Tag Archives: Zuma

South Africa – Max du Preez on post-Zuma country


2016-09-20 07:30

Max du Preez

There is no guarantee that South Africa will be in a healthier state this time next year, but one thing is certain: the breathtaking pace of the political fraying and unscrambling we’re experiencing right now will result in a totally different political environment by then.

We ordinary citizens are like spectators at a ferocious ping pong match, our eyes darting from left to right. Who’s playing? Who’s winning? Who’s cheating? What’s the score? What’s at stake?

If I have to put lipstick on the pig, I would say that at least the situation isn’t static; at least we’re not stuck in a rut like some other societies in distress. And I would add that there has never been such a broad, popular surge against corruption in South Africa.

The great unravelling started to pick up pace after the results of the local elections in August.

The ANC’s support declined, they lost control of three big metros and the two main opposition parties grew.

There was consensus that Zuma was mostly to blame, and this weakened his position considerably, even more than after the Constitutional Court found that he had violated the Constitution.

Jumping ship

Zuma’s behaviour, like his parading as a victim in Parliament last week, showed that he knew this.

His opponents suddenly became much bolder and his supporters much more on the defensive.

Some Zuma sycophants, like former chief whip Mathole Motshekga, started jumping ship. The SACP and several Cosatu unions openly switched their loyalty to Cyril Ramaphosa.

Virtually every ANC veteran worth his/her salt publicly demanded that Zuma stood down.

South Africans of all colours and persuasions expressed themselves loudly against the Zuma cabal’s dangerous war against finance minister Pravin Gordhan and the national treasury. #HandsOffPravin was trending on Twitter.

Just about the only positive political excitement since August was the promise that the new DA mayors of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay would start governing differently and efficiently, and quickly eradicating corruption and wastage.

Zuma the Survivor’s strategy that had worked for so many years was in tatters. He couldn’t reinvent himself, because he has to rely on the rotten half of the ANC: the corrupt, the rent seekers, the tenderpreneurs and the rural barons.

These elements know very well that without Zuma in power, they face certain political and financial ruin. And they haven’t finished eating.

As fate would have it, other strands also started coming together recently that further weakened Zuma.

Several of his strategically placed lieutenants on whom his survival depends, came under extreme pressure or were swept aside. The dominoes started falling, thanks mostly to a new wave of whistleblowers, the media and to our independent and functioning judiciary.

Tom Moyane, Zuma’s man at SARS, was caught putting pressure on the Hawks to prosecute Gordhan and his former colleagues on highly dubious charges, but ignoring, for many months, the suspected corruption of his own sidekick, Jonas Makwakwa.

The real Tom Moyane was exposed. He will never regain credibility.

Zuma’s trusted pawns at the national prosecuting authority (NPA) that had walked through fire for him and his friends several times, Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mwrebi, were struck off the roll of advocates and can thus not continue at the NPA.

Their boss, Shaun Abrahams, will have to be extremely careful in future or he will walk the same path.

Damage inflicted on our society

Three of the Zuma cabal’s primary victims, Johann van Loggerenberg and Adrian Lackay of SARS and general Johan Booysen of the Hawks, last week exposed, in stunning and convincing detail, the unbelievable corruption and abuse of power in two dynamite books: Rogue – The Inside Story of SARS’s Elite Crime-busting Unit, and Blood On Their Hands – General Johan Booysen Reveals his Truth, written by Jessica Pitchford.

These books can’t be unwritten. They will stand as a serious indictment of what Zuma and his cabal stood for and the serious damage they inflicted on our society.

Only yesterday another Zuma imbongi, the SABC’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng, was refused the right to appeal a damning court finding against him. He will probably play for time and appeal, as they all do, but his goose is cooked.

The credit rating group Moody’s arrived in the country yesterday and the other two agencies are arriving in the next few weeks.

A (likely) downgrade to junk status will be very bad news for our struggling economy and many will blame Zuma’s abuse of state-owned companies and war of attrition against the treasury for this.

Now we wait for the courts to finally order that Zuma be formally charged on 783 counts of corruption, racketeering and fraud.

