Talking Point 12.4.2017 05:45 am

Anatomy of the downfall of a revolution

AFP/File / John MacDougall<br />South African President Jacob Zuma

AFP/File / John MacDougall
South African President Jacob Zuma

Zuma has long not been part of the revolution. He has become the face of its possible demise.

Love, it has been sung by Jennifer Lopez and lesser beings, makes the world go ʼround. However, it is money that greases the wheels, and as the South African economy slips inexorably to take its place in the junk market, ANC stalwarts and veterans are asking, how did this happen?

Too much has happened in too short a time to go into too much detail, but these past two months may provide the answer.

Still, it’s taken years to reach this point.

One-hundred-and-one ANC signatories to “For the sake of our future”, coupled with tens of thousands of ordinary South Africans, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, other church leaders, political parties Cope, the DA, EFF and UDM have turned against the ANC, a party many believed would drag South Africa into the light from the darkness of apartheid in the halcyon days of the hoped-for Rainbow Nation of 1994.

And for about three minutes after voting, the light shone brightly.

But as South Africans do, they left South Africa to her politicians, and woke up with a surprise when the ANC under Thabo Mbeki fired Jacob Zuma in 2005 after the latter was linked in court to the corruption of his then friend Schabir Shaik.

Zuma still needs to have his day in court on 783 associated corruption charges.

He then went to work to unseat Mbeki, and in 2008 Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota – himself a struggle veteran –  with Mbhazima Shilowa broke from the ANC to form the Congress of the People (Cope) in protest at Mbeki’s recall, followed in 2013 by Julius “I’ll kill for Zuma” Malema, who formed the Economic Freedom Fighters.

All the while, it’s been Zuma against the law, and the Constitution, with ever-increasing scandals and court judgments turning the tide against him.

The never-ending “showerhead” meme from his rape case in which he admitted to showering after “having sex” with the HIV+ daughter of a friend to prevent the transmission of HIV, Nkandlagate and the violation of the Constitution, the National Prosecuting Authority still shielding Zuma from being prosecuted on those 783 counts of corruption over the infamous R30 billion arms deal, as well as losing the Western Cape, Cape Town, Tshwane, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg to the ever-rising DA tide have all contributed to a general perception of miasma around the president.

But it was Nenegate, followed by the midnight cabinet reshuffle that ousted Pravin Gordhan, which finally drove South Africans to the streets last week, and again today, and will again on Friday.

On 22 February, Gordhan delivered his budget speech in Parliament to a standing ovation and was widely praised for “striking the correct fiscal balance”, despite our R2 trillion debt.

While credit ratings agencies lurked, on 8 March the ANC announced its discussion document which addressed a tired and overused buzzphrase, “radical economic transformation”.

Then apartheid struggle hero and outspoken ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathadra died after brain surgery on 28 March.

His death was the catalyst for Gordhan, as well as Kathadra’s wife and ANC veteran Barbara “this country is not for sale” Hogan to use his funeral and memorials to ignite the conversation around corruption, Zuma and “State Capture”, fuelled by Zuma’s nemesis, the one person he couldn’t touch in her chapter 9 institution, former public protector Thuli Madonsela.

When Gordhan was brusquely recalled from an investor road show in London designed to drum up support, rumours of a cabinet reshuffle started brewing, and at 20 minutes past midnight on 31 March, Zuma changed the course of South Africa forever when he unilaterally announced 20 changes to cabinet, in the process firing Gordhan.

ANC stalwarts questioned in a statement on Tuesday: “As stalwarts we have to ask who benefits from this type of un-comradely activity and what message does it send to loyal members of the ANC; what message does it send to the people of our beloved country; what message does it send to those who have supported the ANC; finally, what message does it send the majority of our youth? Does it give them hope for the future, do they see those types of disruption as acceptable and in their interests,?

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa added their voices to the criticism and, for a moment, hope sparked that the revolution would get back on track.

Then Zuma slapped them down and, tail between their legs, they toed the party line and the revolution stuttered again.

“If the ANC does not create unity based on the wellbeing and development of our country in the interests of all of our people, it will be punished by the very people who supported our movement during the fight against apartheid and at the ballot box, but who now question if we are still fit to lead,” cautioned the stalwarts.

When newly installed finance minister Malusi Gigaba promised the country that he intended to “implement the policies of the ANC, as articulated in conference resolutions, in the 2014 election manifesto, and in the president’s pronouncements” on 2 April, few realised radical economic transformation had already featured at the ANC’s 53rd national conference in Mangaung in 2012.

On 3 April, despite having advance knowledge, Gigaba let the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) rating agency rattle South Africa with an investment downgrade, followed by Fitch Ratings on 7 Apri,l which took an even harder line than S&P, downgrading both our local and international credit ratings, making it exponentially more expensive to borrow money.

The announcement by Fitch was followed the same day by one from global financial giant J.P. Morgan, which will drop South Africa’s investment grade bonds at the end of April.

“There is little doubt, despite the repeated mantra that ‘there is no crisis’, that the crisis our country, our people and the ANC faces is deep,” the stalwarts said.

“The crisis and those who have created it reaches deep into the very fabric of our society and is based on an unquenchable need for power and money.”

Also on 7 April, tens of thousands of South Africans marched against Zuma’s presidency – including the DA’s Mmusi Maimane in a bulletproof vest after he received death threats – marches Zuma said little about other than dismissing them as racist.

The UDM under General Bantu Holomisa made spectacular strides yesterday by gaining direct access to the Constitutional Court to ask for a secret ballot in Parliament in an upcoming vote of no confidence in Zuma.

To add to Zuma’s pains, Speaker of Parliament and ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete indicated she would not oppose the UDM’s application.

Today, Wednesday 12 April, is Zuma’s 75th birthday.

Will he hold the revolution together until his end of term? Or until it’s too late?

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