/Much ado about nothing around Derek Hanekom

Much ado about nothing around Derek Hanekom

2019-07-31 05:00

In 2017 there was a constant buzz about a possible breakaway party being formed if the Zuma faction won at the Nasrec conference. Everyone was debating the possibility, not just Derek Hanekom, writes Melanie Verwoerd.

I have
never heard so much ado about nothing as in the case of the Derek Hanekom accusations
last week.

A quick
refresher, in case you missed it: Julius Malema, undoubtedly sensing that the
EFF and Public Protector were going to lose their case against Pravin Gordhan,
stood outside the High Court in Johannesburg and in his oh-so-Julius way
announced that Derek Hanekom had had meetings with members of the EFF in 2017
before the secret no-confidence ballot against Jacob Zuma in Parliament.

When asked
about it, Hanekom, in his characteristic straightforward and upfront manner,
confirmed that a meeting had taken place. A few hours later Ace Magashule,
undoubtedly desperate for some distraction from the Estina dairy project revelations
at the Zondo commission, issued a statement.

“The African National Congress
is dismayed by its National Executive Committee Member Derik (sic) Hanekom’s
confession that he did had (sic) several meetings with the opposition EFF,”
the statement read, before it launched into a vicious personal attack on
Hanekom.

Spelling
and grammar errors aside, (what is it with the ANC press office and spelling?)
the statement gave the impression that Hanekom had had some Damascus Road
experience and thus “confessed” to some terrible sin – which is of
course utter nonsense.

So
what if he had met with the EFF? MPs constantly meet with members of opposition
parties. They discuss matters on the parliamentary agenda and they strategise how to get matters to pass
or not pass. It happens all the time – as it should.

The
point of course is not that a discussion took place. It is the fact that they
discussed Zuma’s removal which got Magashule – or whoever wrote that statement –
so riled up. If Malema had said that Hanekom met with them to discuss the
removal of Pravin Gordhan, I doubt that a single word would have been uttered.

It
is also not as if it is the first time ANC people were having quiet discussions
with opposition party members. I was once told that there had been “secret”
discussions between a member of the top six and the EFF to stop the nuclear deal
years ago. I don’t know if it is true, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Shortly
after Magashule’s late night press statement, Zuma sent out a tweet. Just as an
aside: there seems to be a bit of a pattern here that after Magashule’s office
issues a controversial press statement or tweet, Zuma tweets shortly after in
support of his position. (Remember the SARB issue?) Either Zuma has become a
social media expert or the people who handle his and Magashule’s offices are
still very close and coordinate their strategies. Perhaps the NEC should
investigate that?

To
get back to last week, Zuma (or his handlers) tweeted that Hanekom was “a known enemy agent”.
No one would be surprised that Zuma would see Hanekom as an enemy given that
Derek was one of those who bravely spoke out in the NEC about the need for Zuma
to go. But to suggest anything more is totally ridiculous and frankly bizarre given
that Zuma appointed Hanekom more than once to serve
in his Cabinet.

It
is worthwhile to remember that when this coffee meeting between Hanekom and the
EFF took place, it was an extraordinary time. ANC MPs who took their oath to
honour the Constitution seriously knew that something drastic had to be done.
Zuma and his cronies had brought the country to the edge of the abyss. I spend
a lot of time observing Parliament and at that time it was clear that numerous
discussions amongst members of the governing party and across the aisle were
taking place.

Malema
also ridiculously suggested that Hanekom mentioned that he was going to form a
new party. Hanekom has been a loyal ANC member for decades. He went to jail for
being an ANC member. Unlike so many others he didn’t resign when he was thrown
out of Cabinet. He stayed on as a backbencher,
because he believed in serving the country and the ANC. 

In
2017 there was a constant buzz about a possible
breakaway party being formed if the Zuma faction won at the Nasrec conference. Everyone was debating the
possibility. So again, if something in that line had come up, it would not have
been strange. However, Hanekom would have known that, were such a party to have
been formed, it would have required someone other than himself to have driven
the process.

Last
week’s drama has confirmed a few things, none which has anything to do with
Derek Hanekom.

1)
The EFF can’t be trusted – this is self-evident from this event.

2)
The ANC has a big problem with their media office and it is high time that the
NEC does something about it. No political party worth its salt would issue a
scathing statement about one of their very senior members without first
consulting that person and running it past senior party leadership. It is not
the first time that this has happened. Remember the Gordhan and Senzo Mchunu “black
professionals” drama? Statements seem to be issued left, right and center
by people with personal agendas in the ANC’s communication department to the
detriment of the party.

3)
Many of those who are in senior positions in the ANC care very little about the
future of this country. Instead of fixing the economy and delivering to the
poorest of the poor, they are hell-bent on fighting factional battles.

This drama is clearly not about Hanekom. It is about those who want
to distract the press, the country and the ANC from their corrupt and dirty
deeds. They know that if they
can’t get rid of Ramaphosa and his supporters they will almost certainly end up
in prison overalls.

– Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.

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