Sunday 3 April 2016

David and Goliath, what next?

I was amused by a conversation I overheard on social media on Friday evening, during the infamous Zuma address. You know, where he pretended to uphold the constitution, pretended to apologise and pretended to lead the nation. I don't think anyone was fooled. 

The President addressing the nation on 1st April

Here’s the chat:

“Why is everyone so disappointed when Zuma behaves like an asshole?”

“Well, it was Easter last week, we were hopeful for another miracle.”

If we all dig deep, and are completely transparent and honest, we will have to concede that there was this tiny bubble of hope expanding. The balloon inflated, with the thought “Maybe, just maybe, he will do the honourable thing.”

We were deflated, along with all our patriotic hopes  by 19h30, when the speech ended. The nation, high on passion engendered by the Constitutional Court’s epic finding that Zuma had failed to uphold the Constitution and  he should have obeyed the Public Protector’s finding in the first place to pay back the money was now as hopeless as the clown at the circus holding a bunch of rainbow coloured popped balloons. We had cheered through Thursday’s speech - its eloquent wording cutting straight as an arrow, through the spinning twirling bull that we’ve become so used to hearing flung out every time one of our power mongers is in trouble.

"Constitutionalism, accountability and the rule of law constitute the sharp and mighty sword that stands ready to chop the ugly head of impunity off its stiffened neck," Mogoeng Mogoeng stated in a preamble that set the tone for the hour-long ruling.

Since Friday, calls for Zuma’s resignation have mounted in intensity, with business, religion, and ANC stalwarts all joining the refrain. “Do the right thing and resign, Mr President.” Or the catchy chorus, sung from the gallery, “ANC executive, recall the man.” 

And also as expected, we have the calls from the left and the right side of the political spectrum for South African citizens to do the right thing and vote this corrupt, unethical party out of power at the next election.

Fellow South Africans, in our anger and desire for redemption and revolution, let’s not miss the point.

It was the Constitution, and the fact that we have a constitutional democracy that saved us from our President getting away with this complete abuse of power. The office of the Public Protector is, by design, a check and a balance on the absolute authority that exists in a ruling party. Absolute power can get away with corruption, nepotism, unethical awarding of tenders, bad governance practices, gosh probably espionage and murder, if unchecked.

There is no political party or perfect leadership that is pure, unblemished and right all the time. Unfortunately, there is also never an absence of those who have the deep pockets and are willing to use them to achieve their own agendas. The problem I have  is with the expectation that if Zuma goes, in the short or the long term, that in his place we will have a better leader. Yes well, we probably will. It isn't hard to find someone better than what we have. In all likelihood, however, that leader will also be open to corruption and all the other practices that have led to this point in our history. It may take us longer to become disillusioned, especially if we are in a honeymoon “post Zuma” phase of “Of course the King has clothes on”.

Just consider for one minute what would happen if Trump did win the US election. Yes, a lot of US citizens would be embarrassed. But they wouldn't worry too much that those outrageous pre-election promises - “I’ll get rid of all the immigrants” and “let’s punish women who have abortions” would actually be legislated. That’s because, at some point in the democratic process, there would be challenge issued to the logic behind these propositions, and, hopefully at some point, reasonability would prevail.

What I have loved about being a South African recently is the commonality I have enjoyed with those around me, regardless of background, race, age or gender who have condemned the evil we have seen, and shouted out against the injustice and corruption made evident by the new heroes, like Thuli Madonsela and our judiciary who aren't afraid to do the honourable thing.
Vindication for Thuli Madonsela

Zuma should, and eventually will fall. Maybe our Rainbow Nation will vote differently in the next election? I’m not so sure.

In the meantime, I’m going to be reading the Constitution (yes, the whole thing, you can too), paying attention to what MPs and other political leaders say and do, calling  out corruption and injustice wherever I see it, and standing up for the people around me that do the same. We need more convincing challenge by outspoken citizens, local government leaders and Members of Parliament of those in power. We need to speak out when individuals are silenced or victimised by those who abuse their power, and we need to root out corruption and nepotism wherever we see it. 

Enough is enough.

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