BOKAMOSO | It was the worst of weeks, but it’s the spring of hope

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

Charles Dickens wrote this of the years leading up to the French Revolution. He may as well have been referring to South Africa this week. Politically, it has been an alarming week, one which has caused many to despair for the country. And yet it contains seeds of hope. If we nurture them to fruition, South Africa will emerge the stronger for having endured the Zuma Presidency.

On Tuesday, the Zuma-captured Hawks (Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation) acting on instruction from the Zuma-captured NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) summoned Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on fraud charges deemed irrational by legal experts. This weakened the rand, magnified the threat of a ratings downgrade, and struck a grave blow to our near-term prospects for job creation and poverty alleviation.

Meanwhile, our universities were under attack from #FeesMustFall protestors throwing stones, intimidating fellow students and setting property on fire in their attempt to bring about campus shutdowns until their ever-shifting demands are met. Without explanation, Treasury was given no representation on the team tasked to resolve this far-reaching crisis even though underfunding is its root cause.

Unperturbed, President Jacob Zuma was in Kenya, inspecting a Guard of Honour during the welcoming ceremony for his three day trip, and then dancing the night away at a State Banquet in his honour.

It is open knowledge that the attack on Gordhan is purely political. The Hawks have been circling since August; their swoop was inevitable. In terms of state capture, the Treasury is the big prize – conferring unrestricted access to state funds and rubber-stamping the nuclear deal.

The motives are blatant, the move all the more devastating coming at a time when Mr Gordhan is preparing the medium-term budget, the key lever with which to resolve the university funding crisis. Quite a week!

It was also the last week in office for Thuli Madonsela, our courageous Public Protector, whose time to expose Zuma / Gupta state capture is fast running out. Zuma employed his usual delay tactics, seeking a court interdict in an attempt to stop her from releasing her interim findings, while the Guptas issued her with threats. Zuma’s efforts to delay this investigation until Adv. Madonsela’s term is over vindicated our profound concerns about the appointment of the new Public Protector. We still hope she will prove us wrong.

The prevailing response to these dismal developments has been one of incredulity and despair. How can one man cause so much damage to so many for so long with such impunity? How is he getting away with murder – murder of our economy, our education system, our future? How can we stop this madness? These are the questions on the minds and lips of millions of angry South Africans.

In fact, there is cause for optimism. In essence, these moves are all symptoms of an ANC disintegrating under the sheer weight of prolonged cronyism, factionalism, cadre deployment and corruption. Zuma’s conduct is bringing this decay to a head, hastening a final resolution.

Zuma’s bold attack on our national wellbeing has awoken many sleeping giants. A wide range of countervailing forces are pushing back hard against the Zuma/Gupta attempt to capture our state. Last week, a Constitutional Court judge refused Zuma leave to appeal the reinstatement of his corruption charges. Opposition parties are winning more votes, the DA having just won three new metros. Myriad civil society organisations are speaking out and taking action: business groups, NGOs, churches, students and academics.

Even within the ANC there are forces speaking out. Its parliamentary caucus, traditionally a rubber stamp for the executive, seems to be finding its voice. But also the Gauteng ANC, SACP, some trade unions, an ANC subset called #OccupyLuthuliHouse, and many respected ANC veterans have come out strongly against Zuma’s corruption and state capture.

So South Africa is not yet at the precipice. And we’ll not only survive, but thrive, if we unite behind the Constitution and its vision of a prosperous, non-racial South Africa. If we make the right decisions now, we can emerge from the Zuma Presidency a stronger nation with a more resilient democracy, one far better protected from the threats of capture, cadre deployment and corruption.

The Zuma Presidency has shown our country what we must never allow to happen again. It has taught us valuable lessons: the importance of our Constitution, with its democratic institutions and rule of law that enable a vibrant civil society and a growing economy. We’re learning that our democracy is fragile; and we’re learning what needs to be done to strengthen it.

We can and must entrench an independent judicial system, public protector, national prosecuting authority, priority crimes directorate, media, and electoral commission by ensuring that the power to appoint individuals to top positions within these key democratic institutions lies beyond the Presidency.

We can and must entrench a strong and independent legislature that effectively oversees and checks executive power, by reforming our electoral system to include directly elected Members of Parliament.

If we get this right, then in ten years’ time, we will look back on these difficult days and see two distinct legacies. Zuma’s personal legacy will be one of cronyism, corruption and capture. The man will go down in history as the callous crook president. But the legacy of the Zuma Presidency might be a wonderful one – that united us, taught us what never to allow to happen again, and helped take our democracy from fragile to robust.

Ten years from now, we could look back and see that Zuma’s presidency brought us right up to the brink, but also ensured we’d never go over it. It was the worst of weeks, but it’s the spring of hope.

