Bruce’s List: A guide to informed reads.
So, no sooner had the ANC completed a fractious weekend national executive committee (NEC) meeting about recalling President Jacob Zuma — and, according to the party spin, having had a lively discussion that ended with a consensus that he should not be recalled, and secretary-general Gwede Mantashe saying the party would from now on focus on unity and self correction — than this happens. The incipient war between finance minister Pravin Gordhan and Sars commissioner Tom Moyane has broken out into the open.
This is the same war as the one Derek Hanekom started at the weekend, with his NEC motion proposing that Zuma be recalled. The war is between two factions — one supporting Zuma and the kleptocracy he has allowed to emerge around him, and another, which we could call constitutionalists.
Battles will move between the party realm and the government without hindrance because in the minds of both the good guys and the bad — and most of the population — party and state are already the same thing. It is a depressing thought. But from his perch, Zuma can protect just about anyone but himself. You can see doubt creeping into some commentary as Zuma seems to survive anything. However — trust me on one this — he will not escape due process.
Zuma has a date with the supreme court of appeal in Bloemfontein early next year, where he will seek permission to appeal the high court ruling that the decision not to charge him with fraud in 2009 was irrational.
Even if the supreme court hears an appeal, he will lose. Then he’ll go to the constitutional court — and he’ll lose there too. By August, the 780 or so fraud counts against him will stand. Then the National Prosecuting Authority will decline to prosecute and it, too, will be taken to court — and it, too, will lose. That is because not prosecuting the reinstated charges will also be irrational.
It won’t happen tomorrow, but this saga is going to have a deeply satisfying end. And, if Zuma and his friends have spirited any ill-gotten gains offshore, the world will help us get them back.
Here, meanwhile, is today’s front-page lead in Business Day. It’s more of the same. It’s almost as if Gordhan is daring Zuma to sack him.
Meanwhile, in the electricity and energy realm, things could not be more surreal. A week after bringing out her latest version of the so-called integrated resource plan (IRP), energy minister Tina Joemat Pettersson held another press conference to explain that, in fact, when she said SA would need nuclear power only from 2037, she actually meant 2026. Huh? So it wasn’t a typo or anything — it was an actual brain fart.
The year 2026 also just happens to be the date that Eskom, after the launch of the IRP, said it was targeting for nuclear. The power utility also said that it would, in a few weeks, issue a thing called a “request for proposals” (RFP). People, remember, issuing an RFP is not a tender, for heaven’s sake. All that happens is that the diminishing number of nuclear reactor producers who still think we might order something will send us their brochures and write in an estimated cost per unit and an estimated cost per unit of electricity. Basically, the more reactors you order, the less they’ll cost. My local Spar does that too. Everyone wants you to spend more money than you have.
Speaking of surrealism, the nuclear debate, if that is what it can be called, reminds me of Salvador Dalí’s famous painting, The Great Masturbator, a grotesque rendering of the artist’s own, considerable, conflicts about sex and sexuality. Long before it is possible to commission a nuclear power plant in SA, the ANC will no longer be in government. Either that or we will no longer be a democracy. Here’s Joemat Pettersson dribbling on about the bits she forgot to say the week before.
By suddenly agreeing with Eskom’s timing, Joemat Pettersson will have cheered up Matshela Koko, Eskom’s new “acting” CEO, who is hot for atomic fission. I think she’s also done that by squeezing out of him an understanding that the renewables programme can now continue, without Eskom (read Brian Molefe) trying to stop it. Renewables will still be on the table long after nuclear is off it, so Joemat Pettersson has perhaps done well. Of course, Zuma’s busy little hands will have been in that second press conference. He has miles to go, after all, and promises to keep. A toast, Comrade Vladimir! Tvoye zdorovye ...
Here’s energy expert Chris Yelland explaining the obvious. The new IRP deliberately and without any explanation imposes limits on the growth of renewable energy precisely so that nuclear still gets a role, and early. This is long and, quite frankly, Yelland needs an editor, but if you get through it you’ll know exactly what is happening. Meanwhile, don’t forget this little gem about the official lies being spread about the costs of nuclear. It appeared in Business Day earlier this week, and is absolutely shocking.
And how long might this all go on for? Well, as long as Zuma runs the government. And how long might that be? Well, Ray Hartley has an answer that might depress you. It’s, sort of, forever. In a similar vein, Business Day political editor Natasha Marrian believes Zuma is so powerful he might indeed still be able to orchestrate his own succession as party leader in December next year. I’m not so sure. Hopefully Marrian is battling an attack of the blues after last weekend’s Zuma “victory”.
I mean, something has to give — and people like Gordhan or Hanekom or ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu are not simply going to walk away from the ANC. But the factions in the party are real, and they are angry and hateful. Between now and the party election next year, anything could happen. Hold on to your hats. Here’s the ANC’s Mantashe being a little less discreet about what happened at the weekend. The bit about the box is beyond me, but the word hate is easy to understand.