Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, has just done abrupt change of direction in his firing of Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene and his three-day successor to the post - political neophyte David van Rooyen. Zuma has now reversed his nomination of van Rooyen and appointed log-time confidant, Pravin Gordhan, a former South African Minister of Finance, back to his old post. Gordhan had been Minister of Finance from 2009 to 20014 when he was replaced by Nene. He performed reasonably well as Minister of Finance during his last tenure and had the broad support of the national and international market.
When Zuma suddenly announced the firing of Nene and the appointment of Van Rooyen the markets were astonished as South Africa is facing enormous, and growing, financial pressures. Its currency is in free-fall. Its reliance on the income derived from commodities is in decline with the collapse of the commodity prices. Its bond ratings have dropped to effectively 'junk status' and there are many who have lost faith in the ability of the Zuma-ANC government to staunch the financial decline of the economy.
There have been many reasons attributed to Zuma's abrupt firing of Nene, largely revolving around the power over Zuma exerted by Dudu Myeni, the SAA chairwoman, who is known to be a close confidante of the president. SAA is on the brink of bankruptcy -- and it has been put there by Dudu Myeni, its chairperson and her "reckless pursuit of an empowerment fantasy at the expense of an airline that is already severely distressed". [i]
SAA was heavily in debt to Airbus for the purchase of ten outdated aircraft it didn't need, including an immediate US$17 million payment demand currently due. In a compromise with Airbus SAA agreed to lease five A330 planes to replace the contracted new plane purchases. Dudu Myeni refused to let the deal go through with SAA, insisting that a "Black Empowerment" (BEE) company be the lessor from Airbus and the BEE company would then lease these to SAA. Because of the nature of BEE setups, a 30% set aside would accrue to the BEE leasing company in which several ANC leaders (including Myeni) would be the beneficiaries.
In the turmoil engendered by this controversy the then Finance Minister, Nene, took the matter out of the hands of Myeni and tried to do the transaction without enriching the BEE middlemen. Myeni apparently complained to Zuma, whose relationship with Myeni has been very close (personally and professionally). When Zuma tried to reverse Nene's actions Nene refused. That was when Zuma fired him. This abrupt firing of Nene has enraged many of the ANC leaders and the South African populace, especially as it highlighted the rapaciousness of BEE companies preying on the South African economy.
Faced with such a negative reaction Zuma reversed himself three days later, replacing Van Rooyen with Gordhan. The market has reacted well to Gordhan's return to Finance but most of the underlying questions about the ANC and Zuma persist.
The political situation in South Africa remains conflicted on a number of levels. It is necessary to understand the background of the ANC as it progressed to governance with Mandela's election to the Presidency in 1995 and the inherent conflicts within the party over the "Zuluisation" of the party, the residual fight between the 'three legs' of the ANC, the battle between the 'Operation Marion' loyalists and the 'Vula Boys', the strife with EFF and Julius Malema and the vanquishing of the Mbeki faction of the party.
One of the most important elements of the battle for control of South Africa in the wake of the burgeoning strength of the ANC and its military wing Umkonto we Sizwe ('MK') was the use by the Nationalists of the Zulus in Natal to oppose the ANC for control of the independence movement. The Nationalists funded the Inkatha Freedom Party ('IFP) of Buthulezi and provided the fighters of the IFP with weapons, explosives, communications equipment and training facilities. In 'Operation Marion' (well documented in the Truth and Reconciliation hearings) there is a detailed study of the training of 206 Zulus as assassins in 'hit squads' targeted at the ANC. By 1980 it had become clear that the open support of the South African Defence Forces to the opponents of the ANC risked exposure. So the securocrats decided that they would use their extensive facilities in the Caprivi Strip to train the Zulus of the IFP.
