2018: How SA's political landscape changed

2018-12-31 10:32
President Jacob Zuma. (Gallo Images)

President Jacob Zuma. (Gallo Images)

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"We gon' be right, we gon' be alright". 

This phrase taken from one of US rapper Kendrick Lamar's songs was used by former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba during his short stint as finance minister, as he delivered South Africa's Budget speech in February. It may not have bode well for Gigaba, but it's the direction many hope the country will take in 2019. 

2018 wraps up having taken down the careers of numerous politicians such as Gigaba, but most notably that of Jacob Zuma, who stepped down as the country's president's on Valentine's Day. 

South Africans were left asking, "Mama please give us a signal", following the passing of struggle icon Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, as they experienced a new dawn which came with new leadership.

As we bid farewell to 2018, News24 counts down some of these and other stories which shifted the South African political landscape throughout the year: 

1. The fall of Zuma

Cyril Ramaphosa's narrow victory, to become the ANC's president at its December 2017 elective conference, sealed Zuma's fate, with many in the ANC immediately calling for his sacking as South Africa's head of state.

This only gained momentum in February, leading to a series of tumultuous weeks for the ANC, the media which was tracking the developments, and ordinary South Africans keenly watching to see how the saga would end.

Following back-and-forth discussions in the ANC's national executive committee (NEC), which even tried deploying its top 6 officials to ask Zuma to step down, the NEC finally recalled him and topped it off with an ultimatum that it would direct its Members of Parliament to vote in favour of a pending motion of no confidence against him in the National Assembly, which was brought by the EFF.

On the 14th of February, just a few hours before a motion against him was to go ahead, Zuma announced to the country that he was resigning as president.

2. Ramaphosa's new dawn

Zuma's exit resulted in Ramaphosa being elected and sworn in as president the following day. Ramaphosa also delivered the State of the Nation Address (SONA) that week, which was meant to have been delivered by Zuma, but was postponed during the push for his removal.

Ramaphosa, who anchored his maiden SONA on late jazz icon Bra Hugh Masekela's Thuma Mina (Send Me) song, shared parts of his vision for the country and committed himself to being a servant of the people.

His Thuma Mina moment went on to become the ANC's electioneering campaign, which also included morning walks in different communities across the country, a somewhat-new Cabinet and the start of a clean-up operation at state-owned enterprises.


"Ramaphoria" gripped the country when Ramaphosa took over from Zuma. (Supplied)

Although the mere idea of Ramaphosa's presidency pleased many, with the country said to be experiencing "Ramaphoria", his decision to keep some controversial Cabinet ministers - such as Bathabile Dlamini, Malusi Gigaba and Nomvula Mokonyane - in his administration was not welcomed by some.

Since taking over as president, the country has finally seen the start of the much-anticipated inquiry into state capture; Tom Moyane booted out as the commissioner of the South African Revenue Service; massive changes at Eskom, Denel and SAA; and the fall of Supra Mahumapelo as both North West premier and ANC provincial chairperson - with Ramaphosa in most cases allowing the courts to make his decisions for him.

He also spent the better part of the year attempting to boost South Africa's lethargic economy and to create jobs. This saw him travelling across the globe and wooing investors to pour money into the country. In October, his investment summit resulted in pledges of over R290bn from local and international companies.

READ: Ramaphosa celebrates investments of R290bn at walk down historic Vilakazi street

It's also under his leadership that the ANC agreed with the EFF on the expropriation of land without compensation. The governing party also announced later that it supported the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution on this matter.

Ramaphosa's unity project within the ANC suffered a few setbacks as he battled to win the hearts of an NEC where some remain loyal to Zuma, amid claims of plots to have him removed as president of the ANC.

3. She didn't die, she multiplied – the death of Mama Winnie

Struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela succumbed to her illness in hospital, surrounded by family members, in April. The liberation stalwart was credited with keeping the ANC and leaders such as Nelson Mandela's names alive while they served long prison terms for their political beliefs.

"I am the product of the masses of my country and the product of my enemy", said Madikizela-Mandela, who spent time in and out of prison and faced numerous banning orders.

Her legacy came under the spotlight once again after her death, with some questioning whether the woman known as the "Mother of the nation" should be celebrated as widely as she was, while others criticised the ANC for not properly acknowledging her role in the struggle for liberation.

4. The fall of Supra 'black Jesus' Mahumapelo

The former North West premier and ANC provincial chairperson has insisted his fall from grace was part of a purge of those who did not support Ramaphosa's bid to become ANC president during the party's watershed 2017 national conference at Nasrec. Many in the ANC, however, claim that Mahumapelo had it coming.

Mahumapelo's province was placed under administration by Ramaphosa following the collapse of numerous departments, including the health department, which was rocked by numerous claims of corruption and a strike for several months.

READ: 49-year-old Supra Mahumapelo announces early retirement as North West premier

The state of government in the North West was further exacerbated by ongoing violent protests and calls for Mahumapelo to step down. He went on "early retirement" in May and the ANC NEC dissolved his provincial executive in September.

