Letter: Ramaphosa, you need to explain why you appointed Arthur Fraser

Dear President Ramaphosa

The people of South Africa need to know whose president you are – theirs or the ANC’s? Because it is clear you cannot serve both. The objectives of the ANC as an organisation are incompatible with the wellbeing of our citizens and the stability of our country. The degree to which the law needs to be twisted – or, in many cases, entirely set aside – in order for the ANC’s objectives to be pursued will ultimately tear our democracy apart.

More specifically, you owe South Africans an explanation for your role in the appointment of Arthur Fraser as National Commissioner of Correctional Services back in 2018, and his subsequent granting of medical parole to former president Jacob Zuma last week, which happened against the recommendation of the Medical Parole Advisory Board and with your full knowledge and blessing.

It is also important to note that I speak here of your “role”, because you are normally criticised for the exact opposite – your lack of action. But this myth that you are a president who never knows anything, never does anything and therefore cannot be tied to anything needs to be put to bed once and for all. The deployment of Arthur Fraser and the unlawful granting of medical parole to Jacob Zuma has your personal fingerprints all over it. For once you’ve been a man of action.

You don’t need me to join the dots in this story because you wrote the whole thing. But, for the sake of the other readers of this letter, allow me to recap:

In 2018, near the start of your presidency, you took the executive decision to transfer Arthur Fraser from his position as Director General of the State Security Agency to the post of National Commissioner of Correctional Services. This particular cadre deployment, to use the ANC parlance, was entirely yours. For once you cannot hide behind the ANC’s favourite smokescreen: The Collective.

When you did this, you knew exactly what Fraser stood accused of. You knew the allegations of corruption and nepotism. You knew of the hundreds of millions of rands of State Security Agency money misappropriated on his watch. You knew of the Principal Agent Network – the parallel intelligence network set up by Fraser to serve the interests of Jacob Zuma. You knew that Fraser had shut down an internal investigation into him by revoking his Inspector General’s security clearance. You knew of the National Intelligence Agency’s forensic investigation into Fraser and others which found that criminal offences had been committed.

And still you deployed him to serve as the prisons boss.

The report by the Mufamadi High-Level Review Panel into the criminality at the State Security Agency would confirm to you all these allegations against Arthur Fraser, as well as others like David Mahlobo whom you also chose to redeploy rather than fire. When the DA challenged Fraser’s clearly irrational transfer to Correctional Services, your answering affidavit read like a fawning letter of reference for Fraser. This from a president who can’t stop vowing to clean up his government and the state.

Fast-forward three years, and it has become clear why Arthur Fraser was the perfect cadre for this deployment. Having already served Zuma and the ANC at the expense of his country in his previous role as spy boss, he would now be called upon to do it again. He would be expected to disregard the rules by vetoing the Medical Parole Advisory Board’s finding that Zuma should not be eligible for medical parole, and he would do this knowing upfront that you were informed and that you gave this decision your blessing.

We also know that you personally welcomed Zuma’s release from prison, despite his sentence being a legitimate outcome of our court system, and despite the fact that you knew his medical parole was a complete sham. In other words you welcomed the setting aside of the law for the benefit of the ANC.

And that’s really what this is all about. The ANC is very clearly in trouble on many fronts. But particularly in KwaZulu-Natal heading into elections with Zuma behind bars. And it is precisely for this kind of scenario that compromised, corrupt, unethical – but politically loyal – cadres are deployed to key positions across the state. This is precisely why you need to “control all levers of power”, to borrow the ANC’s own argument for cadre deployment from your 1997 Mahikeng conference.

Arthur Fraser is a textbook example of ANC cadre deployment – how it works and why it should be banished forever.

You recently sat in the witness stand at the Zondo Commission and vacillated between claiming you feel bad for all your government’s failures that were being laid bare, and staunchly defending the destructive practice of deploying ANC cadres to every part of the state. Even begging Judge Zondo not to take your cadre deployment away.

I understand the difficult position you’re in. I imagine it’s not easy playing these two roles at once – trying to come across as a remorseful and introspective president who serves the people and vows to do better, and being the leader of a party that cannot survive without the criminal capture of the state and has to fight for the very mechanism that makes this state capture possible.

That is why I ask you: Which of the two is more important to you? Would you rather serve your party or would you rather serve your country, as you raised your hand and swore to do when you took your oath of office?

You have to choose one because they are mutually exclusive, and South Africans need to know where you stand.

Yours sincerely,

John Steenhuisen
Leader, Democratic Alliance