Perhaps that would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

Can we then start imagining a post-Zuma South Africa? Please?

– Follow Max on Twitter.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

South Africa – ANC at war with itself


ANC at war with itself

2016-09-11 07:18

Solani Ngobeni

Solani Ngobenia coalition government.

When the ministers of police and state security hosted a press conference to rationalise a Hawks investigation against the minister of finance, you would have been forgiven for thinking that the latter belongs to one party and the former to another.

However improbable the war seems, it is common cause that the above scenario is playing itself out among Cabinet colleagues and members of the same organisation, the ANC.

The war waging in our national institutions clearly illustrates that, although there is a single ANC, this ANC has divergent interest groups. Although there is one ANC, the centre is not holding and the worst in the ANC are full of passionate intensity.

Last week we bore witness to a war of words between National Treasury and power utility Eskom, and National Treasury and the state’s arms company, Denel. And it all begs the question: why is the centre not holding?

We are witness to an expensive soap opera that has pitted President Jacob Zuma against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, despite the spin doctoring to the contrary.

It is obvious that the president is deeply hurt and still smarting from the forced reversal of his decision to replace then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December last year – in what is now commonly referred to as 9/12 – replacing him with backbencher Des Van Rooyen, now commonly ridiculed as Mr Weekend Special in reference to his four-day stint at National Treasury.

On a number of occasions, Zuma has opined that Van Rooyen was an inspired choice, making it clear that Gordhan was not his choice and by implication does not have his support. Therefore, his public posturing does not really betray his true feelings that his hand was forced.

It is therefore no coincidence that Zuma and Gordhan publicly speak at across purposes.

Zuma went even further to bemoan the coerced reversal of his appointment of Van Rooyen, in the same week that the CEO of the Public Investment Corporation informed Parliament that the events of 9/12 cost the Government Employees’ Pension Fund almost R99 billion.

This was a clear illustration of his financial illiteracy, if you needed one. At worst, it says he simply doesn’t give a hoot about the welfare
of the citizenry.

Surely, if you were a visitor to these shores, you would be forgiven for thinking that you were witnessing a tug-of-war between opposition parties.

It is, however, mind-boggling that we are witnessing an open warfare within the ANC government.

This war threatens the livelihoods of millions of South Africans, and, sadly, the many millions who, election after election, keep voting for the ANC.

The onslaught against the finance minister is nothing less than wilful economic sabotage.

However, the repercussions of the eventual downgrade of our subprime lending rate are sure to be catastrophic for the economy, but even worse for the poor, whom the ANC claims to represent.

However, should this downgrade come to pass and the middle classes end up paying more for their mortgages, rates and services, medical aids and car instalments, they will do well to remember who waged an assault on their livelihoods, come the national elections in 2019.

An Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and DA coalition government somehow starts looking probable for 2019. Jesus is coming!

Just as history has shown how easy it is to reduce leading universities (the likes of Uganda’s Makerere comes to mind), but how difficult it is to resuscitate them, it is going to be an uphill battle to resuscitate this economy once the president and his cheerleaders have run it aground.

We are living witnesses to the worst form of primitive accumulation.

Who knows, perhaps we needed this Zuma presidency to shake us out of our ill-informed
sense of exceptionalism.

We have just become too normal and ordinary. Perhaps we needed this Zuma presidency to appreciate the importance of leadership in society.

The recent events do not inspire confidence as far as leadership in our country is concerned.

These imbroglios clearly illustrated that the ANC has become its own worst enemy.

Perhaps the ANC needed this Zuma presidency to eschew mediocrity in their choice of leaders henceforth.

Perhaps we needed this Zuma presidency to appreciate that mediocre and self-centred leadership can be very costly, both on a personal and societal level.

Ngobeni is a book publisher and the 2007 South African finalist in the British Council’s International Young Publisher of the Year awards programme


How ANC’s path to corruption was set in South Africa’s 1994 transition – Roger Southall

The Conversation

Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk played a critical role in the making of the 1994 political transition in South Africa. Reuters

There are suggestions that the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa lost the plot after the ascension of Jacob Zuma as the party’s president in 2007. There may be important elements of truth in this. However, there are compelling reasons that situate the morality challenges faced by the ANC – and by extension the country – in the 1994 political transition.

