Max du Preez

Mugabe's ousting could spark change in ANC

2017-11-21 06:45
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)

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If Jacob Zuma were not a teetotaller, he surely would have downed a bottle of brandy with Coke and smoked a packet of cigarettes while he was watching the drama in Zimbabwe on television on Sunday.

Cyril Ramaphosa may well have enjoyed a drink too in front of his television set, but in his case it would have been champagne.

Be afraid, Number One, be very afraid.

The history and political dynamics of Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Syria differ vastly. And yet the spark of popular resistance in Tunisia in December 2010 quickly spread like a virus throughout the region – the Arab Spring.

Similarly, the history and politics of Zimbabwe and South Africa are very different and most of the parallels so often drawn between the two countries are nonsensical.

But the spark of resistance against the tyrant Robert Mugabe has already blown over the Limpopo – not a fireball, mind you, just a spark, but one that will most certainly have an impact in this country.

Zuma knows today, and so do all of the citizens of South Africa, that even the most famous of the Teflon Men, the best of the Invincibles, can be and will be overthrown.

It wasn’t the tanks in the streets of Harare or the mass protests that would have sent a chill down Zuma’s spine. 

A military intervention is not possible in South Africa, and everybody is used to mass protests.

It was the sight of two hundred members of Zanu-PF’s central committee dancing and singing exuberantly after they had decided to unceremoniously fire Mugabe, his wife and some of his loyalists that would have struck fear in Zuma’s heart.

These were the very same people who pledged their dying loyalty to Mugabe and defended and protected him with great vigour until very recently, in some cases just a few days before he was axed as party leader.

(No disrespect intended, but I’m not sure that Zuma would have understood half of Mugabe’s middle finger-address on television on Sunday night – he used words like vicissitude, assuage and ameliorate.)

A Harare filmmaker said on Sunday that one of the young Zanu-PF hotheads he had filmed very recently assaulting MDC members for disrespecting Mugabe was one of the men shown on television ripping down Mugabe posters in Harare.

It’s coat-turning, double-crossing season in southern Africa.

(Remember how PW Botha’s own cabinet members suddenly turned on him in 1989, how even his most faithful friends stabbed him in the back and forced his bitter resignation?)

Zimbabweans formulated their gripes against Mugabe over the last week: gross mismanagement of the economy, corruption, nepotism, poverty, unemployment, the existence of a criminal cabal and the unacceptability of perpetuating a dynasty.

Does that sound familiar to your South African ears?

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is no Grace Mugabe and isn’t married to Zuma any longer, even if she still (or again?) wears his wedding ring. 

But unfair or not, many South Africans draw parallels between Mugabe wanting his wife to become his successor and Zuma trying to do the same with his ex-wife.

The people of Zimbabwe are sick and tired of Mugabe’s abuse of power, of being embarrassed about his and his wife’s shenanigans.

Most South Africans are equally gatvol of Zuma’s abuse of power and angry and ashamed of his, his sons’ and his Gupta cabal’s mockery of our inherent decency as a people.

And suddenly we – or rather, the ANC faithful – got the powerful message from Harare: you don’t have to tolerate this, you don’t have to put up with an embarrassment of a president.

Jump ship now, or sink with him.

I have a sense that this realisation will make a difference at the ANC’s elective conference next month. 

If Zuma’s candidate loses, it will indeed be the beginning of the end of him.

South Africa is fortunate not to have a political culture – not since we became a state in 1910, not even during the apartheid years and not since 1994 – where the military plays a pro-active political role.

It is an important asset that the civilian, elected government doesn’t have to fear military intervention, one that many other countries like Zimbabwe, Egypt and Turkey don’t have.

Zimbabwe’s politics still revolve around a struggle hierarchy. The same General Constantino Chiwenga who led the military intervention last week declared publicly in 2008, when Morgan Tsvangirai won the election, that the army would never salute someone who didn’t fight in the liberation war.

South Africa’s democracy wasn’t delivered by the ANC's armed struggle, but by political and economic pressure, isolation and then by negotiation.

A military coup is the last thing South Africans should worry about.

The ousting of Robert Mugabe is an internal corrective move by Zanu-PF that is giving the people of Zimbabwe new hope.

Something similar could very well happen to Zuma soon.

We South Africans will also be dancing in the streets, even those who today still defend him.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  anc
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