Adriaan Basson

I wanna be there when the Zuptas are arrested, send me

2018-02-21 07:55
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his inaugural State of the Nation Address. (Ruvan Boshoff, AFP)

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his inaugural State of the Nation Address. (Ruvan Boshoff, AFP)

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A sense of reality is finally returning to South Africa after our much-needed collective therapy in the form of President Cyril Ramaphosa's "Thuma Mina" State of the Nation Address on Friday night.

The cynics among us criticised the warm and fuzzy parts of the speech. The rainbow nation is long dead, they say. What will a bunch of summits solve anyway, they murmur.

Personally, I didn't mind Ramaphosa's reconciliatory, upbeat tone. After the long depression that was the Jacob Zuma era, we all needed a bit of TLC. Someone to tell us everything will be okay, even if it won’t. Someone to give us a second-chance; to tell us a new dawn is rising.

Ramaphosa's speech sounded like that of a newly-elected president whose party had just won the elections. But that is not the case.

The same ANC – Ramaphosa included – who kept Zuma in power for a decade and almost oversaw the death of the continent's oldest liberation movement were the ones giving Buffalo Soldier a standing ovation after he cleverly quoted Bra Hugh Masekela's "Thuma Mina" (send me).

One of these good days, it will be as difficult to find a Zuma supporter as it is to find a person who supported apartheid.

The momentum of power that has catapulted Ramaphosa to messianic heights has been swift and stunning. From winning the ANC leadership race with a mere 0.1% of the votes to captivating a nation, including rowdy opposition politicians who were mesmerised by his charm, was quite something.

Indeed, the winner takes it all.

Books will be written about the twelve days in February that saw the ANC chopping "the ugly head of impunity off its stiffened neck", to quote Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Mogoeng, who oversaw Ramaphosa's swearing-in, used these words in the Nkandla judgment to describe the purpose of the "mighty sword" of constitutionalism and the rule of law.

In their case, the ANC finally used the sword to get rid of Zuma who symbolised everything that was wrong with the ANC, the government and the country.

Although Zuma still claims he doesn’t know what he has done wrong, it took a decade of activism from civil society, journalists, lawyers and politicians to finally move the ANC into doing the right thing.

History will show that it was people like Desmond Tutu, Thuli Madonsela, Julius Malema, Mandy Rossouw, Mark Heywood, Lindiwe Mazibuko, Sam Sole, Wayne Duvenage, Redi Tlhabi, Njongonkulu Ndungane, Derek Hanekom, Susan Comrie, Sikonathi Mantshantsha, Johann Kriegler, Joel Netshitenzhe and many others who toppled Zuma through their tenacious efforts to unearth the rot and do something about it.

Yes, Ramaphosa and the ANC pulled the final trigger, but it was the blood, sweat and tears of these people who brought us back from the brink of calamity.

Despite his own complicity in keeping Zuma in power, South Africa has given Ramaphosa, and the ANC, a second chance.

The ANC has seized the moment and I'm willing to predict a comfortable victory for the party at next year's general election.

Where does that leave the broad coalition of campaigners and dirt-diggers and truth-tellers who campaigned against the large-scale looting of the Zupta state capturers and their hangers-on?

I was deeply disturbed to read that potential donors to amaBhungane, the investigative journalism centre, will no longer give money because "our man Cyril is now in; problem solved". I have not yet had the opportunity to interview Ramaphosa, but when it happens I will ask him how he would like those of us who have been investigating the Zuptas for over a decade to "lend a hand".

I hope he says: "Keep on doing what you do best. Keep us on our toes. Tell us when we get it wrong. Expose the rot, in government and in the private sector. We will not call you counter-revolutionaries or threaten to arrest you when you expose wrongdoing. Investigate me, my cabinet and the ANC. There are no holy cows, do your job without fear or favour."

In return, Ramaphosa must ensure that we have an independent, working criminal justice system that is able to bring those who tried to steal our country, whether they are in Dubai, Saharanpur of Nkandla, to book.

With apologies to Bra Hugh: I wanna be there when the Zuptas are arrested and prosecuted. Send me.

- Basson is editor of News24. Follow him on Twitter @adriaanbasson.

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  anc  |  corruption

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