Recent developments do indeed place Zuma, who is now also the president of the country, at the centre of the web of corruption at the present time. And it is clear that some within the ANC hold him personally responsible for the drastic decay in the party’s morality. For many, the present battle between Zuma and his minister of finance Pravin Gordhan is viewed as the culmination of between those who view the ANC as a machinery for accumulation and those who hold true to its historical mission as a vehicle of liberation fighting for a more socially just society.

The harassment suffered by Gordhan at the hands of the Hawks, an elite police unit, is seen as an extension of the “state capture” agenda that led to the firing of Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015. This comes after a host of allegations that the country’s key state owned enterprises, like South African Airways and the power utility Eskom, have been captured by the Zuma faction of the ANC elite.

This might look like a factional battle with good guys on one side and bad guys on the other. But I would argue that the challenge of economic transformation within a racially polarised capitalist economy provided opportunities for careerism, personal enrichment and corruption.

At the heart of the morality problems faced by the ANC are fundamental forms of relations it has carved with capital as driven by two principal factors. Firstly, as a political party the ANC has needed funding. Secondly, there is the factor of how the ANC has chosen to promote what it terms the National Democratic Revolution, most notably through Black Economic Empowerment.

Partner with large scale capital

In the mid-1980s, South African capitalism had begun to lose faith in the capacity of the National Party government to stem the rising tide of revolution. Increasingly, therefore, business looked for an accommodation with the ANC. For its part, the ANC leadership recognised the unreality of strategy premised on a revolutionary seizure of power. It presented itself as a partner with which large scale capital could play.

While it was the political negotiation process which grabbed the attention, much was happening behind the scenes. Individuals at the top of the corporate ladder struck up relationships with the incoming ANC leadership. Above all, this was exemplified by a focus on Nelson Mandela, who after his release from jail came to enjoy the company of the very rich. He forged strong relationships with both Harry Oppenheimer, Chairman of Anglo-American, and Clive Menell, vice chairman of the rival Anglo-Vaal mining group.

Just as the ANC was unable to overthrow the political, so it was unable to overturn the economic order. The collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the ANC’s principal supporters, fundamentally changed the international landscape. This played to the strengths of those leaders within the ANC who were less than enamoured with state socialism. Such factors, along with pressure from bodies like the International Monetary Fund, underlay the shift away from the left.

State-owned enterprises

At base, the ANC was a nationalist movement whose principal focus was on the capture of the state and the pursuit of democracy. Within this formula was embedded the commitment to the overthrow of “internal colonialism” (the domination of whites over the majority black population). It followed that capture of the state and internal decolonisation would require the rapid growth of the black middle class and indeed, the expansion of a class of black capitalists. This was true both in terms of social justice and the needs of the economy.

However, the problem facing an emergent black capitalist class was its lack of capital and capitalist expertise. One of the solutions was that, from the moment it moved into office, the ANC viewed its control over the civil service and parastatals as the instrument for extending its control “over the commanding heights of the economy”. Parastatals accounted for around 15% of GDP.

This included the strategy of transferring state-owned enterprises on discounted terms to blacks via privatisation. In the event, this did not prove to be particularly successful simply because the amounts of capital required for the purchase of all but non-core assets were too large for aspirant black capitalists to raise.

Nonetheless, the national democratic revolution charged the ANC with using state power to deracialise the economy. This predisposed the ANC to regard the parastatals as “sites of transformation”. The ANC’s control of the state machinery became a source of tenders for its cadres. This aspect has lent itself to corruption, patronage and the monetarisation of relationships within the ANC.

The extent of corruption in tendering is difficult to estimate. The ANC is appropriately anti-corruption in its official stance, and indeed has put in place important legislation and mechanisms to control malfeasance. Equally, however, it has proved reluctant to undertake enquiries which could prove embarrassing.

There have also been two other activities at work. First, certain corporations have distributed financial largesse to secure contracts and favour from government. (Their success in so doing is hard to prove given the secrecy of party funding). Second, ANC politicians at all levels of government have sought to influence the tender process in their favour.

