Afri- Forum, how to take back a country, by taking its NPA, can the ANC learn !
Oscar Pistorius sleeps tonight perhaps his best sleep since that dreaded night on February 13, 2013 when he killed Reeva Steenkamp, since that moment he became haunted by a skinny man with a very heavy Afrikaans accent, simply known as the bulldog of South Africa’s prosecutions, Gerrie Nel. Today we hear Gerrie Nel has resigned from the NPA on a 24-hour notice.
Nel in his press conference with Kallie Kriel of Afri-Forum, is at pains to explain his move was long in the coming at least for the last 12 months he has been in conversation with the NPA. We are told Nel in the sunset of his NPA tenure boasts 35 years of service of a career as a state prosecutor. He had all but five years left before he was to retire.
Let me firstly pay respect to Nel for his commitment to serve his country and South African society at large as a civil servant, when he as advocate easily could have been a very successful private practitioner of law. His career speaks volumes and he has thrust himself into our legal prosecution consciousness perhaps in in unrivalled sense ala Reeva Steenkamp murder case. Gerrie’s early retirement could have been something ordinary after all its common that one can wake up one morning and it dawns on one, I am done, this is my last day, it happens often, yet its his next stop in his career Afri-Forum that is the interesting proverbial ‘kinkel in die kabel’.
The natural question is why would Nel choose to join Afri-Forum? It certainly cannot be for a bigger salary, it cannot be for shares in the civil rights movement it must therefore vacillates at another level. Perhaps this is no ordinary move but the fulcrum of what he holds dear in law and life. At another level its also a perfect relationship, he gets to do what he loves doing best namely investigations and prosecutions and Afri-Forum gets their title of becoming the unofficial NPA. With this move Nel lends the Afri-Forum the prosecutorial right to claim itself the guard of the guardians, and with this move political agendas fought in court of law in question of official state structures at the hand of a constitution as afforded.
Can the case be made that; this is Gerrie Nel’s political move, although he will argue it’s about law, well law functions in the atmosphere of a political context to deny the political context is to be disingenuous. Is his move therefore ‘vir – volk – en-vaderland’? The NPA as prosecutorial authority of SA, is laced in political gerrymandering at least as its claimed by some. That was the environment Gerrie Nel thrived and functioned at the top of his game.
Whilst South Africans are fed a daily diatribe of Gupta obsessed news from those who control the 4th estate Afri-Forum has over the 11 years of its existence distinguished it more and more as an entity that fills the gap to fight the cause of Afrikanerdom its primary constituency, not in an explicit sense but certainly in an implicit sense, a cause lost in political betrayal by a National Party when it ceded power and thus thrust Afrikaners into a wilderness of political wandering. For awhile the first years of our democracy saw Afrikaner intelligentsia bootstrapped in attempt to redefine itself in this new world that was ideologically, politically, religiously, aesthetically and increasingly economically different from what they had known.
Having lost political power, as far back as 1989 the Afrikaner has since that time been in political wilderness, but never short on strategy it had to come back, the question was always when and how, because political power was lost as confirmed in every election from 1994. Out of this arise the strategy, that being civil society formations, where Afrikaner wealth bolsters the new method of regaining constitutionally what was lost in the ballot. Fair game and nothing wrong with using the courts, even if it means court casing democracy. Then 11 years ago not even a teenager yet Afri Forum a noisy fox-terrier of the Afrikaner pride emerged, like all civil society formations it erred in the beginning but it became better at its agenda. Today it has morphed into a bulldog for claiming the bulldog himself as it sought to champion the cause of challenging political power through the judiciary as afforded by a constitutional democracy.
Constitutional democracy I hear you retort, yes, South Africa is a constitutional democracy and not a parliamentary democracy. This political settlement deal warranted a frame that would work for all in the negotiations, the late Van Zyl Slabbert in one of his latter works gives credit to Professor Marinus Weichers and a few other Afrikaners who acted as the surrogate legal and intellectual womb for a constitutional democracy as he claims the ANC was not too apprised on the concept. A constitutional democracy therefore is “is a system of government in which political authority, the power of government is defined, limited and distributed by a body of fundamental law called the Constitution. The authority of the majority is limited by legal and institutional so that the rights of individuals and minorities are respected.” This means in a constitutional democracy the constitution has the absolute last say. Clearly in a parliamentary democracy parliament assumes that final authority. Often South Africans fail to appreciate this distinction.
