The step aside rule is facetious, a schoolyard PR manoeuvre designed to fool us into buying into the endless talk of the ANC renewal.
Chief Dwasaho! This week, Mr President, you were booed at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg. Apparently, the workers jeered and hissed like venomous snakes when you stepped on stage.
You had to make a hasty retreat into the arms of your security detail. It is a sad indictment on the leaders of Cosatu that a head of state, our bundle of joy, isn’t free to address such an important event as the May Day. Askies my leader. I am just glad you were not physically harmed. I know these kinds of workers, the perpetually aggrieved types, are prone to setting up fires and breaking a bone or two.
I am for peace and harmony, especially amongst the gainfully employed lot who can put food on the table. Imagine a breadwinner who lives off the crumbs falling from the mineworkers on the outskirts of the mining towns. Fair enough. The Cosatu workers are on fire, and in a true SA style, they take it out on you, Mr President. Do they foresee a situation where you could rule by a decree and raise their salaries by a stroke of a pen? Perhaps.
This week, I am writing to you to say the workers aren’t helping. By now, Cosatu, all Cosatu affiliated workers should be up in arms about the step-aside rule misnomer.
The novel ANC rule requires all cadres facing criminal charges to temporarily step aside until they have sorted out the misunderstanding with law enforcement agencies and the National Prosecuting Authority.
The irony is that the cadres of our movement, the so-called “parliament of the people,” continue to earn from the public purse as if nothing happened. It works slightly better bar slight nuisance if you are employed at Luthuli House, where power resides in endless committees and meetings.
Let’s take the case of Mama Zandile “Solid Waste” Gumede. She remains on over R1 million salary while she “does the ground,” a euphemism for idling at home.
It’s nice to be a member of the ANC; you earn millions without lifting a finger. To make it worse, Gumede was elected to run the Durban region of the ANC and a day after her election, you guess right, she stepped aside. Theoretically, she can be re-elected as mayor of eThekwini in absentia and immediately step aside on full mayoral salary, complete with the perks of office, bodyguards, bag carriers and full access to the public purse.
In terms of the new rules, nobody on the step-aside rule can stand for election within the party structures, yet it is not applied retrospectively. We are yet to be informed if those on extended paid leave can be included in the list to Parliament.
To put it plainly, the step-aside rule is facetious, a schoolyard PR manoeuvre designed to fool us into buying into the endless talk of the ANC renewal. In other words, the step-aside rule is stunning in its stupidity, to use a phrase made famous by a fellow seasoned man of letters Barney Mthombothi.
We must rethink the step-aside guidelines to include all cadres mentioned in the Zondo State Capture Commission reports. If we do that, my leader, two-thirds of ANC “thugs” will be removed from political circulation in one fell swoop. We must forbid any tainted “leaders” from standing for elections to the ANC structures and public office. All step-aside cadres must be suspended without pay.
In my book, that would be the true meaning of ANC renewal. My leader, if you are dealing with an acute case of metastasis, physicians always recommend the complete removal of “tainted” organs and, if lucky, a transplant.
Mr President, that’s my view as a lowly paid newspaperman without the illustrious history of struggle, exile life (gobbling foreign whiskies and unfamiliar cuisine) or being incarcerated on Robben Island.
I know that I am a fine one to speak because I have no hope of ever ascending to the high office to serve “our people” by feeding at the public trough all in day’s work. The idea of a public censure (step aside) is that it must hurt and correct the offending behaviours of public officials; hence we need to broaden the scope and cut them loose.
We have to do this, especially in the light of the Zondo Report, part four, which asks and answers an obvious question: where was the ANC during state capture? Right there, in the middle of it all.
Thus, the step aside is a slap on the wrist in its present incarnation.
Step aside, my foot. Till next week, my man. “Send me.”
• Bhekisisa Mncube is a former senior Witness political journalist, award-winning columnist, and author. His new book, The Ramaphosa Chronicles, launches soon.