Odd combination of power and money

One of the key challenges is that the South African political economy continues to revolve around “an odd combination of new (political) power without money and old money without power”. Each needs the other to advance its interests. This is structurally disposed to favour corruption, as is indicated by the incestuous relationship which has developed between Chancellor House and parastatals. Chancellor House is listed as a charitable trust designed to facilitate economic transformation. However it has become clear that its intent is to fund the ANC.

And the need for party funding is more likely to increase than diminish. Although the case for public disclosure of private funding of political parties is by no means so strong as its supporters proclaim, it remains difficult to exclude influence peddling from this particular terrain.

As the ANC acknowledges, it is a multi-class movement composed of capitalists, middle class, workers and the poor. As such it is a host to class struggle within a society imbued with capitalist values and consumerist temptations. Despite the early efforts of Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Community Party to shift policy to the left, many within their own ranks have fallen victim to the temptation of following a political path to personal enrichment. In such a situation, it is not surprising that it is the rich and the powerful who have benefited overwhelmingly from our democracy.

This article was adapted from a paper titled The ANC for Sale? Money, Morality & Business in South Africa published in the Review of African Political Economy

South Africa – does ANC need a change in leadership to prevent further losses?

BD Live

The ANC launches its manifesto for the August 3 municipal elections in which polls suggest it will struggle to hold several metros. Picture: SOWETAN

The ANC launches its manifesto for the August 3 municipal elections last month. Picture: SOWETAN

THE local government elections jolted us into considering what our political world might look like in the absence of ANC electoral dominance. As coalition governments take shape in our metros it is worth pausing to consider how the ANC’s decline mirrors the fate of dominant parties in other countries and what we can learn from those contexts.

The elections were remarkable. Across the country, though markedly more pointedly in urban metros, the ANC was offered an obvious rebuke from the electorate. Despite it still receiving a majority of the total vote, there is no doubt that its hold on the political landscape has slipped, having lost swathes of support in the country’s economic hub of Gauteng and the party’s own political home in the Eastern Cape. After decades of “business as usual” at election time, we now speak of coalition building and the next three years suddenly seem much less clearly defined. Yes, it was a remarkable election, but not surprising.

I say this not only because of the obvious leadership crisis within the ANC or the series of scandals that have so enraged voters. Rather a survey of dominant party democracies finds that the decline of the dominant party, as long as elections are largely free and fair, is ultimately inevitable. As we are all too aware in SA, a party that dominates electoral politics for long periods often becomes victim to its own success, growing increasingly lethargic, unresponsive and ultimately uninspiring.

Does this mean that the ANC is now on an inevitable path to a loss in a national election and declining support? Though this seems most likely in the current context, it is not inevitable nor is it likely to be permanent. Overlooked in discussions of dominant party decline is that those parties that do eventually lose often bounce back to electoral success very quickly.

The cases of the PRI in Mexico and the LDP in Japan are instructive. Two of the longest running dominant parties, both ultimately lost elections after painstaking party and coalition building by the opposition and widespread discontent with the incumbent. Despite the obvious differences in context, the road to their defeats has remarkable similarities with SA: a dominant party increasingly unable to deliver a better life for its people, and opposition parties capturing power at a local level and using their governance record as a path to broader support.

Yet, within a relatively short period in both cases, both parties were back in control of the country, having swept to impressive electoral victories. Why? There are two likely reasons. The first is that governing successfully is much harder than being a critical opposition. Whoever ultimately governs SA’s metros will find it difficult, and the lack of immediate transformation will jar against campaign promises. Being in power also means being subject to the real constraints of the international context and domestic structural obstacles; delivering change will take much more than being more efficient. An added complexity for opposition parties is that they will have to govern metros or town in provinces controlled by the ANC. The contest for resource allocation will be fierce and ordinary voters are likely to suffer.