Afri-Forum’s record in winning cases essentially against the State attests a success story, therefore Afri-Forum has become a formidable entity not in size but in legal weight, supported by unlimited resources from it funders who share its ideological convictions and practical reality as mouthpiece for their stake in a democratic SA. Afri- Forum proved you do not need a political party, you just need to have resources widely defined to fight political entities and State structures, and resources Afri- Forum has in no short supply. Let us also admit they have developed an formidable institutional base with qualified and specialised resources skills.
Their appetite to attract the best is a critical part of its core strategy. Nel’s joining of Afri- Forum is not just an emotional one; it is more than pure sentiment, it personal but it is also ideological yet its timeous and a very political one regardless how he may attempt advocating it is all about law and prosecution. He leaves the NPA fully aware of its multiplicity of challenges, its politics, intricacies, anomalies, weaknesses, and personalities in which he himself was not left unscathed but became also a subject of investigation. How best can he deal with the perception that the NPA is a questionable entity, when he is attached to it, and he too is the subject of an investigation? He therefore as a means of challenge will vacate it to become its opponent from the frame of civil society with the expertise, knowledge and even secrets as tools he had earned in usage from the weakness of a NPA. Afri-forum therefore scored perhaps today its biggest victory of its existence, for it claims today the NPA and it will work to prove the NPA for the weak institution it believes it to be.
I ask again how do you take a country back politically when you have lost political power in a settlement, you do so at the hand of an institutional frame with the face of civil society formation that knows how to the use the toolbox of a constitutional democracy. For some this is an insignificant moment, but from where I stand, this is a monumental victory for the 11 year old Afri-Forum, not because Gerrie Nel is the NPA but because Gerrie Nel and his network can paralyse the NPA from within and outside as a parallel entity and run it from the Afri Forum Investigations Desk, as he will be investigating everyone in the NPA and beyond thus confirming the NPA what he knows it to be for the time he has spent in the corridors and systems of its practice.
The case can be made that Afri-Forum with this private investigation and prosecution office has hijacked the NPA’s role effectively saying we will govern prosecutions whoever has a case come and report it, because we are the NPA. Regardless to how unpalatable this may taste in our collective mouths, the NPA is now a private institution.
The success of civil society formations in South Africa is their tenacity to take the State and its varied structures on in the courts and they have had several knock outs let us not forget the Correctional Services case to cite but one, for their challenging of political power comes undergirded by our constitutional democracy something we must celebrate yet mourn over. Celebrate because the existence of civil society formations have contributed to the jurisprudence that over the last 20 years have defined our democratic context as entrenched. It is Afri-Forum who takes on Julius Malema’s EFF claiming itself the custodian in protection of the constitution when it in true sense is really vir – volk – en- vaderland.
Juxtapose an Afri-Forum who exists for the regaining of Afrikaner political power with the ANC; the ANC as the leaders of State is the natural target of Afri-Forum and others. The ANC and its government is kept busy to constantly engage in fight-back strategies hardly leading the attack to defend its programmes, policies that ultimately are State policies and programmes aimed at normalising a South African society.
Yet the ANC until now has lacked the foresight to counter the likes of Afri-Forum, not for lack of resources but for lack of coherent political leadership and strategy from the earliest days of democracy until today, Africa’s oldest movement had no aptitude to formalise its own structures of civil society formations that can built a cognitive and conscious response in institutional prevalence and capacity to withstand the onslaught from a sector that Afrikaners made their new abode. The ANC needs an Afri-Forum as counter to level the balance of forces. It can thus be argued the ANC failed despite good counsel to play in that space, and to consciously direct resources to level the playing field where liberal and conservatives live and breath as rightfully empowered by a constitutional democracy.
With this ‘vir – volk – en – vaderland’ marriage of Afri Forum and Gerrie Nel, the game in prosecutions and law is changing and it warrants a response not a statement from Luthuli House but a cognitive response, that learns from Afri- Forum. That response has to be authentic, it has to ask why the ANC is not in the NGO / Civil society formations playing field, it must ask can the ANC continue to be absent, when major fights are won in this space. The ANC cannot ask for a Native Council, because the very foundations of leaders associated with the ANC are also absent in this space, as they are framed to critique the ANC no different to Afri- Forum.
I hold the ANC needs to have a civil society formation footprint and entity that is resourced with the correct people, funded duly and in work for the defence of the gains made, for Afri- Forum plays in that field informed by the losses the Afrikaners suffered in political embrace, yet with benefits of apartheid capital. The ANC must play in that space and environment, for the gains made that appears threatened, as assisted by the black elite, ( the latter may be a pipe dream).
We will have to wait and see how this what I have dubbed vir-volk-en-vaderland relationship for Afri-Forum and Nel will pan out, but kudos to this almost teenager, it shows you what foresight and resources can achieve!
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
A public commentator on political and religious matters.