In a submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: "The Caprivi Trainees", 4 August 1997. it was shown that "since the mid-1980s KwaZulu Natal and areas on the Witwatersrand have been involved, in varying degrees, in a low intensity war. This war has claimed the lives of more than 20 000 persons". The report states "The training and deployment of the Caprivi Trainees fell squarely within strategies adopted by the South African state in the mid-1980s. The state perceived itself to be facing an onslaught of 'total revolutionary war' from within and outside South Africa. To combat this threat, the state employed counter revolutionary strategies which involved the taking of a wide range of actions." These included political, psychological, economic and security or forceful measures.
By the mid-1980s political and violent actions executed by anti-apartheid groups such as the ANC and their allied organisations reached unprecedented levels. The state adopted equally drastic measures to counter these threats, which included the use of acts of terrorism and guerrilla warfare. These were carried out by specific security organs and 'middle' or counter guerrilla groups, within and outside South Africa. The IFP's SADF-trained assassins were a case in point of such an operation within South Africa. The operation was codenamed 'Marion' and was executed by Intelligence Operation's Directorate of Special Tasks (DST). DST's support of groups such as Renamo in Mozambique and Unita in Angola are examples of such operations carried outside South Africa. Operation Marion was naturally accompanied by a program of deception and cover-ups. They still continue today.
At that time the ANC was part of a broader federation of like-minded groups under the rubric United Democratic Front ('UDF'). It was gaining a great deal of support from the international community as well as domestically. On or about 28 May 1984 at Ulundi, M G Buthelezi, President of Inkatha and Chief Minister of KwaZulu ('Buthelezi') set out in an address to the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly his need for a paramilitary wing to carry out protective and offensive actions. Buthelezi identified the UDF/ANC as the organisations responsible for the attacks which threatened the KwaZulu 'homeland'. According to a top secret SSC document dealing with the unrest situation in Natal, produced during March 1989, Inkatha took a decision during 1985 to turn the whole of KwaZulu and Natal into a 'no go area' for the UDF.
During November 1985 Buthelezi set out his needs to the then Director of Military Intelligence, Major-General Tienie Groenewald for military support, which included an offensive or attacking capacity. Buthelezi's requests were placed before an extra-ordinary meeting of the SSC at Tuynhuis on 20th December 1985. Minister of Defence, Magnus Malan, Minister of Law and Order, Louis Le Grange and Minister of Constitutional Development and Planning, Chris Heunis were tasked with establishing a "security force" for Buthelezi.
Two hundred and six Inkatha men were recruited by M Z Khumalo. The 206 were taken to the Caprivi Strip in Namibia where they received training at Hippo Camp by the Special Operations component of Military Intelligence and Special Forces. The recruits were divided into operational groups, one of which was an offensive group of some 30 men. The trainees were instructed that their targets would be located within the UDF/ANC. The other groups trained included Contra-mobilisation, Defence and VIP Protection. The Defensive group was an intelligence group whose members were trained in collecting information, surveillance, target development and compiling target dossiers. Those in the Contra-mobilisation group were trained in the propagation and promotion of Inkatha politics. The training lasted for approximately 6 months.
They began a campaign of murder and destruction of the UDF/ANC leadership. On 21 January 1988 Putter and Chief Director Intelligence Operations, Major General Neels Van Tonder met with Buthelezi. Van Niekerk, Colonel Mike Van den Berg (Senior Staff Officer for Operation Marion) and with M Z Khumalo. Putter sent a memorandum to Geldenhuys dated 28 January 1988. According to this document Buthelezi asked for further clandestine training. M Z Khumalo suggested a solution to the IFP in-fighting be solved by building a base from where Marion members could 'plan and take action'. A base for the offensive group was built at Port Durnford and a separate base for the rest of the group at Mkhuze was set up. A number of Inkatha fighters who were fugitives from justice were concealed at the Mkhuze base.
Operation Marion predates previously publicized activities in which undercover police and military officers, in what came to be referred to as a "third force," provided logistical backing when Inkatha's battle with the ANC escalated after Mandela's release in 1990. With elections on the horizon, Caprivi trainees in late 1993 took part in training some 5,000 recruits for "Self Protection Units" Inkatha was creating throughout the province. As the voting neared, violence rose to new levels.