The second and perhaps more interesting point is that it is not easy for opposition parties to break free from the ideological dominance of the dominant party. A case in point has been the DA’s apparent reliance on the ANC’s vision for SA, the argument being that only they can now deliver it. In the case of a revitalised ANC (apparently only possible with new leadership) and an increasingly stretched DA, there is no reason to think that voters will not entrust the ANC with delivering that vision again in future. Some will argue that the EFF differ here by providing a radically different vision for the country — yet there a lot hinges on leader Julius Malema’s political future, and it is not clear that this lies outside the ANC in the long term. Of course, the ability of “broad church” dominant parties to draw in potentially dangerous opposition has always been one of its key advantages.

Thus, despite this obvious setback, the ANC still holds an enviable position in our political landscape. The most immediate challenge facing it is to ensure that where it does become the opposition it doesn’t implode as it has in the Western Cape.

All of this speculation assumes a future where the democratic “rules of the game” are entrenched. We should not take this for granted. Although many within the ANC leadership have been gracious in conceding defeats in this election, there were worrying levels of political violence in the run up to the election, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, where 15 ANC supporters and candidates were murdered in political infighting. This is a window into the possibility of a descent into violent politics when the stakes are so high and access to political office is seen as so crucial.

In addition, President Jacob Zuma’s term has seen ever increasing power vested in the “securocrats”, an apparent increase in surveillance of activists, as well as the full power of the state being brought to bear on protesters. The ever present reference to foreign instigated regime change as a way to target civil society has shown that parts of the ANC may not respond well to further electoral losses. The intervening period now, including the formation of coalitions and new councils, will be a crucial test of this space. Whether the rule of law is supreme will be a litmus test for any future electoral changes.

What path is ultimately taken, and how the ANC responds to last week’s losses, likely ultimately rest on which faction is most harmed by the result. This has been the subject of many pages elsewhere. The ANC as a party still dominates South African politics in its ability to set the political agenda and opposition parties, despite inroads, still seem to struggle to capture the imagination of a wide enough group of South Africans. Despite this, if the ANC remains paralysed by the current listless and divisive leadership under Zuma, these local election losses will be the first of many. Further, without a change in leadership – it is unclear how the party can guard against these losses without turning to increasingly undemocratic tactics.

Marchant is a research associate at the Open Secrets project, linked to the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

South Africa – Lindela Tshwete says ANC no longer party of Mandela

BD Live

Lindela Tshwete. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Lindela Tshwete. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma is seeking to divide SA along racial lines and the ANC is no longer the party it used to be, according to three DA members who come from stalwart families.

Madoda Mbeki, cousin to former president Thabo Mbeki, Lindela Tshwete, the son of struggle veteran Steve Tshwete and Ghaleb Cachalia, the son of stalwarts Yusuf and Amina Cachalia, on Friday criticised Zuma and the ANC following comments about black people who vote for the DA in the run-up to the August 3 polls.

Earlier in July, Zuma said he did not understand black people who chose to vote for the DA.

“After we liberated ourselves they came together, this name DA, Democratic Alliance, it was an alliance between the Progressive Party and the National Party,” said Zuma.

“If you are a black person, you join that party really? Really? It’s worse when you lead it,” he said, referring to DA leader Mmusi Maimane.

Tshwete said this was no longer the ANC that his family, or Mbeki’s and Cachalia’s, had fought for.

All three have joined the DA and are standing as candidates in the municipal elections.

“The sad truth is that the ANC is no longer the party of Nelson Mandela, and no longer the party our parents and families brought us up in,” Tshwete said.

“Zuma has directly contradicted and undermined Nelson Mandela, who fought for the freedom for all South Africans to choose who they vote for. He should be ashamed of himself.”

Mbeki said the ANC no longer had the best interests of SA at heart.

“Leaving the party our families worked and struggled in was a very serious decision, but it was a decision we each made because the ANC cannot be trusted to take SA forward,” he said.

Cachalia said to call Maimane a “token” was the most “reprehensible” statement to make.

“It reminds me of people with certain Zionist elements in Israel calling people who criticise Zionism self-hating Jews.

“This sort of nonsense has to stop. Zuma should be ashamed of himself,” he said.

The three denied that it was a “cheap shot” to use their family names to drum up support for the DA.

