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Exchange between Raymond Suttner and Edna Molewa

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Exchange between Raymond Suttner and Edna Molewa

Professor Raymond Suttner and Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa

12th September 2016

By: Raymond Suttner

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Here below is the record of an exchange between Raymond Suttner and Edna Molewa which took place during August and September 2016 on the pages of the Daily Maverick.  Creamer Media’s Polity is publishing this exchange, for the record, as the Polity.org.za website is mentioned in the exchange.

Article 1:
Raymond Suttner’s Op-Ed: Will removing Zuma solve our problems?, 8 August 2016

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It is common to read that the electoral fortunes of the ANC constituted a referendum on President Jacob Zuma’s presidency and that the ANC paid a price in local government for his various scandals. But is it correct to restrict our focus to the misfortune that Zuma’s leadership undoubtedly signifies for both the ANC and the country as a whole? If we do that does it mean that getting rid of Zuma is automatically an important step towards regenerating the ANC and restoring the organisation to its “former glory”? Does getting rid of Zuma automatically safeguard and revive democratic institutions and lead to much needed debate on issues of public concern? By RAYMOND SUTTNER.

A common narrative has emerged in the wake of the recent local government elections: that the electoral fortunes of the ANC constituted a referendum on President Jacob Zuma’s presidency and that the ANC paid a price in local government for his various scandals. Certainly in the way the campaign was conducted, there was less attention to local questions than the conduct of the president on the one hand, and the supposed white character of the DA on the other.

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But is it correct to restrict our focus to the misfortune that Zuma’s leadership undoubtedly signifies for both the ANC and the country as a whole? If we do that, does it mean that getting rid of Zuma is automatically an important step towards regenerating the ANC and restoring the organisation to its “former glory”? Does getting rid of Zuma automatically safeguard and revive democratic institutions and lead to much needed debate on issues of public concern?

The answer to that question lies partly in our agreeing on what it is that needs to be remedied. Can it be said that the problems with Zuma’s leadership are obvious? Can we assume that we have a common understanding of what needs to be remedied in order to “rectify” or, in the words of some ANC figures, to “self-correct” the problems currently besetting the organisation, and set it on a fresh course where all that has been stifled will now thrive?

Let us now recall, again, that many of those who now call for Zuma to step down were themselves involved in or did not see anything wrong with his rise to power. Alternatively, these problems have become primarily seen as related to what the Constitutional Court found over Nkandla and the earlier firing of Nhlanhla Nene. If we ensured that what remains of the Nkandla affair were cleaned up, if that is possible, and that the security of tenure of the current Minister of Finance were secured, and possibly also provided Nene with a senior government post, would that remedy the problems with the Zuma era?

No matter how serious and urgent a problem may be, one cannot solve it by taking shortcuts. The problems of the Zuma era started before his presidency and were magnified in the period of his leadership. The problems do not derive purely from the Constitutional Court having found that Zuma failed to observe his oath of office and that the markets and currency took a hit after the firing of Nene.

The first thing to note is that Zuma did not become president of the ANC or the country through a coup d’etat. He was not installed by the military but elected to these positions by the ANC and its allies, including the enthusiastic support of those who now disown him, some of whom went so far as declaring their willingness to “kill for Zuma”.

When Zuma was elected he was already facing hundreds of charges of fraud, racketeering and corruption. The High Court had implicated him as a beneficiary in the dealings that saw Shabir Shaik jailed for corruption. His hyperpatriarchal tendencies were already clear, though they evoked no signs of disapproval from the ANC, SACP or Cosatu, not even from women within the leadership of these organisations. Nor is this the case today, as seen in the reaction of the ANC Women’s League to a dignified protest of women commemorating the 10th anniversary of Zuma’s rape trial, while he was speaking at the IEC.

At that trial he and his supporters conducted themselves in a shameful manner, pummelling the complainant in and outside the courtroom, demonstrating contempt for gender and sexuality rights, and displaying militarism.