5 YEARS LATER, WE'RE STILL WAITING FOR JUSTICE

The Farlam Commission Report was released over 2 years ago, but nothing has been done since then to provide closure on the greatest tragedy of our young democracy.


  • Gregg

    But will there be anything left to save by the time he’s done?

    • Janice Kitchen

      Yes Greg there will be something left. Me and You! Stand up and be counted. This place needs to get itself organised. No not the EFF. Sane, normal people who can take this no longer. Zuma couldnt give a damn about our posts on the internet, he doesnt waste his time reading them. Too busy working out his next looting session. We need to get into the public space where the people who dont blog live… we need to make it uncomfortable to be looting this country… Fight back!

  • Molotov

    SA has survived many terrible heads of state and emerged stronger on the other side. We’ll survive this thief too, and thrive.

    • Janice Kitchen

      Dont bank on it! This guy is smarter than your average bear! He has wrapped up the govt good and solid. When he is truly cornered we will see – like we are now. He will fight, he will do anything to keep out of jail, including putting a wrecking ball through this nation.

      • Philip Botha

        Sure he will, but he has played his last card by summoning Gordhan and he had to get one of his last allies, Van Rooyen, to go to court to get an interdict against Madonsela. Even Ramaphosa has came out in support of Gordhan (as well as NPA and ANC structures) in order to position himself as Zuma’s successor. I give JZ 2 – 12 months.

  • A_Place_In_The_Sun

    This may be true – that last week saw the “spring of hope”, but then there is the other possibility that the forces of selfish darkness, narrow revolutionary fervour and hatred that have amassed under Zuma’s ANC will see the ANC’s decline as an opportunity to jump ship onto another even more potentially dark and dangerous one – the EFF – whose blood red flag flies high and heralds the promise of yet another revolution. When I look around me and see the millions of people that the ANC’s policies have kept (indeed grown) in poverty, then I think it is not unreasonable to conclude that these desperate people will reason, in their desperation and depravity, that the baby should be thrown out with the bath water. Let’s face it, the DA didn’t win the votes of many of the ANC’s masses, it merely profited by their absence at the polling stations.

    • Philip Botha

      Almost a million additional votes and the biggest growth by any party (comparing 2014 national election to 2016 general election) after people thought the DA has hit a ceiling is very promising (see IEC election results site). In some townships the DA grew 300% – definitely statistically significant! More importantly the EFF did not achieve the 12-20% that some political analysts predicted. 77% of Wits students voted to return to class. This is a clear indication the majority of South Africans are not radical and desire a peaceful and non-racial future. The trends we have seen since 2006 just need to continue on the correct path.

    • jojo

      DA did just fine,better than expected,with SABC ,radio,doing little for the biggest opposition the DA,the only party that blocked anc on meany corruption issues.
      Time to stop New aged news(propaganda) costing millions a year of tax payers money to keep guptas around. SAA biggest supporter,cant afford to wast more money.Stop the rot

  • Janice Kitchen

    No one ever questions why everyone who loves SA doesnt get up and be counted…
    We sit in our homes, moaning and groaning, expecting someone else to do the doing. The general public in SA is apathetic. There is plenty to lose here, and the Zuma cronies have more to lose than us. They will fight to the end, or they will all be out of work, and gravy. When are we all going to fight back. When are we all going to join the rallies, to voices in the public spaces. Pravin needs our help, the people denouncing Zuma need our help. Where are we?

    • Philip Botha

      Yes some South Africans have “checked-out” but was the #ZumaMustFall marches and the opposition party voter turnout not indicative of a society engaged and caring?

      • Janice Kitchen

        A few hundred went on those marches. Are you serious that you think that was a good turnout? A challenge – the next time there is one will you go and be seen….?

        • Philip Botha

          Yes, there were thousands at each of the rallies and the ones in Durban, Jo’burg and NMB were very diverse. I was at the march in Cape Town which was admittedly very homogeneous. More importantly the almost 8% votes that the ANC lost is more indicative of where our democracy is heading. Can’t wait for 2019!

          • Janice Kitchen

            Yah But did you go. Thats the point. we sit at our laptops tapping away and we are not seen out there. I didnt go!! Next time I will get an UBER (dont want the car trashed) and go. I will wave like everyone else and be seen! We are too anonymous, we are not prepared to get up and leave our suburbs. We need to show the Zuma crowd we are here and dont like whats happening…. we dont have to trash the place, we just need to be seen.

