Max du Preez

We should undo the Zuma damage now

2015-07-21 09:36

Max du Preez

The Jacob Zuma era is nearing its end. It is time South Africans channelled some of the energy they spend on obsessing about Zuma to efforts to build a foundation for a new and better order after his exit. #Zumxit? #Zexit?

It won’t be easy to undo the damage that the Zuma years had inflicted on our country. We should start with that process now rather than wait for his political demise.

Under Zuma’s presidency the executive and the ruling party had infiltrated nearly all democratic institutions; corruption and nepotism became systemic; accountability nearly disappeared; and the power of securocrats increased dangerously.

This means that the groundwork for a sound, post-Zuma dispensation can’t only be done by opposition groups and civil society. Some of that work will have to be done by the remaining democrats and constitutionalists inside the ANC.

Every single indication tells us that the ANC will continue to lose support at next year’s municipal election. That will set the table for a vicious battle for survival during the 2019 general election.

Survival instinct

Zuma still appears untouchable, but there seems to be a growing consensus inside the ANC that the party will have to go into the 2019 election campaign with a new leader if it wants to make sure that it gets more than half the votes.

Loyalty to Zuma is slowly making way to the survival instinct of ANC cadres and they, I strongly believe, will make sure that he was replaced as party leader at the 2017 elective congress of the ANC.

It is an uncomfortable fact that the pressure on South Africa’s stability increases as the ANC’s popularity weakens. If an ANC defeat starts looking like a possibility by 2018, we should expect a much more authoritarian ANC, even more ready to ignore the judicial system and the constitution - that is, if the current leadership culture continues.

That could badly hurt the economy and have disastrous consequences for agriculture, the media and the personal safety of ANC opponents. In fact, for democracy itself.

It is therefore important to keep up the pressure on the ANC leadership so it won’t be so easy for them to follow in Zuma’s footsteps after 2017.

Zuma’s networks in the criminal justice system, the state bureaucracy and the intelligence community will have to be broken up and his abuse of ethnic and regional loyalties exposed.

Dangerous shortcuts

The business community and the minority groups will have to get over their instinctive rejection of any efforts to bring about a new, fairer and more just economic order. They will have to start actively participating in these deliberations.

The forces struggling for greater equality and faster and more substantial black economic emancipation cannot be stopped in the medium and long term. If there is no substantial and tangible progress soon, the chances of dangerous shortcuts like the nationalisation of mines, banks and industries and the dispossession of agricultural land become much bigger.

Objectively speaking, South Africa has all the ingredients to be a successful country: a good measure of stability, a good constitution, sufficient tolerance and goodwill, a sound infrastructure and an energetic and innovative business sector. Poor education and training is what we don’t have, but that need not ruin the recipe for now.

We should start using all these ingredients correctly to produce a cake that most South Africans across all racial and class divides will enjoy.

Let’s start focusing on that rather than on one man. We as South Africans will have to deliver the Second Transition that Zuma had promised in 2007 and never delivered.

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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