His comrades elected Zuma and he has been sustained throughout the wrongdoing of his office by an outwardly unanimous ANC leadership and ANC parliamentary members. They have greeted him with effusive praise and standing ovations and fawning statements.

Those who are Members of Parliament were found by the Constitutional Court to have failed in their duties under the Constitution. But what bears on the distance that has now developed between the ANC and its constituency, which has now rebuffed it at the polls, is not simply voting unconstitutionally or allowing the president to act without accountability. How we should understand the rupture in the connection between the ANC and the poorest of the poor goes beyond the actions of Zuma. It is found also in the callousness and contempt that the ANC leadership, at all levels, has shown towards the poorest of the poor, supposedly their core constituency.

We know that some of the Nkandla monies were diverted from what was intended for poverty relief. But what about the more general failure to provide basic needs, in situations where this was realisable? One recalls, for example, in the Gert Sibande municipality how the then Minister of Water Affairs, Edna Molewa, said the water was fit to drink. The tests were challenged and the water was not clean.

When the DA and the press asked her whether she would drink it then, she simply laughed. That laugh signified contempt for the public’s right to clean water. This contemptuous conduct happened in an area named after Gert Sibande, known as ‘”the lion of the East”, one of the greatest heroes of the struggle, a former Treason Trialist, who together with Ruth First had exposed the scandalous treatment of labourers on potato farms in the then Eastern Transvaal, leading to a national potato boycott.

The government also allowed the people of Madibeng to be deprived of water, even when that water was available, and instead turned a blind eye to private contractors supplying water at prices that could not be afforded by a very impoverished people.

Who can forget the former Premier of Gauteng, Nomvula Mokonyane, telling the residents of Bekkersdal that the ANC did not need their “dirty votes”? What did it mean for a representative of a supposed party of the poor to speak of the poor as being dirty?

What about the Freedom Charter’s demand for housing and shelter and the continued eviction of people into the cold winters? What do we say of the defiance of court orders in order to continually evict shack dwellers in eThekwini?

Before we assume that a return to the past will automatically revive a trouble-free ANC that will set us on a constructive course, let us have the humility to ask what made it possible for a man like Zuma to rise to the presidency of the ANC and the country and to practise the abuses he has done. What made it possible for him to do this with the consent, even fervent support, of other leaders?

All of us who have been in the ANC leadership need to look at the foundations that were laid and ask whether we took sufficient steps to avert the potential rise to the presidency of a person with the qualities or potential attributes of Zuma.

But for now one thing is clear. It is not Zuma alone who bears responsibility for the losses of the ANC and, more important, the misfortunes inflicted on the oppressed people of South Africa, the very people who were supposed to be free from oppression under an ANC government.

To be effective, leadership depends on trust. Leadership needs to earn and enjoy respect. The current ANC leadership has forfeited trust and not only has it lost respect but through its obsequious gestures towards Zuma it has lost any semblance of self-respect.

What is needed now is a broader dialogue and infusion of voices and ideas about our future. The ANC may well be part of this, provided it understands that, in remedying the current situation, there is a need for something more than its own “introspection”. The people of South Africa, wherever they are located, whether they are wealthy or poor, living in shacks or in the plush suburbs, in jobs or unemployed, on the land or landless, need to claim their own future.
It is not for me to prescribe what organisational form this should take. In fact, there may be no existing organisation that can embrace this need, and new organisations need to be established. My only suggestion is that the orientation ought to be broad, inclusive and nonsectarian.

The aim should be, among other short- and long-term goals, to recover a sense of connection between public representatives, public institutions and the people at large. That can only be achieved where representatives of organisations in or outside public institutions have a sense of compassion, care and responsibility for the plight of the poor and the vulnerable. That has been lost, and that needs more than the removal of Zuma to be recovered.