          • Philip Botha

            Spot on Janice, I agree. And as stated above yes I went. I actually organized a car full of people from Stellenbosch to parliament where the march started. I also endeavor to engage with people at work, gym, church, where ever I can build a relationship and discuss topics such as what actually is government’s role, what are the practical solutions to our problems and inevitably I connect the agreed solution with a DA policy. I worked very hard in particular or 2 colleagues at work. We had some very interesting lunch time discussions and we learned a lot from each other. I don’t know which way they voted in the end but I reckon that is the best way to educate people on the way forward. It is easier and Cape Town (hence the landslide victory) and people in Pretoria, Jo’burg and NMB will have some interesting discussions on the “DA difference” in a few years.

        • Philip Botha
        • Philip Botha
    • Sharky912

      Let the November 2 march in Pretoria be the one for SA .
      Join the support march for the persons facing the Zupta claws of greed at the court.
      Lets fight to make things rite ! Good must reign over Evil.
      The march should extend to overseas Saffies in …Australia , Germany , UK , Canada , USA.etc.
      Now we must show the Zupta cronies …Enough is Enough .
      Come on” DA Overseas ” do take the lead.!

  • Mike Berger

    This is an inadequate response. Of course, we know that at a minimum we need “law and order” according to the aspirations and judicial constraints of our Constitution. But I see no strategy for confronting the tactics being used by the Zuptas in their blatant attempt at outright state capture. It is being left to that loose cannon Malema to capture the public space to demonstrate urgent leadership. For all I know he stokes the fires in one context, feesmustfall, and then offers himself as the strong leader to save SA from the Zuptas. Why does the DA not spell outright the options facing South Africa – a return to the genuine, non-racial inclusive democracy of the Constitution and the DA or a descent into various tribal/mafia warlords squabbling over the carcass of SA? Say it. Act it. Publicise it and the DA and SA will prosper. Otherwise you will be expediting our slide towards one or other form of failed state – just another piece in the dismal jigsaw of Africa. We can do better.

  • Hoffie Hofmeyr

    I think I agree with Mike Berger here below that it is too little. I think the DA must be far more pro-active. It should not only feed on the easy food and prey that the governing party is providing, but it should drive its own and our future country’s very important agenda as well. As announced about 14 days ago, the DA should now move fast towards the “2019 Election Mode” which is less than a 1000 days away. There is a wonderful future and spring to work for!! Best wishes for a far better South Africa than the current mess!! Hoffie Hofmeyr

  • Janice Kitchen

    I still think that as people we should be supporting those that are fighting for us, Be seen, be heard, give those that are giving up their lives the support out in the open. Popping a cross at the voting station is good, but not enough. Throughout the years we have been programmed to shut up, We are still shutting up. Those few who do the work tirelessly need to know we are here and back them up. That way we get a message – we are fed up with this bunch of bananas. We need change, now before its too late. Or of course one could join the DA and do some work for them… reading and shaking our heads wont stop Zuma!

  • Gavin Rens

    I also feel that more must be done than reading and talking. But i don’t really know what else to do. We must take the fight to the public places. I think that half the problem is that many citizens still have misplaced loyalty to the ANC and all its members, including Zuma. How can we inform them that things will end badly for us all if we keep on supporting the criminal Zuma and his cronies?

  • Phelamanga

    IN the run-up to the 2019 national election the DA must start to talk about an open free market economy under the rule of law as opposed to a closed, socialist, centralised state under a totalitarian regime as dictated by the ANC-Tripartite Alliance and the EFF. The party should also start talking about a country that respects the right of existence of all South Africans regardless of race as opposed to a state that is mired in African nationalism and tribalism. At the moment and in the near future it is very easy to bash the Zupta regime as it flounders from one crisis to the next, but it is even more important to create a sense of hope under a DA national government that does not have to seek coalitions to govern.
    The DA needs to become more vocal on situations affecting the country like the chaos at universities. The EFF has been receiving more coverage in this event while there has been a dearth of commentary from the DA. What can the DA do to counteract the Fallists and the decolonisers? The DA needs to start talking and getting their policies known.
    It is all very well to jump on the anti-Zuma bandwagon, but this must be used as an opportunity to state how a DA president would react to the crises affecting the nation. Zuma won’t be in power for ever, and the best policy would be to provide an effective alternative.

  • weepee1

    The overwhelming problem is populist politics. As long as the majority who have little hope of improving their lot in life are told they are being mistreated by a small circle of elites (whites), who can be overthrown if the people recognize the danger and work together, parties and groupings like the ANC, EFF, ANCYL, ANCWL, #FeesMustFall will continue to thrive. It worries me that parties like the DA are not using similar tactics to get it across to the people that do not have internet etc who the real elites are. Someone needs to tell them that this will have dire consequences on the economy and what it will mean to the majority of South Africans.

  • Christian_Herbst

    United we stand, divided we fall. We all as South Africans must unite under one common goal which is to ensure our democracy thrives and that our constitution is protected. If this is done, the rest should follow as a natural but still being vigilant.