When asked how their families felt about them supporting the DA, Tshwete became emotional and teary.

He described it as a very “sad time” for him, saying “it was not nice what I went through”.

However, he said in the end a number of family members came out and supported him, except his brother Mayihlome Tshwete and his stepmother Pamela Tshwete.

Tshwete said he was following his conscience and no one recruited him to join the DA, it was a decision he made on his own.

Mbeki reiterated that it was not an easy decision but for them and their families it was an important decision.

“Immediately after Polokwane, (and the) recalling of my brother (Thabo Mbeki), I started looking at the ANC differently, too many things happened and I believe getting into the DA was a wise decision … the home I feel comfortable in and it will be my political home forever,” he said.

South Africa – Mbeki says SA’s failure to stick to constitutional ideals the fault of its leaders

Mail and Guardian

Thabo Mbeki believes the responsibility for SA’s failure to achieve its constitutional ideals lies firmly at the feet of its leaders.

Former president Thabo Mbeki. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Former president Thabo Mbeki has pleaded with the current ANC leadership to go back to basics to ensure they carry out the mandate given to them by the electorate and improve the lives of millions of South Africans.

Speaking during a panel discussion at an event celebrating the adoption of the Constitution, Mbeki launched a veiled attack on President Jacob Zuma and other leaders of the governing ANC – accusing them of disregarding the Constitution.

“As South Africans, we signed a common contract to say this is the South Africa we want to build. It is an important day because it brought to an end a struggle that lasted centuries,” said Mbeki.

He said the ANC leadership, because of its struggle credentials in the fight for freedom, had greater responsibility to understand and respect the Constitution.

“This must be a daily document that helps us to act, it might save us from doing wrong things, including the president,” said the former president in a thinly veiled swipe at Zuma.

Last month,  the Constitutional Court found that Zuma failed to uphold the Constitution by failing to comply with the public protector’s remedial action to pay back a portion of the R246-million used for security upgrades at his rural Nkandla homestead.

Mbeki said if people understood the Constitution much better, they would demand the removal of government officials who have been found to have acted unconstitutionally.

“If society does more to understand the Constitution, then we will be able to reach the ‘ideal’ set out by it.”

Mbeki said the ANC leadership should stop lying to itself and face reality.

The former president quoted Deputy Minister of Agriculture Bheki Cele who, during a May Day rally in Port Elizabeth, said “the ANC can continue lying to people, but can no longer lie to itself”.

He said it was time for introspection because in every corner of the country “people were talking” and there was a lot of disaffection and restlessness about the current leadership. “If you’re a leader of the people, look at how you serve the people and your responses to your everyday needs,” said Mbeki.

He agreed with Cele that the rallies did not work anymore and that what was needed was to embark on a door-to-door campaign, an initiative which became popular during his time in office, to speak to the people.

“The problems of social cohesion, the problems of morality, the problems of the economy … the people are saying where is our country going?”

Mbeki called for a much-needed national dialogue instead of speaking in the corners, and applauded Zuma’s call for such a dialogue during his January 8 address.

“Let’s encourage openness, let’s give ordinary people the voice to say how they feel, in the media, in communities and everywhere” said Mbeki.

Constitutional founder chips in
Justice Zak Yacoob who was part of the group of people that wrote the Constitution, said South Africa would only achieve the society it envisioned in the Constitution if leaders acted honestly.

“The constitution imposes an obligation to everyone one of us to live for that society envisioned in it.”

Yacoob warned against a fallacy in the country that the Constitution has achieved the kind of society we desire; racism is still rife and women are still discriminated against.

“I was a racist and sexist when I was younger, I went through my own journey, it’s a difficult process to get rid of your own prejudice,” Said Justice Yacoob.

Justice Yacoob called on every citizen to read and live by the bill of rights.

“Everyone should try to read at least a part of the Bill of Rights before going to sleep, understand it and embrace it, and be sympathetic to those who were vulnerable because the Constitution meant that this country said ‘goodbye to the law of the jungle’ and therefore no women should be discriminated or [anyone] because of their race.”