But the type of democracy we need should not be restricted to public institutions. It ought to include self-empowered people in a range of different sites where they build organisations to realise their needs in a range of ways. Some social movements exist. This is part of a rich tradition that needs to be revived. DM

Raymond Suttner is a scholar and political analyst. He is a former political prisoner for activities in the ANC-led liberation struggle. Currently he is a part-time Professor attached to Rhodes University and an Emeritus Professor at Unisa. His most recent book is Recovering Democracy in South Africa (Jacana and Lynne Rienner, 2015). He blogs at raymondsuttner.com and his twitter handle is @raymondsuttner

Link to original article:
http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-08-08-op-ed-will-removing-zuma-solve-our-problems

 

Article 2:
Edna Molewa’s Letter to the Editor: Raymond Suttner’s newfound moral conscience, 7 September 2016

Raymond Suttner’s article, “Will removing Zuma solve all our problems?” (Daily Maverick, 8 August 2016), was political point scoring at the expense of facts. It is unfortunate that these days all Suttner, an academic, writes about is President Jacob Zuma, as is his clear campaign against the president and the ANC government, flogging his recycled wares to different publishing houses. By EDNA MOLEWA.

At a time for instance when this administration, led by President Zuma, has allocated R12-billion in funding for support needy students through NSFAS, Suttner, an academic with a vested interest in the issue, is far more interested in driving a negative narrative around government.
His “moral conscience” is also newly found. Where was this critical voice of his when he served as a Member of Parliament under the previous administration – when millions of South Africans were dying of HIV/Aids because they weren’t offered the necessary treatment?

Attempting to drag my name into his sorry narrative is regrettable; in particular actions undertaken as Minister of Water Affairs in Carolina in the Gert Sibande District Municipality in 2012.

His account is ill informed. Either he did not read the publicly available documentation, or he was attempting to wilfully mislead the readers of the Daily Maverick.
Suttner writes that “the then Minister of Water Affairs, Edna Molewa, said the water was fit to drink”.

It was most certainly fit to drink. Results conducted by three laboratories, taken from water samples at five points in Carolina, found that the final PH and levels of aluminium, iron, manganese and sulphates in the Carolina water were within the set health limits. The initial pH levels were found to have been overcorrected from acidic to alkaline levels; however, this was swiftly corrected. The health of consumers was not at any point compromised.
Despite these results undertaken with the supervision of the department’s highly competent technical unit, Suttner adds: “the tests were challenged and the water was not clean”.

I challenge him to produce documentary evidence to support his claim.

Suttner accuses me of “contemptuous conduct” in my reaction to a call from the Democratic Alliance to drink the Carolina water to “prove” it was fit for human consumption.
He should be reminded that neither I nor any elected public official in this administration is answerable to the DA, but to the electorate – and in this particular instance, to the people of Carolina.

I stand by the fact that I responded appropriately and timeously to the needs of the people of Carolina at the time, and also worked with them in clearing the contaminated water caused by various forms of industrial development.

Whatever his opinion is of this government, one would expect that his arguments be based on facts, not Chinese whispers and DA press releases. DM

Edna Molewa is Minister of Environmental Affairs. Between 2010 and 2014 she was Minister of Water Affairs.

Link to original article:
http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-09-07-letter-to-the-editor-raymond-suttners-newfound-moral-conscience/#.V9aIqbVXSOU


Article 3:
Raymond Suttner’s Op-Ed: Edna Molewa on my ‘newfound moral conscience’ – a response, 12 September 2016

Edna Molewa devoted much of her letter to questioning my motives in criticising her actions when she was Minister of Water Affairs. It would have been better had she refuted the claims that government was callous in its reactions to the denial of water to communities. It was found necessary to litigate in order to secure the constitutional right to clean water for those living in Carolina, where the water had been polluted for many months, it appears through inadequate management of mine acid. By RAYMOND SUTTNER.

Edna Molewa takes issue with my characterisation of her role as then Minister of Water Affairs in Carolina in 2012, when communities were denied their constitutional right to clean water (“Letter to the Editor: Raymond Suttner’s newfound moral conscience”, Daily Maverick, 8 September 2016).

She claims that tests showed the water was clean. It is not possible to relate all the representations and legal actions taken. But the question is when the water was found to be clean and whether that claim went unchallenged. The state had to be hauled before the court where they were ordered to provide clean water, and when they failed to comply, further legal action was required.

