Is this the end for South Africa?

2017-03-31 20:24

"It is difficult not to reach the conclusion that a license to loot situation was created by government"- Thuli Madonsela, then Public Protector of South Africa. This was after she found that all laws applicable to public finance management were not adhered to during the security upgrades into President Zuma's private residence in Nkandla. This meant that the public purse had been deliberately left open so that looting can begin. And so public money was spent in violation of the constitution of the Republic under the watchful eye of those entrusted with the responsibility of looking after it.

After much public denial from President Zuma, claiming that his family had paid for everything, the story was not going away. Because public money to the tune of  16.7 million USD at the time had been spent unlawfully in the President's home. Then Police Minister and Parliament had their own unconstitutional investigations which absolved President Zuma of any responsibility. Thankfully, South Africa has a reasonably independent judiciary. The president was not going to get away with it. Not if opposition parties could help it. Off to the highest court they went, and as usual, the President lost. The constitutional court ruled that the President violated the constitution. Today he remains President of the Republic of South Africa after looting the public purse and with such a judgement from the highest court in the land.

All because the ANC's highest decision making body between conferences finds itself "paralysed" by smallernyana skeletons. It is hard to imagine how self-respecting men and women could seem so useless/spineless when we know from their credentials that they are very capable of taking the lead but they remain tolerant of President Zuma's ever growing list of scandals. The rise of President Zuma and emergence of smallernyana skeletons has seen the ANC, a once celebrated liberation movement, give up their values and submitting to a man who has practically done everything a South African president should never do. The first duty of a South African President is to defend, protect, uphold, and respect the constitution of the Republic. And our President has failed to do that on so many occasions. Yet he is still in office today. Because he is surrounded by many spineless men and women with very few principled enough to stand up to the thieving elite.

Because the story is still unfolding today, we can only speculate on how the ANC will respond to the firing of Finance Minister and his deputy who have dutifully guarded the public purse. They were fired for being too good at their job and because the President has the power to do so. Replaced with his favourite stooges who are happy to defend him. And so the much desired license to loot situation has been  created  in the national treasury before President Zuma's last term ends in 2019. While there has been much public outcry, and reaction by the markets, many of the ANC's seniors have not spoken. Probably discussing it among themselves. There are a number of possible reactions from the ANC NEC and parliamentary caucus once private discussions must be public. The NEC could choose to do nothing as they have done in the past. Or they could finally put the interests of South Africa first and recall President Zuma. Heaven knows the man has given them plenty of reasons for such a decision.

The ANC's parliamentary caucus too has some power. Divided just like the NEC is, they could revolt, and vote with the opposition in a motion of no confidence against the president.  In which case their parliamentary leadership would have to explain the decision before the ANC's NEC or be fired. It is also hard to imagine that ANC MPs could vote for a motion tabled by the opposition to recall an ANC President after they've spent the last few years defending him.  Historically, ANC MPs have resigned when they do not agree with the established party line. Resigning has not helped though since they can be replaced with members of the leading Zuma faction. So when they do not resign, there is a tendency to be silent and vote with the party or be absent when the vote takes place. Cowardice! This time though both the ANC NEC and parliamentary caucus have never been this divided. Anything can happen.

But one thing is clear. The ANC does not seem concerned about the erosion of our democratic values expressed in the constitution. Accountability and the rule of law are only applied when it is convenient to do so. I am reminded of the ANC Secretary General's words when he said that "some court decisions will have to be ignored from time to time" when the government refused to arrest a fugitive, Sudan's Omar al-Bashir. The statement by Mantashe signalled that South Africa's constitutional values may only exist on paper. And the ANC's handling of President Zuma's scandals certainly confirms this.

Is it the end for South Africa's democracy? Is South Africa going to be a democracy only in name? I believe not. I grew up in household with many different political views. Gogo and Papa in the ANC, mama left for COPE, my biological father in the UDM, and I somehow ended up in the DA. The reason for such diversity of political opinion is simply because each one believed in something and acted upon it. This is true for millions of South Africans, many of whom have died for their political convictions. The Zuma era therefore presents such an opportunity for South Africans to reevaluate their political convictions and stand up for them. There are already signs that the political landscape is changing as the ANC's share of the vote is in decline. If the party could receive less than 60% of the national vote in 2016, 2019 and 2024 are wide open for the maturation of democracy rather than the erosion of democratic values we've witnessed since the rise of one Jacob of Nkandla.

South Africa has survived worse than President Zuma through activism. It is that very same activism that will get South Africa back on the path to shared prosperity. Such demands the involvement of everyone. Remember Apartheid? Even children marched to say enough is enough with white supremacy and sadly they were murdered. But the white supremacists no longer have political power today. We do not have to take children out of the classroom to join protests now though. We can begin by openly and honestly talking about yesterday, today and tomorrow. Somewhere in between there'll be lessons on how to make tomorrow better and avoid yesterday's crisis. I for one cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings. Nomboniso Gasa just reminded me that even in the ANC there are principled men like Mcebisi Jonas who turn down millions in bribes because they understand their duty is to serve the public, not to steal from them. So maybe there is hope. All is not lost. This is just the beginning of the end for the Zuma era, and not not the end of South Africa's young democracy.

It might seem that President Zuma has gotten away with yet another scandal. But even if they loot the treasury tomorrow, a day will come when everything crumbles before their eyes for nothing stays as it is forever. Certainly not in politics. They can steal your money, but never let them steal your hope of a better tomorrow. Let's hope that there are more silent Mcebisi Jonas in the ANC because it seems that immediate change will have to come from within the ANC. Hopefully they'll be courageous enough to put South Africa first. Long-term change on the other hand demands the removal of the ANC from power. And it is possible. Who knew that one day post-Apartheid South Africa would once more need courageous men and women to fight for democracy?

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