With Hope Into South Africa’s Future
After almost nine years of Jacob Zuma’s mostly ruinous presidency, South Africa’s long wait to finally exhale ended last week with his departure. Under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, the nation hopes that sober, responsible, transparent and accountable governance will take hold in South Africa.
It may be significant that in Mr Ramaphosa, the country has a president who fought the struggle against apartheid from within South Africa. The primacy of the exiles in the African National Congress (ANC) since the dawn of our democracy has not always served the country well.
Much as Mr Zuma’s presidency will be remembered mostly for its rampant kleptomania, we must remember that the rot of corruption had already set in under ex-President Thabo Mbeki, particularly with the arms deal. Mr Ramaphosa also will need to repair the ANC whose reputation has been wounded by the Zuma era.
The task facing President Ramaphosa is immense. He and those whom he appoints to his cabinet must build a future for South Africa on the debris of a government whose duplicity, arrogance, incompetence, disorder and mocking of decency cast a shadow over any of its accomplishments.
Mr Ramaphosa also will need to repair the ANC whose reputation has been wounded by the Zuma era.
Time will tell whether the ANC can establish some internal stability. The results of its leadership elections in December suggest that finding unity will be enormously difficult, though the party will likely present a united front in the run-up to the 2019 national and provincial elections.
Those elections will reveal whether the ANC’s electoral decline under Mr Zuma will be arrested, or whether it has lost the confidence of voters.
Certainly the acts of the Zuma government — those that were honourable but also those that were not — were executed in the name of the ANC, and many of those who were party to the sleaze of corruption still occupy positions of influence and authority.
The ANC must now take collective responsibility and make amends for the brazen plunder of state coffers by its own government. Those responsible for these transgressions, especially for the “state capture” by the Gupta family, must be held to account, regardless of the positions they are holding. This must include Mr Zuma. Obviously, all Zuma deployments to top positions in strategic institutions must be reviewed. Agents of corruption in key positions have to be removed swiftly.
Obviously, all Zuma deployments to top positions in strategic institutions must be reviewed. Agents of corruption in key positions have to be removed swiftly.
The damage to the democratic institutions wrought by many (though not all) of these appointments has been severe. But our democracy is nonetheless in a healthy state.
Our justice system stood firm against government attempts to corrupt it, offices appointed to protect our Constitution frequently held government to account (especially the Office of the Public Protector under Thuli Madonsela), and our civil society, including many of our media, has been active and often trenchant. The churches have also contributed, as a part of civil society, to protecting our democracy. Most dramatically, the Dominican Order initiated the Public Protector’s investigation into state capture.
The churches have also contributed, as a part of civil society, to protecting our democracy. Most dramatically, the Dominican Order initiated the Public Protector’s investigation into state capture.
When our state was captured, we found some recourse in the courts and on the streets, eventually culminating in the premature removal of the corrupt president presiding over it.
This is not the case in many other democracies. The self-styled “greatest democracy in the world”, the United States, is institutionally captured by special interest lobbies and industrialists whose campaign contributions dictate policy — rarely to the benefit of the common good.
Indeed, South Africa’s democracy is in a robust state. It is a promising sign that Mr Zuma did not try to subvert it when his political career was nearing its end. The ANC has shown its fidelity to the democratic processes by accepting electoral defeats in the 2016 local elections. The trauma of the Zuma years is now over, and South Africans enter the future with hope. Over the next year or so there will be vigorous debate as the political parties compete for votes in the 2019 elections.
We, all South Africans, must remain alert in protecting our democracy.
The trauma of the Zuma years is now over, and South Africans enter the future with hope. Over the next year or so there will be vigorous debate as the political parties compete for votes in the 2019 elections.
That’s how it must be. But at the same time, after all those years of division and chaos, South Africa is in need of healing, reconciliation and transformation. Even as the election campaigns intensify, we must work towards meeting those essential needs.
May God bless South Africa!