The failure to provide clean water and communities having to drink water out of polluted streams was a regular feature of the period of Molewa’s incumbency, depicted on television screens and a range of media over this period. (For some reports on the water pollution in Carolina see, among others, those in the Mail & Guardian and Business Day in 2012 and 2013 and continuing to this day, in other areas).

Whatever Molewa’s interest in clearing her own name may be, she seems as concerned to depict me as lacking in integrity, hence the reference in the title to my having a “newfound moral conscience”. Thus she writes:
“His ‘moral conscience’ is also newly found. Where was this critical voice of his when he served as Member of Parliament under the previous administration – when millions of South Africans were dying of HIV/Aids because they weren’t offered the necessary treatment?”
The previous administration presumably refers to the period when Thabo Mbeki was president between 1999 and 2008. I was not a Member of Parliament at the time. I never served in Parliament when Mbeki was president, having resigned my seat in July 1997.

Given her interest in my ethical reputation I would advise Ms Molewa to check whether there is any inconsistency between the quality of what I advance now and that which I did when I was an ANC MP and member of the leadership of the ANC up till 1997.

Molewa is free to question my “moral conscience” but she needs to use some fact checking facility in order to direct it to situations where I was present and had an opportunity to act. (If it was necessary to raise one’s voice over former president Thabo Mbeki’s stance on HIV/Aids as a public figure surely that is a question that Ms Molewa should be directing at herself since she held high office throughout this period?)

Molewa depicts me as obsessed with President Zuma and says “all Suttner, an academic, writes about is President Jacob Zuma…flogging his recycled wares to different publishing houses”.

If I were to write only about President Zuma, that would be quite legitimate, given the range of irregularity, illegality and acts of violence committed under his leadership or in some cases through his direct involvement (with the acquiescence of Cabinet members and MPs like Ms Molewa).

But the truth of the matter is that I write on a range of topics, as is evident if Ms Molewa or her back-up team were to google what I have written. The article to which she replies was aimed precisely at arguing that, however problematic the presidency of Zuma may be, the problem goes beyond him, given that the government is engaged in a range of practices entailing patronage or corrupt relationships with others. For this condition many people in Cabinet, Parliament, structures of the ANC and its allies, apart from President Zuma, bear responsibility.

As it happens, I submit my articles (“flogging his recycled wares”) almost exclusively to Creamer Media’s polity.org.za and these are generally reprinted in the Daily Maverick and a limited number of other outlets. But I do have a right to spread whatever I write wherever I can secure publication.

Molewa’s reference to the allocation of funds to needy students is unclear, referred to as something in which I have a “vested interest”. The term “vested interest” usually refers to a situation where a person has something to gain as an individual. What is my “vested interest”?

Ms Molewa devoted much of her letter to questioning my motives. It would have been better had she refuted the claims that government was callous in its reactions to the denial of water to communities. It was found necessary to litigate in order to secure the constitutional right to clean water for those living in Carolina, where the quality of the water had been polluted for many months, it appears through inadequate management of mine acid (primarily the responsibility of another government department).
Even after the North Gauteng High Court ordered the municipal authorities to provide clean water and declared it clean, the communities are reported to have contested this. I do not know the present status of the water in Carolina, but certainly, the pollution of 2012 was not treated with the level of urgency of a government that depicted itself as concerned with the poorest of the poor. Access to clean water remains elusive for many communities to this day. That is one of many scandals of the current ANC-led government. DM

Raymond Suttner is a scholar and political analyst. He is a former political prisoner for activities in the ANC-led liberation struggle. Currently he is a part-time Professor attached to Rhodes University and an Emeritus Professor at Unisa. His most recent book is Recovering Democracy in South Africa (Jacana and Lynne Rienner, 2015). He blogs at raymondsuttner.com and his twitter handle is @raymondsuttner


Link to original article:
http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-09-12-op-ed-edna-molewa-on-my-newfound-moral-conscience-a-response/#.V9aIqLVXSOU

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