South Africa – Suttner: In removing Zuma we need to ensure a democratic outcome

Daily Maverick

Photo of Raymond Suttner by Ivor Markman.

As South Africans call for Zuma to step down, we must be mindful of the errors of the past. There’s a range of fundamental problems with his leadership and these must be spelt out so that there is no ambiguity on what needs to be resolved, how it should be done and by whom. This will go a long way in ensuring that we “buy” the leadership we think we are buying. By RAYMOND SUTTNER.

This article first appeared on Creamer Media’s website: polity.org.za

The outpouring of anger and calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down, although occasioned by the Constitutional Court judgment on Nkandla, are in fact a result of rage that has been building up for many years. We need to try to understand the significance of this moment and how it will define the future.

We have been here before. One thinks of the rise of public opposition to former President Thabo Mbeki after the dismissal of Zuma as Deputy President in 2005. This led to people burning T-shirts bearing Mbeki’s image and a growing opposition to his rule. As we know, that opposition culminated in Zuma’s election as president of the ANC and the state.

Zuma’s supporters promoted his candidature with qualities that would remedy some of the ills attributed to the Mbeki era, in particular centralisation of decision-making, a lack of empathy for ordinary people on the ground, and an absence of popular influence on policies. His supporters said Zuma was humble, a “good listener” and an inclusive and democratic leader with deep commitment to nonracialism.

He was depicted as a leader who understood the specific left objections to the Mbeki era, in particular its macroeconomic policy known as GEAR. It was claimed that Zuma was the embodiment of the popular and even a potential leader of a socialist project. This was despite their knowing very well that Zuma, like Mbeki, had withdrawn from the SACP in 1990 and, while in government, had raised no objections to Mbeki’s policies. Both Cosatu and SACP leaders of the time advanced this leadership imagery.

Much was made of his humble origins. He was said also to be a model of advancement that would inspire others from similar poor backgrounds; a variant of the “American dream” where any person is supposed to be able to rise to the top.

Some activists, despite long political experience, spoke of the rise of Zuma setting South African democracy free. A new dawn was about to rise under Zuma. Even business, although cautious, was willing to give him a chance.

It is important to look back to that moment when Zuma was advanced as a candidate, for the terms on which he was advanced do not correspond to what he has in fact delivered as president of the ANC and the country. Some of the reasons why this could not be so were, as indicated, already known before he became president.

As South Africans call for Zuma to step down, we must be mindful of the errors of the past. We need to be clear that Zuma’s unsuitability for office does not arise only from the Constitutional Court judgment on Nkandla. There is a range of fundamental problems with his leadership and these must be spelt out so that there is no ambiguity on what needs to be resolved, how it should be done and by whom. This will go a long way to ensure that if we move towards choosing a new leadership, we “buy” what we think we are buying, not something different, as was the case with the disparity between claims for Zuma and the actual “product”, which currently creates havoc in South African public life.

In consequence, we need to ask what is the objective behind the calls for Zuma to step down. Expressions of righteous anger over Zuma’s actions and the call for him to resign must be coupled with clarity over the goal to which it is directed. How does it bear on the post-Zuma period? If the goal is to remove Zuma, what is envisaged to follow? If Zuma is to be removed in order to set the country on a democratic course, retrieving and even enhancing what has been undermined, we need to ensure that we have acommon understanding of the problems, the processes of addressing them and the outcome that is sought. That means identifying precisely what the defects of the present have been and what is needed to ensure that what is put in place after Zuma’s departure is a remedy and not a variant of the attacks on democracy that characterise current ANC-led political life. If there is not that clarity, what is currently experienced could well re-emerge under a different aegis.

That this question – “what follows Zuma”? – needs to be asked is warranted when we consider, in addition, that many of those who are associated with the call for Zuma to go had no objections to him becoming president. Some served under him in one or other capacity – or left in ignominy. Others served under Zuma and raised no objections to the character of his political activity prior to his elevation to the presidency. Yet others held no position, but saw the rise of Zuma as unproblematic. The object of this reference to the political history of some signatories or people who have provided testimony is not to vilify them but to seek clarity on the terms in which various actors are engaging with the removal of Zuma.