Mahumapelo was given a chance to join the provincial task team, meant to rebuild the province. He rejected the gesture from the National Working Committee, insisting that he could not work with people seeking to remove those who supported former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The former provincial chair - dubbed "black Jesus" due to his ability to claw his way back to the top position in the ANC after being removed as chair following the ANC's 2007 elective conference - is currently fighting the dissolution of his PEC, alongside four other party members. He has previously spoken out against ANC members who took the party to court.

5. Falling star - Malusi Gigaba

Malusi Gigaba's trajectory in the ANC had been an one from the days he served as ANC Youth League president. This is a man, some believed, who was destined to become South Africa's president. That dream, however, was seriously derailed in 2018, leading to Gigaba's resignation as a Cabinet minister.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba. (Photo: Gallo Imag

                          Malusi Gigaba resigned as home affairs minister in November. (Supplied)

The former home affairs minister had been embroiled in numerous scandals ahead of his November resignation, with Public Protector Advocate Busiswe Mkhwebane directing the president to take "appropriate action" against him after it was found he had lied in court, which violated the Executive Members' Ethics Act. This is in relation to the Fireblade Aviation saga.

Previously, both the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court upheld an earlier finding that he had lied to the High Court. Gigaba has maintained that he never gave the Oppenheimer family permission to operate a private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport.

A video showing him in a solo sexual act was also leaked. He claimed this was part of a conspiracy to destroy him and, although initially refusing to step down, he eventually did, just a day before Ramaphosa was due to take action against him.

6. The EFF vs Gordhan... and everyone else in between

A fierce political onslaught against the Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was launched by the red berets this year.

EFF leader Julius Malema launched a scathing attack on Gordhan outside the venue where the minister was testifying before the state capture commission.

He referred to Gordhan as a "corrupt dog", "a dog of white monopoly capital", and claimed that the minister "hated black people".

Malema has often placed Gordhan at the centre of his Limpopo woes, claiming the fall of an engineering firm he was previously linked to, and that of the provincial government, were orchestrated by Gordhan when he used to work closely with Zuma.


                              Pravin Gordhan with his daugther, Anisha. (Supplied) 

The red beret leader also claimed that Gordhan's daughter, Anisha, had benefited from government and Treasury contracts because of her father, which Gordhan strongly denied, adding that these lies and attacks on his family were totally unacceptable.

ALSO READ: Fact-checked: Julius Malema's charges against Pravin Gordhan

The media also found itself in the middle of this political battle, with Malema singling out some journalists as avid supporters of Gordhan, referring to them as a "mob" and questioning whether media houses like Tiso Blackstar should be banned from EFF events.

Gordhan and the EFF opened criminal cases against each other, while some members of the media have turned to law enforcement following threats by alleged EFF members against some journalists.

READ: Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene resigns, Tito Mboweni sworn in

The EFF also took aim at former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, who voluntarily stepped down after confessing at the commission of inquiry into state capture that he had numerous meetings with the controversial Gupta family at their private home when he was first appointed as a minister by Zuma.

7. The DA - one PR nightmare after another

South Africa's main opposition party has hobbled from one scandal to another this year. This includes debates over diversity, difficulties in managing caucus at local government level, former leader Helen Zille's colonialism tweets, and a seemingly never-ending political war with former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.

                    Patrica De Lille stepped down as Cape Town mayor in October. (Supplied) 

De Lille, who managed to successfully fight the DA over its numerous attempts to have her removed as mayor, reached an agreement with the party to step down at the end of October.

Five other councillors quit as members of the DA council when De Lille officially announced her resignation.

Reports from law firm Bowmans were used as a basis by the DA to remove De Lille. She is challenging these in court, and has gone on to launch her own political party.

8. State capture inquiry

The much anticipated commission of inquiry into state capture, which came into being following a recommendation from former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, finally got under way.

The family at the centre of the probe is alleged to have used undue influence over Zuma, while he was president, to loot state-wned enterprises and control his executive.

The Guptas have since fled the country, but have expressed a willingness to participate in the probe from abroad. The request was rejected by the head of the inquiry, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

READ: Ajay Gupta on witch-hunt: "I want to clear my name"

The inner workings of the ANC and government have been laid bare by those who've appeared before the inquiry, with former minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi explaining that he felt the ANC NEC, which is the party's highest decision-making body, was paralysed when it came to dealing with Zuma and his relationship with the Guptas.

Although the ANC continues to argue that it is not on trial, it has already been called in to shed light over its deployment policies and its request to meet with the country's four big banks when they decided to stop doing business with Gupta-linked companies.

The commission will continue doing its work in the new year.

9. Land

One of the more emotive issues that hit South Africa this year was the demand for land.

In December, Parliament adopted a report on land expropriation without compensation and resolved to amend the Constitution, in spite of threats to challenge the move in court.

After the motion on land was put forward by the EFF, and supported by the ANC, a joint committee toured the country and sat through heated debates over the land question.

Even US President Donald Trump joined the debate when he tweeted that he was concerned about the land issue, after lobby group AfriForum reached out to the international community, citing fears that white-owned land was going to be seized.

ALSO READ: ANC and EFF not singing from same hymn sheet on land

This is still a lengthy process that is expected to end up with Section 25 of the Constitution being amended to allow for land to be expropriated without compensation. The ANC sees this as an opportunity to make the clause more explicit, while the EFF wants all land to be placed in the state's hands.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  politics

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