makhenkesi Stofile’s funeral with a ferocious attack on President Jacob Zuma’s catastrophic administration of the country. It lit up the media for days as people hammered him and supported him. A former DG at foreign affairs, an entrepreneur and now chairman of AngloGold Ashanti, Pityana went quiet for a while and then burst back yesterday with a blistering attack on Zuma again at a mining conference in Johannesburg. I am so proud of this guy I can hardly speak. We’re so often told Zuma is not the only problem in this dysfunctional government and I suppose we all know that, but he is easily the most serious problem in it. I got a bit of flak on social media for suggesting the other day that if Zuma were still president of the country at the beginning of 2019, the year we next have a general election, the ANC vote would fall below 50%. But reading and listening to Pityana (who, by the way, speaks as a passionate ANC member trying to save his party) I’m increasingly sure I’m right, whatever the statistics might say. Statistics can’t track despair and the ANC hold on the rural vote cannot be taken for granted with Zuma in charge.

What is so sad about the decline Zuma has brought to the party and the country is that the rest of us have to keep our chins up and work hard in order to convince the world that we’re not in decline, that Zuma doesn’t really matter. Finance minister Pravin Gordhan and a team of SA business leaders have again been doing sterling work with investors in New York this week while Zuma’s clowns, the sycophants he surrounds himself with in order to remain safe from justice, have been doing their best to negate everything they’re doing. Jimmy Manyi, who now runs something called the Decolonisation Foundation, charges that Kenneth Brown, the chief procurement officer at national treasury (which Manyi routinely calls a “stumbling block” to transformation because it tries to prevent people from stealing from the state) has been receiving strange payments. Treasury will take time out to investigate.

But Manyi’s charge is, like Hlaudi Motsoeneng at the SABC, simply there to distract. The real fear is the legislation Zuma is taking a pathetically long time to sign. This would align SA banking rules with the rest of the developed world and allow the accounts of politically connected individuals to be monitored. The required legislation has been passed by both houses of parliament but by the simple objection of Manyi, Zuma is now able to pretend that he is studying the law. Before Pityana spoke yesterday, he was preceded by deputy minister of mineral resources Godfrey Oliphant, who had warned the conference that government was getting tired of constant criticism directed at Zuma. “We’re trying to be patient,” he told a reporter later, but “if the industry wants to take a political posture we are ready for that.” Fortunately Pityana gave Oliphant the middle finger he so richly deserved. What more, anyway, could the Zuma government do to stuff up the mining industry.

“We can, and must,” argued Pityana, “agree that under Zuma, government is incapable of reform. And, therefore, he must go. The elephant in the room is a president who lacks integrity and lacks honour. None of the promises he makes to any segment of society can be held on to, because he lacks integrity.” Here’s the whole speech. It is because of fine citizens like Pityana that SA still stands proud despite its disgraceful leadership: Op-Ed: We have to seize the moment, and save South Africa. Before it’s too late.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg interviewed Brown about the waste and criminality he is pursuing as he tries to bring some integrity to state procurement. This is the guy Manyi is trying to take out. The interview was done by the excellent Sam Mkokeli and I found it on TechCentral. It is an astonishing piece: Treasury hunts fraud worth R230bn. And of course treasury will investigate Manyi’s patriotic claims.

The background, or indeed the foreground, to all of this is the race to succeed Zuma as leader of the ANC at its elective congress in December 2017. The ANC is now so divided it will be very difficult to arrange a smooth and uncontested election, and if the winner is seen as a mere continuation of the Zuma years the party will pay a heavy price for it. As the late Allister Sparks wrote just a few months ago, the August local government elections were a referendum, in fact, on Zuma. The party knows that. And so does Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, who has made the most astonishing statement in a TV interview. Stephen Grootes climbed into it like a puppy with a juicy bone in a moment but Malema appears to have suggested on eNCA that if the ANC vote were to fall below 50% in 2019 he would be prepared, in some way, to form a new party with it to govern the country. There are already dozens of interpretations of this floating about today but the one indisputable thing is that it must change the arithmetic of anyone in the business of prediction or scenario planning for 2019. Here’s Grootes enjoying his bone: Analysis: Malema’s curious switch on his political nemesis.

In the wake of the August elections, the ANC has shown little capacity for introspection, other than to talk more about the need to introspect. That’s basically because the party has marginalised members who know how to think, which is basically what ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe seems to have been admitting to the Black Management Forum on Wednesday night: Governing party woos black middle class to regain lost ground.

Well, yes, by all means Mr Mantashe, ask middle-class blacks back into the party but you start that process by making policy that keeps them in the middle class, not by impoverishing them. Business Day political editor Natasha Marrian perhaps has a better view of Mantashe’s difficulty in this good piece about the race to succeed Zuma and the rules that govern it. Or should: ANC stampedes towards eye of the electoral needle.