The Nelson Mandela Foundation last night became the latest lobby group to call on President Jacob Zuma to step down amid revelations of emails linking his latest Cabinet reshuffle and state-owned entities with the Gupta family.
“It is not enough simply to change ‘the leader’. What is required to save and protect the Republic [of South Africa] and restore its dignity is the uprooting of the self-serving networks that have been created and which could continue to wreak havoc in our country,” said the foundation’s chairperson, Professor Njabulo Ndebele.
The foundation said it was “resolutely opposed” to the ongoing onslaught on the country’s Constitution, and the weakening of institutions of democracy embodied in it and designed to achieve its solemn objectives.
Ndebele said the foundation supported the urgent establishment of a judicial commission of enquiry “to expose state capture in all its forms”.
“We urge South Africans to be vigilant against what can only be called ‘a capturing of democracy itself’. We must use the instruments of our constitutional democracy to remove leaders and their networks which are implementing such capture. And we must take responsibility for making our country what we deeply desire it to be,” he emphasised.
Ndebele was accompanied by other board members, including businessman Tokyo Sexwale and academic and businesswoman Mamphela Ramphele.
He said only an inquiry would assist the country to identify other people who were in the network of corruption and who were instrumental in the looting of the state. They too should be rooted out of government machinery because removing President Zuma alone would not helpful.
Ndebele said this country’s constitutional democracy was under threat and its political process in crisis.
He said this was manifested in:
• Structural corruption, whose onset in the contemporary phase is largely attributed to the “arms deal”. Since then its tentacles have spread throughout the economy and the public service. Even in the domain of interpersonal relations, it has replaced trustful mutuality with transactional intent, and public interest with self-interest;
• Recently published scholarly research has demonstrated the emergence of a “shadow state” which undermines fundamentally the integrity and the efficacy of the constitutional state and which thrives on secrecy. This has resulted in a more or less systematic looting of public coffers. Secrecy and malicious intent are denied even as they are exposed and proven;
• Levels of violence in society have deepened, with women and children being particularly targeted. They are not safe in their homes or in our streets. New research demonstrates that one in five South African children will be sexually abused. Professor Pumla Gqola describes rape as a national crisis and points to a deep-seated patriarchy which allows toxic masculinities to thrive;
• Constitutional accountability by public officers in government has been eroded. This has led to a significant decline in purposeful and responsible public service to the general population, in particular responsiveness to the needs of the poor;
• Transactional politics such as leads to the buying of votes has contributed to growing alienation from the political process by the broad public. This phenomenon has led to what academic Khaya Sithole calls the replacement of a politics of participation by a politics of ratification, in which citizens ratify decisions taken elsewhere by others through a system now viewed as fragile; and
• Massive unemployment, an increasing disease burden, low levels of social security, a failing education system, slow economic growth and persistent inequality are a toxic mix that constantly assaults public hope in a viable future.
Ndebele said: “This entire situation has resulted from failures of leadership at multiple levels of government and across the range of social sectors ... this untenable situation has led to calls across the land for the head of state, President Zuma, largely regarded as the author of the current malaise, to vacate the highest office of state. We urge him to listen to the voice of the people.”
He said Madiba’s Foundation was applauding the growing groundswell of resistance to the betrayal of the vision enshrined in the Constitution as well as the work being done to make the vision a reality.