How one has related to the conduct of Zuma in the past is relevant to the present and the future. It is very important how one related to this political phenomenon, which needs now to be eradicated because of its fundamentally anti-democratic character. That some have to this day never accepted or argued over whether it is correct to characterise the Zuma period as anti-democratic is very relevant if these are people to whom some may turn for counsel or leadership in the post-Zuma era.

That these questions must be asked relates to the contention of this article that the flaws in Zuma’s political character and actions were not unknown before the Nkandla scandal. They were in fact features that threatened democratic life and constitutionalism long before he became president and were especially evident in the period immediately prior to his election as ANC and state president. I refer in particular to the 783 corruption and fraud charges that Zuma faced until the last moments before his inauguration (which may now have been reinstated) and his conduct during his rape trial. I refer also to the conduct of the ANC under his leadership during the 2009 elections, notably the political intolerance towards Cope, with violent interruption of meetings, preventing Cope from pursuing its right to free political activity.

In other words, the reasons for Zuma’s removal now do not constitute revelations about his fitness or otherwise to hold the office of president or to have a place in public life in a democratic South Africa. These patterns of conduct were fairly well known and certainly so to those who worked with him in the ANC of the 1990s and early 21st century. Some say many of these qualities were evident in exile.

If many of those calling for his removal were well aware of his flaws and have chosen now to focus almost exclusively on his being legally compromised over Nkandla, it raises questions about how those who call for his removal conceive the reasons for removing him. Does this not leave room for replacing Zuma with someone who may well bear some of the weaknesses and dangers that were part of Zuma’s make-up and have not been raised as objectionable? It certainly leaves opaque how those calling for Zuma’s removal conceive the question of patronage and even some further forms of corruption not addressed in the public protector’s report on Nkandla.

How do they view the use of violence and militarism, the deployment of static forms of culture and cultural chauvinism to stifle debate and limit the freedom of some citizens? How do they see displays of hyper patriarchy, high tolerance of sexism and finally the abuse of the symbols of the liberation struggle, its songs and meanings, to serve his personal interests, as at his rape trial?

To what extent are these statements and protests against Zuma understood as being part of a “cleansing” of the ANC, part of a return to “glorious values” attributed to the ANC?

The assumption in many of the protests and petitions is that there was an ANC of the past to whose traditions we must return. To what extent should we endorse the objective of many petitions to return the ANC to its former glory? Should we not in fact be interrogating the character of the ANC now and earlier, for it is the organisation that has made it possible for Jacob Zuma to emerge as its leader?

Those of us who have had a long history in the ANC need to ask whether we understood the organisation in all its manifestations, even if we were innocent of some of the abuses that are now known to have taken place? Should not all of us who have been involved in the ANC ask what part we played in creating an organisation that allowed the rise of a lawless president who is antagonistic to democratic life and emancipation?

Should the call for Zuma’s removal not be part of a broader plan to restore democratic rule under the Constitution? Should it not be part of the regeneration of democratic life to encourage the emergence of other political formations, whether or not they directly challenge the ANC? If that is the case, there is no guarantee that the ANC will continue to enjoy its previous pre-eminent status.

If we are reviving and enriching an ongoing process of emancipation, we cannot rely on a return to the ANC’s past. Nor can we exclude options beyond the ANC. Those who believe in liberatory and emancipatory values cannot exclude the ANC as a potential home, but we are entitled to scepticism and to explore all options that may enrich and consolidate our democratic life.DM

Photo of Raymond Suttner by Ivor Markman.

Raymond Suttner is a scholar and political analyst. Much of his life was spent in the struggle against apartheid and in building the new democratic order. He served lengthy periods as a political prisoner and under house arrest. Currently he is a professor attached to Rhodes University and Unisa and he has authored or co-authored Inside Apartheid’s Prison (2001), 30 Years of the Freedom Charter (1986) 50 Years of the Freedom Charter (2006), The ANC Underground (2008) and most recently Recovering Democracy in South Africa (Jacana and Lynne Rienner, 2015). He blogs at raymondsuttner.com and his twitter handle is @raymondsuttner