Max du Preez

Has South Africa reached rock bottom?

2016-06-28 07:36

Max du Preez

Four questions on my mind today.

One: Has South Africa reached rock bottom and are we about to turn the corner, or is it going to get a lot worse first?

Two: If thousands of ANC supporters in Tshwane resort to destructive violence because they don’t like their party’s mayoral candidate, would ANC supporters there and elsewhere not do the same if they were to lose a local council to opposition parties?

Three: Could the shock resignation of long-time ANC lackey and acting CEO of the SABC, Jimi Matthews, and the (long overdue) wave of protest action by honourable SABC employees mean the beginning of the end of the Hlaudi Motsoeneng madness at the state broadcaster? (Please?)

Four: Does President Jacob Zuma ever contemplate what his legacy is going to be, or is he simply focused on staying out of jail and enriching himself and his clan?

Zuma’s predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, clearly obsesses about his legacy, about how history would remember him. He has recently written a series of essays on his term as president polishing his image as best he could, and now he’s had a book written called The Thabo Mbeki I Knew.

Mbeki is pure schadenfreude: you humiliated me and kicked me out, and look at what my replacement has done to you. On Friday he said at the launch of the book: “As I wander around the continent, this is a refrain that we meet right across the continent: what has gone wrong with SA? It is everywhere. Everywhere is loss of respect for the South Africans. Who wants to listen to the South Africans?”

He’s right of course. The political and economic elites in countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya love to mock the circus South Africa has become, the South Africa that not too long ago was the pride of the continent. Zuma has become an African embarrassment on a scale of Robert Mugabe.

One of his intellectual buddies and head of policy during his presidency, Joel Netshitenze, writes in the book that the ANC will die a humiliating death if it does not clean up the negative culture that has been emerging since 2009.

“The experience and things that happened since 2009 all speak to a liberation movement that needs fundamental re-engineering, restructuring and reorientation,” he writes.

"If that does not happen, the negative culture will become so systemic that the ANC, at least in so far as its outlook and standing in society are concerned, will die an ignominious death.” I concur wholeheartedly.

The coming local elections are a critical chapter in the book on Zuma’s legacy.

As things stand now, the ANC stands to lose a lot of ground. It seems likely that it is going to be our most violent election since 1994.

There is even a real possibility that the EFF, some independent candidates and indeed some sections of the ANC itself could reject the election results, something that will certainly lead to dangerous instability.

Last week’s riots in the Tshwane townships were the first paragraph in this chapter. Several people died, hundreds of millions of rand’s damage was caused and thousands of people’s lives were severely disrupted, and only because a faction in the ANC was angry that it had lost its access to political privilege and the financial rewards it brings because their candidate didn’t become the party’s mayoral candidate.

With all his weaknesses, something like this would never have happened during the Mbeki presidency.

The seed for this kind of behaviour was planted in 2007 when Mbeki was humiliated at the Polokwane congress of the ANC and started growing when Zuma became president some months later.

Zuma has reduced a large chunk of the ANC to a mob that mostly seeks its own gain, practice tribalism and couldn’t care less about the national constitution or the ANC’s long and mostly honourable history.

That sentence more or less sums up our president himself.

There are many decent people and leaders left in the ANC. They remain loyal to “the movement” because, they argue, the Zuma phenomenon is a temporary aberration and that it is still the only party that can lead South Africa. All will again be well once he’s departed. Hehehe.

They further argue that Zuma has to be outmaneuvered very carefully, because if he was forced out against his will, the ANC could very well implode and the country descend into violence.

This is a realistic fear. The problem is that this grouping can show very little or any progress with their strategy.

Zuma has outsmarted them again and again, and today he also has the services of the total state security apparatus, most key state institutions and the majority of the national executive committee at his disposal.

The August 3 election is a prelude to the mother of all South African elections coming in 2019, an election where the ANC could lose their grip on government.

The remaining constitutionalists in the ANC leadership, Cyril Ramaphosa, Gwede Mantashe, Zweli Mkhize and others, will have to be much more aggressive and clever in their strategy to get rid of Zuma after August, or their own legacies will look like his.

And with that, our hope will die that we have actually hit rock bottom as a nation and will rise from the ashes soon.

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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Read more on:    anc  |  sabc  |  jacob zuma  |  protests  |  local elections 2016

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