Social Stability

Zuma legacy will leave deep wounds, and lasting scars

Scars.jpg

In life few things are certain, but like death and paying tax, some of the wounds and scars the Zuma years is sure to leave on South African society, will linger – perhaps permanently.

It is evident that a groundswell of popular South African discontent with government, personified by President Jacob Zuma and seen as corrupt and self-serving, is developing.

It has become a tsunami and even the ruling ANC has split into several factions as the man most of them endorsed as leader in 2007 at the Polokwane conference, let them down massively.

It also polarised society at large along racial-, regional-, class and economic lines – creating a toxic and explosive mix. Who-ever or whatever government – probably a coalition of political parties – will inherit this mess, will face a huge challenge to nurse the country back to full health.

With a few exceptions, notably the judiciary, the Zuma-infection has penetrated most structures and institutions of sound state administration.

Just think what it would take to rebuild a professional officialdom, neutral to narrow party political-, personal- and special interest groups in some key institutions, like those charged with state security.

How it developed 

It might be warranted to express some gratitude for the ANC veterans and others going public, expressing displeasure with President Zuma. But it is also justified to ask, why did they allow the present situation to develop in the first place?

Where were they over the years while he and his cohorts embarked on their destructive spree of maladministration, corruption and self-enrichment?    

Now, with the ANC against the ropes and staring a possible 2019 national election defeat in the face, they suddenly discovered their conscience, responding with outrage, lamenting that the ANC has lost its moral compass. Why did they go in hibernation while it was happening?

Meantime, Mr Zuma seems to be unconcerned, remaining self-assured that his support base is firm enough for him to survive any onslaught.

With yet another parliamentary vote of no confidence almost certain to fail, as the ANC close ranks around their beleaguered leader in a fake show of party unity – despite signs of growing voter discontent – Zuma’s self-assuredness is understandable. 

The ANC’s concern with party unity is understandable, but in the prevailing context, could come at a huge price – even costing them the election, the country a crippled economy and years of destructive social unrest.

History will judge the ANC harshly if they continue to put party and personal interests before national interests, persisting with support for a discredited leader.

Sobering thought  

A sobering thought comes in a Moneyweb article: “… few believe that a lasting recovery or policy reforms will follow Zuma’s eventual departure.”

It goes on to quote a foreign based fund manager who assessed that “There are some very deep, profound issues which need to be articulately addressed – time is running out.”

Besides the obvious economic challenge which needs to be addressed, if there is to be any hope to return to some form of normalcy, so does Zuma’s crusade in using the race card to accuse particularly whites as being responsible for all the country’s ills.

And, then there is the underhanded and sly use of state resources and institutions to spreading confusion and intimidate opposition – real or imagined.

The race card

If President Zuma and the ANC claim they are building a pluralistic society, as the president did during a recent Freedom Day speech, they have a funny way of going about it.

To blame one segment of the population for everything going wrong, surely contradicts this claim.

It becomes inevitable to make a comparison with what happened in Rwanda, at the time when democracy dawned in South Africa.

In Rwanda, unrelenting attacks by a Hutu dominated government on another population group, also a minority, the Tutsi’s – blaming them for all that was wrong – led to the eventual slaughter of a million people in only ninety days – one of the most infamous incidents in the world during the latter part of the twentieth century. 

This is not to imply that South Africa is heading the same way, that would be absurd, but notice should be taken: once a situation purposefully created, runs out of control, applying the brakes and turning it around, becomes almost impossible.

Eventually in Rwanda it was not only the Tutsi’s that suffered but moderate Hutu’s experienced the same fate.

Name calling, insults, degrading and blaming a specific group long enough and the perception will eventually take root that the “accused” is guilty as charged, even if there is no proof or only half truths.

It happened in Nazi Germany with the Jews and in Rwanda with the Tutsis.

Targeting whites

The most crude example came when Mr Zuma recently ignored the truth and described country-wide marches against his misrule and the demands that he step down, as “a whites only thing.”

To their credit, South Africans rejected this lie. Even EFF leader Julius Melena, never shy to play the race card himself, responded that if the president is telling the truth, “we all are whites.”

Zuma did not stop there and also showed his contempt for democracy, referring to the opposition DA during last year’s local election campaign as” a pit of snakes.”

However much his spin doctors might try, the message is clear – in any man’s language a snake is dangerous, venomous, and must be crushed.

 DA leader Mmusi Maimane responded, “We know what he is doing. Next time he will tell people to separate according to their languages and ethnic background. He will say Tswanas on one side, Zulus on one side.”

Julius Malema echoed Maimane and, earlier this year, remarked: “These people (ANC), mark my words, are going to start killing. They have become so desperate that they are going to start killing. They have started killing each other internally. They will come for us.”

Politicians are prone to making provocative and outrageous remarks, but the fact remains, in the last year there have been at least 18 intra-ANC killings, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal, and one DA councillor has already been assassinated in Northern Cape, allegedly by the ANC councillor whom he had unseated.

Disconcertingly, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu confirmed recently that she had received death threats. Some reports have it that she had escaped two assassination attempts, possibly linked to her willingness to challenge President Jacob Zuma during meetings.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa also admitted that he had heard that his name was on the same “hit list” as Sisulu.

 With all the disinformation and innuendos that infiltrated South Africa’s political landscape, it has become extremely difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction, but renowned academic and analyst  RW Johnson’s remark that,” the current period sees unprecedented levels of factional, tribal and other hostilities,” rings true.

Not only Zuma guilty

Zuma is not the only senior ANC member guilty of these irresponsible utterances.

In 2015 the Speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete, labelled EFF leader, Julius Malema, a “cockroach”, warning an ANC audience, “If we don't work we will continue to have cockroaches like Malema roaming all over the place.”

Her remark was immediately widely condemned and commentators described it as reckless, careless, and inflammatory. EFF secretary-general, Godrich Gardee, not without justification, claimed that her comments revealed the ANC’s agenda to incite “black-on-black violence.”

Mbete’ did apologise to Malema, who in turn apologised to the then leader of the DA, Helen Zille, for also calling her a “cockroach.”

Significantly, “cockroaches” was the derogatory term that became the battle cry of the bloodthirsty mob during the Rwanda genocide.

The ANC might yet realise, as the National Party did, that playing the race card will eventually backfire. Although it might even signal the end of ANC political dominance, the scar on the nation and its people will stay forever.

(This is the first delivery of a series, looking at the legacy South Africa will inherit from the Zuma administration. In our next delivery, we will tale look how the tactics of intimidation and innuendos is playing out.)

by Garth Cilliers

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