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Cablegate: Baleka Mbete Gives a Few Clues About Balance Of

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FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
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INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 7120
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 001829

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (CLASSIFICATION CORRECTED TO SBU)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM ASEC SF PGOV
SUBJECT: BALEKA MBETE GIVES A FEW CLUES ABOUT BALANCE OF
POWER

REF: PRETORIA 01755

PRETORIA 00001829 001.4 OF 002


-------
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Among local observers of South African politics, one
key question during the election campaign and in the
aftermath of the April vote was whether the balance of power
would reside at the Union Buildings or in Luthuli House.
Former Deputy President, and current African National
Congress (ANC) chairperson, Baleka Mbete gave a few hints
about where power lies during a public lecture at the
University of Johannesburg in late August. She said that the
ANC was instrumental when President Jacob Zuma selected his
new Cabinet, but was noncommittal about whether certain
government ministries -- including the Ministry of Monitoring
and Evaluation -- report to the administration or to the ANC.
Despite her vagueness about where power resides, her
characterization of government decisions and policies
suggests that the ANC is helping set the agenda while the
Zuma government is making the final call about
implementation. End Summary.

---------------------------------------
Mbete Opens About Zuma's First 100 Days
---------------------------------------

2. (SBU) ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete spoke to a crowd of
roughly 20 students, academics, and journalists at the
University of Johannesburg on August 25. She opened her
remarks by characterizing the Zuma administration as a "new
government." (Note: Her remark later drew derision from the
crowd who noted the ANC has been in power since 1994 even if
Zuma is newly in office. End Note.) She admitted the
previous government under former President Thabo Mbeki did
not do enough to address concerns on the ground, saying that
"the fact that government did not appear to listen is a main
reason people are in the streets today protesting poor
service delivery and corrupt local leaders." She said the
public is running out of patience because "people want better
education, improved health care, more jobs, and protection."
According to her, the ANC's ruling party congress in December
2007 addressed ways forward to tackle these issues. However,
she added, "We have not yet had a chance to implement our
vision fully." Mbete conceded that the municipal structures
of government are plagued by poor governance, bad financial
management, and corruption among government officials and
businesspersons. In addition to knowing about these
challenges, the ANC "plans to hold local government leaders
more accountable," said Mbete.

3. (SBU) Ways of holding local government leaders more
accountable include the establishment of a telephone hotline
so citizens can call the government to complain about poor
service delivery and corruption, according to Mbete. She
also said the ANC would hold leaders accountable by using its
policy advisers at Luthuli House to draft ways of improving
implementation and monitoring. The discussion of government
evaluation and monitoring was illustrative of the new
government because its helped clarify where the power of
power resides under this new government. Mbete said Luthuli
House played a key role in the establishment of the new
Ministry for Monitoring and Evaluation. She related, "We
pushed really hard for there to be a ministry of evaluation
on Zuma's staff at the Union Buildings." However, she added
Qon Zuma's staff at the Union Buildings." However, she added
that the new ministry would not necessarily report its
findings to the ANC. She said, "I do not know if the new
ministry has even met yet or whether it has reported anything
of note. Collins Chabane (who chairs the ministry) is
supposed to report to us, but he may not have anything to
debrief yet." (Note: Mbete also discussed the decision to
break the Ministry of Education into the Ministry of Basic
Education and the Ministry of Higher Education. In her
remarks, it was clear that she was a crucial driver in the
decision to split the ministries. She said, "I pushed really
hard for us to improve education and how we monitor
teachers." She believes the Ministry of Basic Education will
do a better job of taking responsibility for younger learners
as its own entity. End Note.) When asked by an audience
member whether an government minister has more clout than an
ANC leader, she replied, "Your guess is as good as mine."
She contended that the ANC needs to be strengthened, which is

PRETORIA 00001829 002.4 OF 002


why the party opted to keep so many leaders out of
government. Yet, she added that the temptation of going into
government is often too much to sway some to stay at Luthuli
House. She said, "There is money at Parliament. There is
less money at Luthuli House."

4. (SBU) She discussed the ongoing conversation about the
future of provinces in the country. (Note: See Reftel for
more information on the debate over provinces. End Note.)
She made the argument that the number of provinces should
remain fixed and that they should have broad administrative
independence. According to her, "Provinces should almost act
with their own sovereignty because they border neighboring
countries." However, she also noted there is an ongoing
debate about whether to consolidate the provinces and there
would not be any resolution to the issue for several months.

5. (SBU) In closing, Mbete made one remark that was
illustrative of a strain of thinking within the ANC right
now. When asked whether South Africa would continue its
ambitious foreign policy during the next five years, Mbete
replied, "We should not be a leader on the continent ... We
do not have all the answers." She added, "We should be
focused on internal problems." Her remarks led to murmurs
throughout the room as the audience tried to understand how a
former Deputy President could make such statements given
South Africa's standing on the continent.

-------
Comment
-------

6. (SBU) Mbete's discussion of whether the Union Buildings
or Luthuli House has more input into final decisions taken by
the Zuma government gets to the heart of where power rests in
the post-Mbeki era. While it is clear that Luthuli House was
consulted early and extensively during the formation of the
Zuma government, it is becoming increasingly clear that
Cabinet is making final decisions and then implementing them
-- often without talking with the ANC first. Such an
arrangement is not bad in the short term as the ANC most
likely will be concerned with strengthening the party,
preparing for the 2011 local elections, and wrestling with
rumors of a new succession battle ahead of 2012. Over the
longer term, however, any disconnect between the Union
Buildings and Luthuli House will weaken leaders both in
government and in the party.
GIPS

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