My fellow South Africans, it’s time to wake up

2016-04-02 11:53

I’m one of those who thought President Jacob Zuma would resign yesterday. Because I believed the Constitutional Court’s conclusion this week, that he had violated the constitution by his failure to comply with the remedial action taken against him by the public protector in her report on Nkandla, was a final blow to his presidency. After a series of scandals in his administration since he came into office, I thought now, he had reached his political limits. It turns out I was wrong.

When the president addressed the nation I was anxiously expecting two words from him, “I resign”. But when he finished his address without saying “I resign”, I thought to myself, this is a big test for South Africans. The ball is in their court now. It’s them, the voters, who will have to shake up this government. And they can only do so at the ballot box.

In democratic societies, where citizens regularly vote, politicians aren’t that powerful, at least in my opinion. Citizens decide who should govern their nation. Now that the African National Congress’ (ANC) top elite has decided to stick by their wounded Zuma, it is now up to the voters to change the course of the country. Just as they voted for Jacob Zuma and his colleagues into power, they have a chance to eject them in the next elections.

Gwede Mantashe’s hogwash at the press conference last night was stunning. He said that recalling President Zuma just because the opposition parties demand so would tear the party apart. But doesn’t Gwede and his colleagues realize that this is much bigger than their party? Jacob Zuma is the president of South Africa, not just the president of the ANC. It’s bewildering, and in fact a disgrace, that they’d keep him in power just to satisfy their political egos. Really? Even at the expense of our nation?

It was stark from Gwede’s speech that what comes first to him and his colleagues is the ANC.  Well, perhaps understandably so. Professor Milton Friedman, who taught at the University of Chicago for thirty years, was right when he said that we live in a world where individuals pursue their separate interests. Gwede Mantashe and his colleagues are more worried about the survival of their party, it rewards them. What is in their interest is that the ANC remains the ANC. It’s not about you and me, the citizens of the country. Therefore we should have never been surprised by what came out of his mouth last night.

At the moment, many South Africans seem frustrated. But here’s what sickens me, if elections were held tomorrow, they would vote for Jacob Zuma, again. When you ask why, they’ll tell you that they are not voting for Jacob Zuma, they are voting for the party, the ANC. But such reasoning doesn’t make sense to me.

What exactly do they mean by “the party” and not the people? If not the people, do they mean the name, the buildings, and the emblem? But the buildings and the emblem can’t govern, it’s not human, only flesh and blood human beings can govern. So then we can only vote for people, right?

The party is a legal entity. Without human beings, you are left with the name, the buildings and the emblem. And the name, the emblem and the buildings can’t give the State of the Nation Address, or represent us at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, or solve our problems. So to tell yourself that you are not voting for Zuma, but for the ANC, when he is the president of the ANC, is foolish. There is no way you can separate “the party” from the actual people who are in charge of it. Unfortunately it’s impossible.

If South Africans would apply this logic we would not find ourselves in a situation like the one we are in at the moment, at least not too often. Mandela is no more, and it was right at the time to vote for the ANC because you were voting for Mandela. But not today. Today, Jacob Zuma and his ANC elite do not deserve to be in power. If we continue with the delusion that we are not voting for them but for the party (which implies the name, the buildings and the emblem) then we’re doomed, for decades to come.

We do not know for how long the ANC will keep President Zuma at the helm. But let’s remember that they have a right to let him finish his term. So clearly, we can’t rely on these people to do the right thing. They are politicians, and as Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institute once said, “No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems – of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind”. When Gwede spoke yesterday, it was crystal clear that what is number one to him and his colleagues is politics, not solving our problems.

I urge South Africans to wake up now. Sleeping time is over. Let’s hold President Jacob Zuma and his friends accountable, punish them at the polls. It’s time to give other parties a chance. It’s the only way we can make this country a better place. When we vote next time we shouldn’t think about 1994. Thinking about 1994 is not going to help. Let’s think about today and the challenges we face. And if we continue with the lunacy that we vote for a party, not human beings, then South Africa’s future is gloomier.

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