Guest Column

The year 2016

2016-12-18 06:17
President Jacob Zuma, deputy Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile wave to ANC supporters as they enter the FNB stadium at the party's Gauteng manifesto launch. Picture: Leon Sadiki/City Press

President Jacob Zuma, deputy Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile wave to ANC supporters as they enter the FNB stadium at the party's Gauteng manifesto launch. Picture: Leon Sadiki/City Press

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This time last year, South Africa was a ball of depression.

The president had fired a highly competent and respected finance minister and replaced him with a strawweight politician whose skills were only known by his stokvel and his congregation.

Fortunately, the president had been forced to reverse his decision four days later and install a competent individual who had previously held the job.

By the time the decision was reversed, the markets had bled hundreds of billions of rands and South Africa’s international standing had been badly tarnished.

The most depressing message from that episode was that the highest office in the land had been captured by an unscrupulous family who were now running the country by remote control.

The year 2016 was to prove even more depressing as more revelations emerged about the extent of the capture.

Institutions of governance, swathes of the governing party and state-owned enterprises had been taken over by a Mafia centred on the dirty family.

This parasitic Mafia had penetrated deep into the country’s body politic and was even feasting on the bone marrow.

South Africa ends 2016 on a very different note than the one with which it ended the previous year. There is a “thus far, no further” mood in the country.

We can trace crystallisation of the fightback to April when the president and the governing party – in their response to the Constitutional Court’s Nkandla judgment – treated the 56 million South Africans like imbeciles.

An angry nation retaliated by taking to the streets and, importantly, by punishing the governing party in the August local elections.

Years of pent-up anger burst into the open in the form of voters backing the opposition or withholding their support for the party that had brought them freedom.

ANC stalwarts and veterans who had bottled their frustration out of loyalty found their voice and took on the party leadership.

The ANC’s parliamentary caucus decided to do what MPs are supposed to do and began to hold powerful people to account.

The shenanigans of the dirty family and their acolytes were exposed in the Public Protector’s report and media coverage, sparking more anger.

Members of the ANC’s national executive committee, some of them openly, took on the president in an unprecedented display of courage.

So, 2016 draws to a close on a somewhat optimistic and positive note. We are not out of the woods yet, but we can see rays of sunshine through the thick.

2017, here we come

As we look forward to the unknown in the new year, we can only hope that we continue with what we did well this year.

The vigilance and robustness of MPs in executing their primary function of holding the executive to account, as exemplified by the ad hoc committee on the SABC, will be a good carry-over to next year.

The courage and energy of civil society activism that rattled the governing party and were felt even at the Union Buildings need to be consolidated further. As the saying goes, power is not given, it is taken.

It is only by continually agitating for change that we will arrive at the South Africa we want.

The same message must be directed at the thousands of ANC members who will have a big say in who might become our next president in 2019.

The party will be choosing a new leadership, including a new president, in 12 months’ time. They must think carefully about their choices. Do they really want to subject us to the trauma and depression we have been through since 2007?

It is not worth repeating here that the man they dubbed a “man of the people” turned out to be the man associated with corruption and disaster.

Part of the problem was how ANC members chose the leaders, relying on predrawn lists known as slates.

This meant that many good leaders were excluded because their names did not feature on a particular list. We hope that they will realise that they are not choosing only their leader, but the face of the country.

Similarly, they should be thinking of what the country needs given the pervasive inequality, unemployment and large levels of poverty.

We hope that as they finalise their policy positions, job creation will be uppermost in their minds, and that they will resist the temptation to substitute sound policies with slogans. South Africa is still stuck with Zuma for the next two years.

The least the ANC can do is to provide hope that it has seen the error of its ways by making an inspired choice in leadership.

Read more on:    anc  |  sabc  |  nkandla


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