Max du Preez

The future lies with us, the people - not the ANC

2017-12-12 07:58
People speaking at Save South Africa's 'real State of the Nation Address' say citizens are fed up with the state of the country under the current administration. (Paul Herman, News24)

People speaking at Save South Africa's 'real State of the Nation Address' say citizens are fed up with the state of the country under the current administration. (Paul Herman, News24)

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We, the people of South Africa, still hold the future of our country in our hands, regardless of who will be elected ANC leader next week and thus probably become our president next year.

Those of us who believe in constitutionalism, a growing economy and clean and effective government prefer Cyril Ramaphosa as this new leader.

But even if he and his faction of the ANC dominate the leadership election and he becomes president next year, we would still not be out of the woods if the present wave of civil society activism are not maintained.

The struggle against state capture, corruption and the abuse of power has been quite successful in recent times.

But the truth is that government and law enforcement agencies had virtually no role in this. It was due to civic activism, the judiciary, the media, opposition parties and individuals like Thuli Madonsela.

The question is whether there is indeed a critical mass of citizens who refuse to accept corruption and abuse of power.

This concept comes from physics: a critical mass is the minimum fissionable material that can sustain a nuclear chain reaction. In politics it is the minimum number of people of some influence who feel strongly enough about something to make it happen.

I have no doubt that we do have a critical mass of citizens in South Africa who are sick of the Jacob Zuma administration’s mismanagement and demand a return to constitutionalism and clean, accountable government.

They may not represent a numerical majority of the population, but they consist of most of the opinion formers and influential people: the black elite and professional class, business people, employed urbanites, national and local trade union leaders, the clergy, as well as the majority of the minority groups.

But such a critical mass can’t cause a chain reaction if it’s passive or hidden. It has to be mobilised, it has to assert itself or it will be irrelevant.

That is why we have civic activist organisations like OUTA, Save SA, Freedom Under Law, Section 27, the Council for the Advancement of the Constitution, Corruption Watch, GroundUp and others.  (I exlude the ethnic mobilisers, because their race-oriented actions are mostly counter-productive in the greater scheme of things.)

Ramaphosa is not corrupt and in my view he has a realistic view of what has to happen with the economy and in society. But he’s no messiah.

Since his return to politics in 2012 he has shown over and over that pragmatism and power politics are more important to him than principle or truth.

I personally know that very little of the sensational exposés of recent months were news to him, yet he served as Zuma’s deputy with little protest or resistance.

If he does become our new president, we would have to apply as much pressure on him and his administration as we had piled on Zuma the last few years.

Ramaphosa will have to fire and replace a large number of key people in government and the civil service and make many unpopular decisions. He will have to put the national interest above the ANC’s interest and party unity.

It won’t be the end of the world if Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is chosen as ANC president, provided we citizens can escalate the pressure on her tenfold.

We the people can make it very difficult or impossible for her to continue along the same path as her former husband.

Those in the ANC who opposed her, especially those in Parliament, will have to play a crucial role in assisting this effort.

Even if Dlamini-Zuma beats Ramaphosa, she won’t be dominating the ANC’s NEC like Zuma did after 2012.

Fortunately, she and her team will realise that if she perpetuates the status quo, the ANC will lose the 2019 general election.

That should help to focus her mind.

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. 


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