Led into the wolf’s mouth

2016-11-14 05:27
Last year, Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko said President Jacob Zuma was not liable to pay for upgrades at his Nkandla home. This year, the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma failed to ‘uphold, defend and respect’ the Constitution. Picture: Deon Raath

Last year, Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko said President Jacob Zuma was not liable to pay for upgrades at his Nkandla home. This year, the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma failed to ‘uphold, defend and respect’ the Constitution. Picture: Deon Raath

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Lately, animal metaphors and similes have abounded in our polity. Lions, buffalos and vultures have all featured. But if there is one animal that defines the collective leadership of our country of late, it is that of the genus Ovis. We are led by lambs and sheep.

But we also have a few wolves masquerading as part of the family. The lambs go meekly to slaughter. The sheep follow blindly. The rapacious wolves smile seductively in their woolly disguises, waiting to feast on these poor creatures who think they are their kin. How did we reach the point where revolutionaries have been so tamed and blinded that they could, among other things:

- Elect leaders with criminal records and elect others facing serious criminal charges?

- Allow the abuse of state institutions for personal agendas, personal interests and to be turned into institutions denuded of any credibility?

- Turn a blind eye to the blatant corruption and malfeasance of some of their fellow ministers, MECs, mayors, other elected representatives and their officials?

- Allow Parliament to be trampled upon as an institution, along with attacks on the judiciary and other important arms of the state?

- Almost destroy the national liberation movement and turn it into a shadow of its former self?

The latest report from the Public Protector is not significant for its findings; it is significant because we all knew what to expect from it.

Since the period before the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007, our country has been in turmoil.

This turmoil has largely revolved around the doings and interests of one person and those loyal to him – President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma is a brave, revered and much loved cadre of the ANC. He has served the people of South Africa through his contributions in the ANC, the trade union movement, the SA Communist Party (SACP) and Umkhonto weSizwe. Yet it is clear now, as it was even in 2006, that his leadership is wanting in many respects. Many of those who would previously have supported him, in some cases professed that they would die for him and in some instances would kill for him (such threats have been made), today stand in opposition to his continued holding of office.

How did this happen? Despite all the criticisms of him by his comrades, the media, business, labour and the people at large, he has remained in power and in office for nearly 10 years. Despite all the divisions and the virtual destruction of the ANC and its allies, he has maintained a seemingly unassailable hegemony over the liberation movement. The rand has been a ping-pong ball, our mines have been treated as long drops, government departments treated as bubblegum machines and political conferences turned into little more than bad theatre.

Our citizens have been expected to suck this all up. Poverty, inequality and unemployment, defined as priorities by the ANC and government, are stark legacies of our terrible past. Yet many of our leaders have focused on feathering their own nests, covering their own asses, preserving their positions and salaries, and making sure that they get their business deals done. We would not begrudge them their business interests, their large salaries, their luxury cars, their government houses, business-class travel, and great pensions and medical aids if we were getting value for our money.

Their ineptitude, their timidity, their obfuscation, their unwillingness to stand up and be counted, has been shocking. They have created a culture of mediocrity, where performance is the least requirement from anybody in office or in a post. They have waited until our country is on the brink of ruin before assuming any leadership role. This role they have now been reduced to is of one who attends a march in Pretoria or supports a falsely charged fellow minister.

What have they been doing in Cabinet? In their departments? In meetings of the movement? Why has it taken the Public Protector to rekindle the revolutionary morality and spirit of the national liberation movement? Why have they not held the president to account?

There is no way on earth that other ministers did not know about the Guptas. We all did and we are so far removed from the political elite that we need a telescope to see them. There is no way that, during the corruption trial of the president, the machinations of those who protected him were not known. These were brazenly defended in the name of the ANC. There is no way that the ridiculous trumped up charges against Pravin Gordhan, Robert McBride and others were anything but a crude attempt to oust them from office.

This was evident to even lay people, let alone to legal experts. Some of these very people, those who put Zuma in office and who literally purged the movement to do so, have lately signed letters and petitions and appeared at meetings denouncing him. Why did they not speak up before? Some will claim that they were, like whites claim about apartheid, “not aware”. Others will say that they acted in the interests of unity to try to ensure that the ANC remained in power. Others will deny any such thing, as if their newfound revolutionary morality can whitewash the past. Sadly, such excuses do not cut the mustard.

The truth is that the political, social and economic culture that pervades our society today is not a creation of Comrade Jacob Zuma, but he has clearly effectively exploited it. What we see is the inevitable consequence of class formation in our society. Business was always done this way. First by Cecil John Rhodes and his cronies, then by the Oppenheimers, later by the Ruperts and more recently by the Guptas. The reality is that the ANC was supposed to be different. Its alliance with Cosatu and the SACP was supposed to make it so, at the very least. Yet these very organisations promoted and defended the president. They put him in power. They enabled the very corporate capture some of them now denounce.

Why? How? The truth is that the national democratic revolution is all but derailed. There is no programme for socialism. There is no principled leadership. Instead, conservative, racist and naive people masquerading as socialists and liberals have the moral high ground. They are calling the tune now. They are leading our country into a neo-apartheid, neocolonial future. They are able to do so because our leaders are a combination of lambs, happy to be led to the slaughter, sheep, too stupid to see that they should not follow, and wolves, who dress up in sheep’s clothing so that they may also feast on the lambs, along with the old rulers. Our revolution is in a crisis because the collective leadership has abandoned the revolution. It is, with few exceptions, focused on its own personal interest, rather than on the interest of the nation.

Perhaps this report will create the conditions for an investigation of the narrow cases of corporate capture. It is doubtful that it will lead to a proper debate on the broader issue of a state that serves the interests of business, the wealthy, the beneficiaries of colonialism, imperialism, apartheid and capitalism. It seems our citizens are waking up. Let us hope it is not too late.

Only the people can save South Africa now. Only mass action by our citizens can take us from our ovine existence to being what we should be – shepherds. We should be proud human beings and equal citizens of our country. We are not. We are a nation of people who, for the most part, live a squalid existence in “poverty, ignorance and disease”. A change of leadership is required to ensure that we are led by people who are committed to changing this.

Dexter is a politician

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