OPINION: Cronin's zigzagging facilitates the counter revolution in the ANC

Jeremy Cronin, who calls himself a revolutionary, has gone out of his way to use his own standing in the broad democratic movement to help facilitate the advance of the counter revolution, writes Thami Ntenteni.

In May this year a few of us, members of the ANC Veterans League, issued a document entitled "Discussion Document on Counter Revolution, State Capture and Corruption in South Africa" (Discussion Document).

All of us had taken note and fully agreed with an important observation contained in the 2019 election manifesto of our movement, the ANC, which was issued in January this year. That observation said:

"The ANC acknowledges that we made mistakes and veered off course.

"As a nation, we have learned the harsh impact of corruption on society and the economy. We have witnessed the loss of integrity in some of the institutions of state, business and political and other organisations. We have learned hard lessons about the vigilance needed to stop lawlessness, greed and selfishness from taking root.

"We are resolved to work with our people to address this cancer in our society."

We welcomed this admission because already in October 2016, as members of the ANC Stalwarts and Veterans we had issued the document entitled "For the Sake of our Future" which drew attention to the ills which were afflicting the ANC.

This was followed by the November 2017 Declaration of the National Consultative Conference which made concrete proposals to address the challenges we had identified the previous year. As it happens those proposals are also directly relevant to the observation in the 2019 election manifesto we have quoted.

It is obvious that by the time we issued our Discussion Document in May this year we had spent considerable time trying to understand the nature of the disease – the general crisis – which was and is clearly destroying our country. We were doing this because we believed and believe that the ANC in particular had and has a responsibility to lead the struggle to defeat that disease and must therefore understand the true nature of the challenge our country faces.

As we continued to study our situation in depth we came to the conclusion that our country faces much more than a challenge of corruption and greed and the other negative features mentioned in the ANC election manifesto.

Rather we face a very serious problem of counter revolution!

Our Discussion Document therefore contains such statements as:

"…it is clear that the country is in the grip of a general political, economic and social crisis which became entrenched in the last nine to ten years.

"This crisis became entrenched because our system of governance had been captured by forces beholden to the counter-revolution…

"The strategic challenge which confronts all forces which value the defence of our people's democratic gains is to unite to defeat the anti-democratic counter revolution."

It is obvious that it would be irresponsible of us to make such a serious statement with no evidence to support it.

Our Discussion Document therefore details at some length material contained in the report of the "Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance by the South African Revenue Service" appointed by President Ramaphosa on May 23, 2018 and chaired by retired Judge Robert Nugent.

Among other things the Nugent report says:

"The transition of SARS from what it was to what it became was brought about by events that are shocking. We think what occurred can fairly be described as a premeditated offensive against SARS, strategized by the local office of Bain & Company Inc, located in Boston, for Mr Moyane to seize SARS, each in pursuit of their own interests that were symbiotic, but not altogether the same. Mr Moyane's interest was to take control of SARS…

"I [Judge Nugent] reported in my interim report that the (weakening of SARS) was brought about by at least reckless mismanagement on the part of Mr Moyane. We have heard much evidence since then.

"What has become clear is that what occurred at SARS was inevitable the moment Mr Moyane set foot in SARS. He arrived without integrity and then dismantled the elements of governance one by one. This was more than mere mismanagement. It was seizing control of SARS as if it was his to have."

The question obviously arises – why would Moyane want to seize control of SARS as if it was his to have?

A thorough reading of the Nugent report shows that what Moyane was about was to destroy SARS. The Discussion Document reproduces the various instances in the Nugent report which detail what Moyane and others working with him did to destroy SARS.

Interestingly, the Nugent report makes no allegation or assertion that Moyane corruptly acquired (stole) any of the money which SARS collects. This was not his mission.

SARS provides our democratic state/government with 95-98% of the revenue it needs to carry out its tasks. This means that to destroy SARS, as Moyane tried to do, is in essence to destroy the democratic state itself!

That defines, exactly, the meaning of counter revolution as targeted, in our case, against the democratic revolution which emerged victorious in 1994.

And then enters comrade Jeremy Cronin. And he enters to make a very firm statement that we are entirely wrong to argue that our country is confronted by the fact of a counter revolutionary offensive. He makes this assertion in an article published on News24, entitled "Zuma's conspiracy narrative a timely warning against the dangers of paranoia".

Comrade Cronin is a member of the Central Committee (CC) of our ally, the SACP, and was, for many years, a member of the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC. All this suggests that we should take the views of such a senior comrade seriously. However, there are some matters which raise major concerns about his intervention.

On June, 9, 2019 the SACP CC issued a major statement which, among other things, said:

"The CC in its deliberations about the challenges facing our country has come to the conclusion that what may appear to be merely corrupt and parasitic networks of state capture has now become a counter-revolution directed at crippling the ANC from within and frustrating the capacity of the democratic government to pursue the objective of changing the lives of our people for the better…

"Any sustained attack on the capacity of both the ANC the Alliance, as well as the democratic government, to carry out their mandate, constitutes a counter-revolution and should be understood and characterised as such."

This statement of the CC shows that our ally had come exactly to the same conclusion we explained in our Discussion Document concerning the fact of the counter revolution. We therefore find it very strange indeed that a mere five weeks after the SACP CC decision we have cited, comrade Cronin would take to the media boldly to declare that all talk of counter revolution is pure hogwash.

