South Africa grapples with its future
By Ada Anioji
With frustrated and lawless gangs prowling the streets and taking out their rage on foreigners even as the approval rating of President Jacob Zuma has plummetted to a shocking 15 percent, concern is rising in South Africa over how best to deal with the closing phase of the Jacob Zuma presidency.
Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Maimane put the current state of angst within the country in perspective during his recent response to Zuma’s State of the Nation Address:
‘The weight of our history lies heavy upon all of us. We must never forget past injustices. And we must put right the wrongs of the past.
Four days ago we commemorated Nelson Mandela’s historic speech on the Grand Parade upon his release from prison 27 years ago.
As we reflect on the state of our nation, we need to ask ourselves: How many South Africans enjoy the freedom that Madiba spoke of on that day 27 years ago?
Three days ago we marked the 51st anniversary of the forced removal of people from District Six.
People were wrenched from their homes and families were ripped apart.
I am sure all of us in this House will join me in saying, never, never and never again.
Yet two weeks ago, a story broke in our news of people torn from their lives and their families right here in a democratic South Africa.
We heard how thousands of mentally ill patients were carted off to unlicensed NGOs without telling them or their families where they were going.
We heard how 94 of these patients tragically died of starvation, dehydration, diarrhoea, pneumonia and seizures.
This ANC government – under this president – did that.
From the Marikana 34 to the Esidemeni 94, this government has turned against the people of this country.
This is a murderous government.
When we proposed a minute’s silence to mark the tragic deaths of the Esidimeni 94, the ANC said no.
At a stroke the ANC showed what it really thinks about the vulnerable members of our society.
You see, the only thing this party cares about is power. It cares about getting rich.
It cares about big projects like the Arms Deal and the Nuclear Deal that are conceived because, in the words of President Kgalema Motlanthe, they offer opportunities for certain people to make money.
It cares about the perks of the office – the cars, the travel, the blue light convoys.
The ANC has stopped caring about ordinary South Africans.
The ANC has turned from liberator of the people to the enemy of the people.
On Thursday evening we gathered to watch the President’s State of the Nation Address.
Long before we entered the chamber, it was clear that this government wasn’t on the same side as the people.
Streets were closed off and barricaded for miles around this precinct.
There were riot police and razor wire on every corner.
There were snipers on the rooftops.
There were soldiers with automatic rifles pacing up and down Parliament Avenue.
This wasn’t the State of the Nation. It was the State against the Nation.
The ANC on the one side and the people on the other.
The liberator turned oppressor.
The enemy of the people.
In his novel “1984”, George Orwell said: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
We saw a glimpse of this future on Thursday night, and it looked very much like our painful past.
The police in riot gear.
The deployment of the army.
The screams of female Members of Parliament as they were punched and kicked.
A boot stamping on a human face.
South Africa will never forget what happened on Thursday.
And we will never forget the reaction of the man at the centre of it all.
The President who stands accused of 783 counts of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering.
The President who built his house – his monument of corruption – on the backs of the poor.
The President who is selling our country to foreign agents.
We will never forget how he laughed.
How he laughed at the violence visited upon Members of this House.
It was the laugh of an enemy of the people.’
Such censures of President Zuma’s conduct are commonplace. Ftrom university students to big business, everyone that matters may very well have given up on this ‘African big man.’ Indeed, without the legacy of Nelson Mandela, things would really have been much worse now even as there are suggestions for the African Union to begin considering embarking upon the kind of rescue mission that literally saved The Gambia from the life-long despotism of Yahyah Jammeh a few weeks ago, as a possible solution to the Zuma siege.
Within the ruling ANC itself, there have emerged very sharp divisions over Zuma’s most disastrous rule. While the faction loyal to the incumbent President is routing for his former wife and immediate past AU Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamin-Zuma to succeed him in the the leadership of the party and subsequently the presidency, others are weighing towards, deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa.
What is however looking guaranteed in all of these is that not only will the 2019 polls be very fiercely contested, but that even after its conclusion the sword of possible trial and conviction will continue to rest over Zuma’s head. Which indeed is a pity.
South Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa