The #AmINext protests of the past two weeks were a game-changer for South Africa, writes Adriaan Basson.
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The most significant part of last Thursday’s State of the Nation Address was President Jacob Zuma’s audible giggle as he witnessed the excessive violence used to evict the EFF members.
It said more about him and his views of our democracy than any speech he’s ever made.
It wasn’t an awkward or embarrassed giggle, it was a vindictive, a gloating one. He knew that that moment of confrontation was going to come, and he knew very well that preparations were made for a very violent response.
It was the mocking laugh of a man drunk on power who regards himself as untouchable and not accountable to anyone.
An hour or so later he was dancing with great self confidence on the stage at an ANC rally on the Parade, singing that someone should pass him his machine gun.
It is chilling to contemplate how much damage this man could still inflict on our democracy and its institutions in the eleven months he has left as president. (Note that I don’t say two years…)
As things stand, our Constitution, the so-called pillar of our democracy and stability, is fraying at the edges.
It is still on our law books, but the Zuma/Gupta cabal and the security cluster have been actively undermining it for some time now.
Every single undertaking given by the speaker of Parliament before SONA2017 was broken: that only soldiers with ceremonial duties would be allowed on the parliamentary precinct; that no SAPS members would be involved with the white shirted parliamentary bouncers as the high court had earlier ordered; and that the media would have the same free access around Parliament that they’ve always enjoyed.
And all this because Jacob Zuma wanted to show his opponents that he was a big tough guy not to be messed with.
We as a nation had a long, hard look in the mirror on Thursday evening.
We observed our president and his supporters that rely more and more on kragdadigheid and cheap populism to conceal their rape of our democracy and theft of our national resources.
We looked at the so-called “good” members of the ANC, people like Cyril Ramaphosa, Naledi Pandor, Pravin Gordhan and Jackson Mthembu, going through the motions of standing and clapping for the man they very well know was on a path of destruction for the ANC and the country. Their powerlessness was an acknowledgement that they simpy can’t control this one-man wrecking ball.
We saw the wild ones of the EFF who came to the event planning only to shout, insult and seek physical confrontation.
And we saw the other opposition parties storm out of the room, outraged and paralysed.
What was supposed to be the most important political day of our annual calendar became like a Jerry Springer episode.
Zuma’s theme was an important one: inequality, landlessness and the unsustainable low level of black participation in the economy.
Every sane South African, white or black, would agree that these issues are crucial ones to be tackled urgently and with a sense of energy and purpose.
But coming from Zuma, people should be forgiven if they simply yawn and go their merry way.
He pointed fingers at white South Africans as the sole causes and perpetuators of these injustices.
Sure, we whites should face our sins, selfishness and privilege head-on, but Zuma did not show an inkling of self-examination about how his administration and ANC governments before his had failed miserably to build a new society with equal opportunities for all on the ruins of apartheid.
The catastrophic education system and the virtual abandonment of skills training systems top this list.
The stench of the latest two scandals – the shelf life of government scandals is less than a week nowadays because there are so many – hung over Zuma when he exclaimed j’accuse: the death of 94 plus mental health patients and the shocking Dentons report on the excesses, incompetence and corruption of Eskom’s senior staff.
We are shocked because we could count the bodies and the millions of rands, but actually, this kind of behaviour is standard practice in most (not quite all) state departments and state-owned enterprises.
There are many, many Qedani Mahlangus in our public life.
“Radical economic transformation” is in principle a good project to launch now and we should all fight this fight for a more just society.
But if the poor management, pathetic administration, widespread corruption, nepotism and state capture aren’t rooted out, our sacrifices and extra tax money will simply fatten the Zuma hyenas even more.
And if the Happy Giggler were allowed to again fire Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan after the upcoming budget speech, we will all be poorer and the black majority will again suffer most.
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