Zuma recall highlights country needs versus party priorities
GIVEN the length of time it has taken the ANC’s highest decision-making structure, its national executive committee (NEC), to recall President Jacob Zuma, it is clear that there is either a loud and vociferous minority of Zuma defenders who still agree with his repeated claim that he has done nothing wrong - despite all the information that has made its way into the public domain all these years - or that there is an even bigger number of such people than we were led to believe.
Either way, it is reasonable to suspect that such people must have had one eye across the Limpopo River into Zimbabwe, and wished they could have solved their party’s problems - which have become our problems - Zanu-PF style.
Other examples they’d probably want to emulate would include Yoweri Museveni’s Uganda, Omar al-Bashir’s Sudan, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s Equatorial Guinea and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
But increasing numbers of us know now, thanks to our constitutionally enshrined freedom of the press and of expression, that what may be possible in these other countries would not easily succeed in South Africa.
At least some things still stand, despite the Zuma Presidency’s ANC enabled wrecking-ball effect on many of our institutions. No political formation in South Africa has the power to usurp the responsibilities of the judiciary, or to issue instructions to our courts. We should remain vigilant that things remain this way into perpetuity.
We should be happy that Zuma is about to fall from his self-made precipice after being recalled by the ANC, and that it’s only a matter of time before he takes the plunge.
Unlike former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, and interim president Kgalema Motlanthe, Zuma would have spent hundreds of hours during his presidency locked in private rooms with his lawyers looking for whatever weaknesses, loopholes, and technicalities he could use to his advantage to always remain a few steps ahead of the long arm of the law.
He was brought into the Presidency looking over his shoulder and he has remained in that position, wondering when his day would finally come. And given his increasingly large security detail in a country with no history of presidents being attacked – apart from Hendrik Verwoerd, who was assassinated in 1966 – Zuma’s levels of paranoia must be making it hard for him to sleep at night.
ANC priorities are not always South Africa’s priorities
The frightening spectre of where things could have gone had Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma won the ANC leadership elections remains very recent. The temptation to be concerned about Cyril Ramaphosa’s chances of success, to want to give him a hug and assure him that the whole country is behind him, that everything will be fine and that he will soon enjoy the freedom to do the good things many of us believe he wants to do for our country, remains strong in many social media discussions despite the worrying signs of his seeming fence-sitting.
We want him to succeed because he’s all we have for now. Otherwise, who do we turn to in this long period before the next elections?
But Ramaphosa must soon wake up to the reality that what the ANC wants and what the broader South African society wants are not always the same things. Removing Jacob Zuma from the presidency is the right thing to start with, as it will hopefully unblock the system and enable a thorough clean up, if there is the political will for this. It will take time, no doubt, but the time for well-articulated speeches is fast receding.
To clean up the system, Ramaphosa and his problematic leadership collective must honestly respond to the expectations of South Africans, not just those of his party members, by:
- Identifying and removing all the people implicated in enabling the weakening and repurposing of our key institutions. They’re all over the place, in Cabinet - now going about speaking as if they have nothing to do with what happened – and they’re at the South African Revenue Service and state-owned enterprises.
- At all costs not repeating the mistakes made by Thabo Mbeki – who suspended a respected national director of public prosecutions for wanting to arrest a corrupt and captured national commissioner of police; by Motlanthe - who fired the same NDPP to defend Zuma; then by Zuma - who upped the ante in every way possible to undermine every state institution to enable theft and his own protection from the law
- Doing nothing to shield criminal elements and other compromised individuals in the ANC’s top 6, the NEC, the national working committee, the ANC Women's League and the ANC Youth League from criminal investigation and possible prosecution. Ramaphosa must simply stand aside and let the law take its course.
He must neither fool himself nor allow sycophants now gathering around him to do so. The general sigh of relief and excitement that followed his victory over Dlamini-Zuma will not last forever.
South Africans care about the unity of the ANC insofar as such unity is good for the country, and we all know this isn’t always the case - especially now when unity for the ANC might mean wasting energy trying to find ways to allow criminals get away with their crimes against the interests of the country.
It’s going to be a tightrope for him to walk, no doubt, but if Ramaphosa continues appearing to doubt whether the country’s interests are more important than those of his party, he’s probably not the leader South Africa needs to recover from the reputationally devastating years under the ANC-enabled Zuma.
Like the dreadful apartheid years, South Africa cannot afford to go through another period being led by a party - any party - that fails to understand the reach of the pain inflicted on it by a leader it spent so much energy defending.
Change would be good.
- Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley Reputation Managers. Views expressed are his own.