This matter is further complicated by what Cronin said on July 27, 2019. This was in a lecture entitled "The Vanguard Role of the SACP" which he delivered on the occasion of the 98th anniversary of the party.

During the lecture Cronin said:

"So where is the ANC in all of this? Significant and factionalised parts of the ANC's organisational machinery now constitute the most clear and present danger to our democracy at this time. The state-capture faction has bled social property dry, notably through looting SOEs, a key potential for driving a national democratic revolution.

"The counter-revolution is not located in some marginal white, ultra-right formation or in the CIA headquarters in Langley. It is inside of the ANC itself and, thanks to looting, it is relatively well resourced. In the face of this counter-revolution, the ANC is, at best, often flat-footed. At worst, it has become the counter-revolution's HQ."

What then are we supposed to make of this sequence of events?

On June 9, the SACP CC says our country is confronted by counter revolution. Five weeks later, Cronin writes that there is no such counter revolution. And then ten days after this, on July 27, the same comrade Cronin says, yes, our country is confronted by counter revolution.

We do not know whether comrade Cronin will ever provide a cogent and credible explanation for this very puzzling and disturbing zigzag. Neither can we explain the basis on which he denounced our Discussion Document.

In this regard he started by characterising what comrade Jacob Zuma said when he appeared before the Zondo commission concerning what he described as long-standing efforts by "enemy intelligence agencies" to destroy him politically, including by using people within the ANC who he said had worked as agents of these agencies.

Rejecting the Zuma presentation, Cronin cited two words negatively to characterise that presentation. These words are paranoia and nostalgia. He therefore makes the assertion that we too, the authors of the Discussion Document, because we sound the alert about counter revolution, are similarly afflicted by paranoia and nostalgia.

This is to lay the basis for the bold assertion he then makes, in these words:

"To attribute a grand political strategic objective to the phenomenon of state capture is a mistake. The democratic revolution is collateral damage, not the strategic objective of the state capturers… State capture has been driven by a greedy network in pursuit of industrial-scale looting of public resources."

He then states in his concluding paragraph:

"Let's focus on the actual misdeeds of state capture itself, as I believe the Zondo commission is seeking to do. Let's better understand how and why it was allowed to fester. And let's not get sucked into diversionary narratives and counter-narratives based on a conspiratorial nostalgia for a different time."

And there we have it!

Comrade Cronin says – pay attention to Zondo; ignore Nugent!

Understand the general crisis facing our country as having been caused by corrupt individuals who have looted public resources. Abandon all ideas that such looting itself serves the purposes of the counter revolution. Catch the greedy and corrupt individuals and the country will return to good health.

True to his injunction – ignore Nugent – Cronin does not challenge even one of the pieces of evidence presented in the Nugent report and cited in our Discussion Document concerning the deliberate effort to destroy SARS. This is because he has no facts of any kind to counter any of the many truths contained in the Nugent report.

Instead comrade Cronin wants to divert us away from these truths by arguing that all that happened was, among others, the "capture (re-purposing) of… SARS" for the sole purpose to "facilitate" the looting of public resources!

To explain the deep damage that was being done by the counter revolution, our Discussion Document says:

"…we would like to observe that what has happened in our country especially in the last nine to ten years has been:

- the severe weakening of the democratic movement, including the ANC, the Alliance and other formations of the broad democratic movement;

- the radical weakening of various institutions of the democratic State, including SARS, the SAPS, the NPA, and others;

- the weakening of the capacity of the State to apprehend and stop the wrong-doers in order to end the corruption expressed as the looting of public funds, as was done by the Guptas, Watsons et al and their collaborators;

- the destruction of the commitment to particular ethical standards and a work culture within the Civil Service, which committed this Service to the value to serve the people; and,

- the severe weakening of commitment to the obligation by the public sector to account to the people about the management and use of public resources, resulting in huge sums of public funds being diverted to individual criminal gain by various individuals.

"This is exactly what the counter-revolution has sought to achieve as an essential part of its advance towards the defeat of the Democratic Revolution."

Strangely for somebody who calls himself a revolutionary, comrade Cronin brushed all this destruction aside as mere "collateral damage", insisting that the actual problem on which the nation should focus is stopping the looting of public resources.

This situation demands that we call a spade a spade. Cronin intervened on July 17 through News24 to try to demobilise the struggle against the counter revolutionary offensive to defeat the democratic revolution, arguing that the systematic subversion of the democratic revolution is mere "collateral damage" caused by the greed of some individuals and was not the result of counter revolution.

We were puzzled to read in his article that we, the authors of the Discussion Document, were, according to him, "Mbeki-aligned".

We only understood the purpose of this strange statement when we read his July 27 lecture. In this lecture he makes it a point to join others opposed to our movement, the ANC, to attack and discredit comrade Mbeki on the basis of a peculiar "left" argument. It is therefore clear that comrade Cronin also sought to discredit us by describing us as "Mbeki-aligned" and thus persuade the people to dismiss the message we were communicating about the reality of the counter revolution.

All these manoeuvres help us to get closer to understanding why Cronin, who calls himself a revolutionary, has gone out of his way to use his own standing in the broad democratic movement, and whether wittingly or not, to help facilitate the advance of the counter revolution and therefore the possible defeat of the democratic revolution.

- Thami Ntenteni is a Veteran and Stalwart of the ANC and he writes in his private capacity.

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