Scrub off Zuma’s vile filth

2017-12-17 06:12
President Jacob Zuma.

President Jacob Zuma.

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The gathering of about 5 000 delegates at Nasrec Expo Centre in southern Johannesburg is more than just an ANC conference. Because of our electoral system, which gives more powers to the political parties and less to the electorate system, a poor choice by the strongest party can load the country with a catastrophic burden for years.

As the outcome of the party’s Limpopo elective conference – which took place in Polokwane 10 years ago – has shown, the ANC’s decision to elect Jacob Zuma as president was a nightmarish one not just for the party, but for the country too.

Ultimately, South Africa paid the price. Not only did we lose our international moral stature, but our ability to punch above our weight in international affairs has also been severely eroded over the past decade.

The moral compass that resulted in our being called upon to play a mediation role in complex international conflict zones such as the Middle East, as well as on the African continent, has been weakened.

It is not that we were a perfect country before Zuma’s entry, but somehow he has managed to exploit the worst of our traits and magnify them.

We can see the damage all over the place – in particular, in the demise of political culture, where the party exists to serve the needs of one man and protect him alone, instead of the opposite.

The lack of consequences for unlawful decisions, best exemplified by Zuma himself, has been normalised.

For the first time, tons of evidence has emerged, showing how the president had given up his presidential powers to an immigrant family in exchange for financial security.

Because of the choices made by ANC delegates in Polokwane in 2007, and at the 2012 conference at Mangaung in the Free State, the term ‘state capture’ has become firmly embedded in our lexicon.

Under the administration chosen 10 years ago, important democratic institutions such as the National Prosecuting Authority and the SA Revenue Service have been disembowelled. And the effective investigations unit, the Scorpions, was obliterated and replaced with the hapless Hawks.

In the latter years, Zuma wreaked even more havoc as he targeted National Treasury, hitherto a model of good governance and efficiency in government. Treasury lost solid political leadership and experienced staff resignations as the president sought to capture it.

This resulted in international investors losing confidence in the country’s political direction, resulting directly in international ratings agencies downgrading the country to “junk” status.

Zuma brought rogues and scumbags to the national arena and gave them power. On his watch the Guptas became the de facto government. They had the power to make Cabinet appointments, control departmental budgets, constitute the boards and executive committees of parastatals, and give instructions to senior civil servants.

The ANC that Zuma led became a haven for corrupt individuals. From national to provincial to local level, ANC structures were beholden to warlords, who turned these structures into instruments to steal from the state.

Save for a few bright stars and committed, hard workers, Zuma’s bloated Cabinet was packed with dullards. Some of them permanently wore a look that said they were recovering from the previous night’s excesses. Even senior ANC leaders battled to recognise some of the people Zuma had appointed as deputies, so absolutely lightweight were they.

This week, the ANC has a chance to choose the continuation of the Zuma legacy, or to break with it and start the process of repairing the damage that he has inflicted. Some of the names being put forward indicate that there is a large segment of the ANC that wants to continue with Zuma’s legacy of thieving and wrecking. There is no perfect side in this race, but there are some seriously rotten people on one of the slates.

The ANC should choose to cleanse itself of Zuma’s filth. Yes, it will take years to fully scrub off the slimy dirt that he is leaving behind, but let this be the beginning. It is not for us as a newspaper to tell delegates which candidates to vote for, but what they must have on their minds is whether their choice ends the Zuma era or perpetuates it.

The choice does not stop with leadership. The ANC’s policy decisions will be just as important.

It is easy and tempting to opt for populist and radical measures that sound good but may ultimately cripple the economy and kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Populism is easy, but it has destroyed many a sound state around the world.

So, whatever the delegates decide about leadership and policy, they must be sure that they are making decisions which they and their descendants will look back on with pride.

Nasrec 2017 must not be a conference of shame.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  johannesburg  |  anc leadership race

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