Mondli Makhanya

SA unites against its president

2017-04-16 06:03
South Africans from all backgrounds protesting against President Jacob Zuma Picture: Brenton Geach / Gallo Images

South Africans from all backgrounds protesting against President Jacob Zuma Picture: Brenton Geach / Gallo Images

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The protests against Zuma have brought together people of all races and social classes. This is our opportunity to change this country to benefit all who live in it.

In its latest Strategy and Tactics document, the ANC reaffirms the leadership role it believes it should be playing in society, and does a critical analysis of where our society is at.

The document, prepared for the national policy conference to be held in June, speaks a language that is vastly different from the wild talk that is publicly spoken by the current leadership.

“Informed by principle and a continuous reading of the balance of forces, the ANC also seeks to avoid ultra-left adventurism and ‘revolutionary leaps’ that may in fact result in the defeat of the revolution,” the document reads.

Compare that with the undefined radical economic transformation, seizure of land without compensation and other populist claptrap that is mouthed by President Jacob Zuma and the wild men and women in his political camp.

The document spends much time analysing the work that has been done in transforming South Africa, the work that still needs to be done and the challenges that lie ahead. It is honest in acknowledging the shortcomings in righting the wrongs of the past. In speaking about those who benefited from the colonial and apartheid past and those who suffered from the oppressive systems, it is realistic.

“The marginalised are less and less prepared to bear the agony. At the same time, more and more of the privileged do seem to appreciate that their interests are closely linked to those of society as a whole,” it says.

“This confluence of circumstances presents a unique opportunity to forge a social compact to move the nation to greater social heights. The current phase of transition demands decisiveness, speed and a dogged determination. The successes and the failures call for optimal societal leadership,” the document says.

Translation: There is an opportunity to reignite the nation-building project as the fortunes of apartheid’s beneficiaries and those of the victims are intertwined. Again, a far cry from the barking and race-baiting among the controlling component of ANC leaders.

“Social agency, inspired by idealism and skilful organisation, is the key to unlock movement to higher forms of human civilisation,” it says.

The ANC commits to contributing “more decisively to this endeavour” and it affirms the “appreciation that most South Africans aspire to a humane society; and are prepared to act in its realisation”.

Now, those are the utterances of a thinking organisation. An organisation that should have recognised the unique opportunity presented by the outrage against corruption and its twin, state capture. The recent past – notably the past 18 to 24 months – has seen an amazing confluence of interests between the working classes and the well heeled when it comes to these matters. South Africans across class and race hate corruption equally. The ways in which and degrees to which corruption affects them may differ materially, but they all suffer. And they all recognise that the country they love, that gives them a livelihood and that they aspire to build, will be killed by this cancer.

As the protests mounted over the past two weeks, the president and the mob he prefers to surround himself with attempted to racialise them. A crude propaganda campaign was mounted to project the protest as a mission of those seeking to protect white privilege against Zuma’s new-found passion for economic emancipation of black people.


The fact that the campaign against the capture of the state was black-led and that its most vocal proponent was the SA Communist Party was conveniently forgotten. The fact that Cosatu – led by its two public service affiliates – also drew the line was neither here nor there for the corruption defenders. The fact that the ANC’s own stalwarts and veterans have stepped forward to offer moral guidance and leadership is Tipp-Exed out, because they speak inconvenient truths.

The working class and unemployed black people who joined the protests, and who were by far the majority, were stooges of the whites. The black people who braved the heat and the rain to voice their rejection of bad practices were just stupid idiots who were being duped by white people. Presumably, black people have no sense of morality or ethics. When it comes to issues of corruption, it is the white people who would feel strongly about it and then convince the black people that it is a really bad thing.

An organisation with the capacity for the kind of thinking that is contained in the Strategy and Tactics document would have recognised this unique moment in South Africa’s history. Not since the summer of 1989 have South Africans united across class and race lines around a common objective as in the past fortnight.

The Mass Democratic Movement-led Defiance Campaign of that year was the final push against the apartheid government. Just like the current push against corrupt elements, it brought in different strata of society. Even those who had benefited from apartheid – but stood to lose more if the country collapsed – realised what was good for them and joined in the protest. It was an unstoppable revolution in which the “ANC Lives, ANC Leads” slogan of the then-banned movement was displayed with defiant glee.

Today, the ANC is refusing to lead, preferring to rather be on the wrong side of history and morality. Today, the ANC is being rendered irrelevant as society seeks leadership elsewhere.

In a move reminiscent of Zanu-PF, the party threw its leader a lavish birthday party, even as economic news foretold of many more days of hunger ahead for the nation. And, just like Robert Mugabe, the leader of our country was arrogant and defiant in the face of public disapproval. He no longer does the middle-finger thing with his spectacles, but his dancing, singing and giggling at his birthday party was the biggest “f*ck you” he could give South Africa.

Nevertheless, back to nation-building and social cohesion, which should be led by society in the face of the governing party’s refusal to be part of its own historical project. This moment in the country presents South Africans with an opportunity to explore a common pact. There has never been a time in post-apartheid South Africa when so many people have been politically engaged and willing to be activists for good, even if, for some, it is to protect their investments, trust funds and property values. A working class population that is politically engaged beyond wage negotiation and the shop floor is also fertile ground for big conversation about the direction of the society.

The sceptics of the 1994 breakthrough should cease to be rejectionists and engage with the previously advantaged and have the difficult chat. There is no point in shouting empty slogans about white privilege and decolonisation without mapping out a practical plan going forward. Those who believe that the post-1994 democratic infrastructure is empowering can explain why they believe so and how it can be used to achieve the “higher form of civilisation” that our country should be teaching the world. The formerly privileged should be introspecting about what they have given back to society that enabled them to not only retain their status, but enjoy one of the freest lifestyles on the planet. Civil society, political parties and business should be thinking beyond protest and instilling investor confidence, and rather about the South Africa that will rise from Zuma’s ruins.

Sooner or later, Zuma will go. His cronies and acolytes will go too, possibly following him to a jail cell somewhere. Bathabile Dlamini will probably spend her days sitting in the shade of a tree happily chewing away.

When all of that happens, South Africans should not be left with a “so what?” moment.

This is our chance to revisit our social compact and strengthen what we have already built.

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Read more on:    zuma  |  jacob  |  protests  |  anc  |  zuma must fall
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