Time for a new narrator

Sunday Independent Editor, Steve Motale

In his State of the Nation address to the nation last week President Jacob Zuma was at pains trying to paint a rosy picture of the state South Africa is in today.

One incontestable fact is that South Africa is undoubtedly a far better place thanĀ it was under apartheid, and for this, the ANC deserves lots of credit.

While many challenges still remain, the ANC-led government’s achievements in rolling out housing, water, and electricity to poorer segments of the population have been, overall, enviable. Yes, South Africa has a good story to tell. However, one notable omission that Zuma made is that under his presidency the glow of optimism and social harmony that accompanied the country’s transition to democracy under Madiba has vanished.

The gains made under the leadership of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki that Zuma was gloating about in his speech are being reversed, and he is at the centre of the erosion of this progress.

Under Mandela and Mbeki, South Africa was widely praised for embracing freedom of the press. Regrettably, under Zuma, many of these civil liberties are under threat. The Protection of State Information Bill, which Zuma will in all likelihood sign into law after the elections, will have major implications for the right of the media to expose corruption.

Corruption under the Zuma administration has billowed and the political will and capacity to arrest this scourge is not there at all. Zuma himself lacks credibility in the fight against corruption as he is widely caught up in virtually all the biggest post-apartheid corruption scandals. These include the arms deal, Guptagate and the shameful waste of millions taxpayers’ money in the upgrade of his private Nkandla home.

Just this week two shocking reports painted a worrying picture, contrasting the account presented by Zuma in Parliament last week.

First Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her damning report on the state of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Madonsela’s scathing findings are a shining example of how the ruling party’s cadre deployment policy has gone horribly wrong. Madonsela’s report highlights how the predatory politically-connected elite has, with blatant impunity, rendered major organs of the state like the SABC increasingly dysfunctional.

Another embarrassing survey released this week by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that for the first time in as many years the prevalence of economic crime is on the increase in South Africa. According to the poll, bribery and corruption has been the fastest growing economic crime category in South Africa since 2011, and the Institute of Accountability attributes the spread of malfeasance to the demise of elite police unit the Scorpions.

Again here the finger points at Zuma, whose mobilisation prior to taking over leadership of the ANC targeted the Scorpions who were investigating hundreds of charges against him. It is the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007 that resolved the Scorpions be dissolved. This successful police unit, which boasted a more than 90% conviction rate, disappeared and so did the more than 700 charges against Zuma.

Yes, South Africa might have a good story to tell, but Number One is certainly not the right person to narrate this tale.



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