President Zuma looks at dictators with envy

2016-03-17 11:20

I've read stories about Isabel dos Santos, billionaire and the daughter of Angolan President who has been in power since 1979. Isabel has of course denied any links with her father's influence claiming she is an independent woman.

I've also read stories about Gaddafi and his children's wealth, and Mugabe's. When you read such stories, you think oh those nasty dictators looting while the people they are meant to serve starve.

Take it closer to home and think for a minute about how the Zumas went from a rural family with a few perks owed to President Jacob Zuma's previous posts as MEC, and Deputy President, and now the family, through the President's son, has business interests reported to be worth billions. And of course links with the Guptas.

Some ANC supporters are quick to dismiss criticism over corruption and say the problem is President Zuma. He may be a problem but an even bigger problem is the ANC which has created an enabling environment for the Zuma nightmare to continue.

After the surprise removal of Nhlanhla Nene which cost banks over R150 billion, many called for the removal of the President. But that did not happen as Zuma has managed to surround himself with puppets in the cabinet and in parliament who would not dare question him.

And the election of the ANC's NEC members happened at the conference where delegates endorsed President Zuma and the nightmare that has been his presidency which will only be remembered for his many scandals.

But such is the nature of dictatorships. Look to our northern boarder and see what happens to those who question their "democratically" elected President Mugabe. They are pushed out of their posts so it is better to be a puppet and protect the dictator as Mbete, Radebe, Mantashe and Co have been doing.

Zuma's NEC colleagues have demonstrated that they are incapable of questioning anything the President does. They buy the President's story of how Gupta's helped Zuma's unemployed son become a millionaire, possibly a billionaire. The President has nothing to do with it like Angolan President has no role in his daughter becoming a billionaire.

While the conditions may not be so conducive for an outright Zuma-Gupta dictatorship, threats to go down this path are becoming ever more evident. The only obstacles that remain are civil society and the courts. Although Prime Minister Mantashe has said some court decisions will have to be ignored from time to time, the courts remain independent. But they do not have the power to enforce court decisions. Such a role depends on other institutional actors that have been used to protect President Zuma such as Parliament and the Executive.

Thus, even with the independence of courts, we cannot rejoice when other institutional actors fail to fulfill their constitutional roles and have bowed to Zuma-Gupta dictatorship. Ceremonial distancing from the dealings of the Zuma-Gupta alliance but not enough to end its influence.

The bigger threat posed by this is how the ANC could replace Zuma, this year if NEC members were not spineless, and next year at the ANC's national conference. The problem here is that the ANC could well elect another Zuma supporter who will most probably serve to further entrench what Prime Minister Mantashe called a Mafia State built by President Zuma. Remember that the other motive would be to protect President Zuma since the DA has dedicated a lot of resources to reopening the 700+ charges of fraud, corruption, and racketeering against him.

So if the ANC can bow to Zuma-Gupta, court decisions can be ignored from time to time, what use is the media exposing the scandals if nothing is done about them? Importantly, where are other civil society groups in all of this mess?

The one final bid would be the electorate. See President Zuma called on ANC structures to make it impossible for any counter-revolutionary grouping to mobilise. Mugabe would have made the same call. When I was part of a DA branch leadership in Khayelitsha many years ago, I wondered why DA supporters covered their DA T-shirts with jackets on our way home from a DA gathering. I later learnt of how members were intimidated and summoned to appear before what Zille called kangaroo courts where they would have to explain why they are members of the DA.

I had never been subjected to that perhaps because I had worked with people from different political parties including the ANC and had developed a relationship based on mutual respect. That was until I attended a DA meeting in Gugulethu where DA members could tell you stories about how ANC supporters disrupted DA activities in the area with police officers just watching.

It is not so hard to imagine how that political intolerance President Zuma called for could be a common feature of elections in South Africa. Remember that ANC supporters fight and kill each other over posts, in the Cape they stabbed then provincial leader Mcebisi Skwatsha in the back, literally. So why would they not do the same to the opposition once the threat to unseat the ANC becomes real? As real as it is in Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, Johannesburg, and possibly the Gauteng province come 2019.

President Robert Mugabe did not become a dictator overnight. He was okay with democracy as long as he enjoyed popular support. Economic hardships, slow transformation (#WeWantTheLandBack), and a growing opposition made him change his tune about the people of Zimbabwe deciding their destiny. Their destiny in 2008 did not include a President Mugabe.

As much as we can count on the independence of the courts, free press, and other civil society groups, for South Africa's democracy to work better, the voters must come to the party. For now it remains a Zuma-Gupta party and they are having fun. Putting an end to the party seems the only logical option left because the ANC has demonstrated over and over again that they will not touch Zuma.

But if voters are to use their vote to sanction the behaviour of Zuma-Gupta and the ANC, who would they replace the ANC with? If you had asked me a couple of years back, I'd have said the DA. But today I look at the DA and get really frustrated and I've explained on this platform why but I would still choose a DA councillor, just not a DA President. Then the EFF? I trust Mugabe more than I trust Malema. Maybe in 2019 I'll do like some Irish folk did a few years ago when they dumped established parties and elected independents.

But we don't a system that allows for independents, just tiny parties. And while electoral support could be spread across smaller parties, it would be chaos trying to get them to agree on anything. Like the chaos that awaits Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Port Elizabeth should they not produce a clear winner this year. This is the dilemma that faces South African voters and benefits the ANC. Instead of voting the ANC out,  they'd rather stay away from polls. Maybe the electorate has to vote for any opposition party just for the sake of teaching the ANC  a lesson because the chaos won't end with the ANC in power anyway.

So while Zuma may not have absolute control of everything that makes our democracy a democracy, he does secretly wish he was a king Mswati who has the power to dismiss a Chief Justice nje just because he feels like it. He certainly wishes he could stay in power longer and had control of what information is available to the public. They have fooled some ANC aligned civil society groups like toothless COSATU and SANCO but cannot fool everyone. Zuma may be replaced in the near future but if the ANC remains with the same useless MPs, cabinet and NEC members, they may very well replace him with yet another Gupta stooge or even a Zuma stooge. The idea that some family from India has been running the RSA government certainly shows that we're becoming a democracy in name not practice.

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