A REGULAR reader of this column recently pointed out to me that it preaches to the converted. “Ordinary South Africans,” he told me, “do not read the stuff you write; they don’t know who you are and, probably, don’t even know that you exist.”
He went on to remind me that the people who read columns such as this one are over-obsessed with middle- and upper-class issues that have no meaning for the majority of South Africans, the “ordinary masses”. The latter still do not care about state capture, and whatever Zuma and his army of enablers are being accused of.
“All they know,” he went on, “is that there were colonialism and apartheid in Africa and in this country, and that whites came here and stole a lot from the indigenous people of our continent and country, especially land.”
He also made reference to “hundreds of billions of rands” that were ostensibly stolen through apartheid era state capture, but omitted to tell me how he came up with these figures and where got them from. According to him, the money stolen during apartheid is the loot we should be focused on, instead of wasting our energy on Jacob Zuma.
This is not a new narrative, of course.
Zuma the ‘father of radical economic transformation’
Accordingly, I was also told the ‘ordinary people’ of South Africa consider Zuma – now dubbed the ‘father of radical economic transformation’ in some circles – as as a freedom fighter and victim of an agenda driven by white monopoly capital, using Zuma’s own comrades who are regarded as traitors.
At the top of the list of the comrades supposedly being used against Zuma is one Cyril Ramaphosa, who must be removed from power.
You, the “converted” reader, should at this stage be able to guess where all of this is going.
Now we who are apparently not “ordinary people” of South Africa can sit back and laugh at all this, even dismiss it; but we might be doing so at the peril of our country’s elusive social cohesion.
The departure and demise of Bell Pottinger – which was merely a tool in the hands of people who commissioned and briefed it, all based here and intent on using race to sow division in our nation – did not mean that adherents to its campaign also left when Bell Pottinger was made to leave, with its tail between its legs.
They are still here with us, but they are not all “poor skepsels (creatures)” who have no idea of the bigger picture and of the broader implications of their actions and utterances, and they’re definitely not all people living in tin shacks in informal settlements.
They’re political opportunists of the highest order, many of whose greedy ambitions were torpedoed by Ramaphosa’s victory in the ANC’s December conference.
Coalition of the wounded
The drivers behind this coalition of the wounded did not count on Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma losing the party’s elections, as they were too focused on closing their eyes and daydreaming about occupying lucrative positions in state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the Cabinet and other government bodies. That was, until Cyril Ramaphosa happened.
We should be worried that people who suffered the most because of the Zupta-led state capture were the ones who sang the loudest when Zuma led them in song during the ANC’s elective conference, and who jumped joyfully up and down when the likes of Ace Magashule and Jessie Duarte were elected in the top six.
Going by their joyous mood, none of them made any connection between these problematic leaders and the current state of our economy, and almost depleted levels of racial social cohesion.
That investors had begun to give South Africa a wide berth and that both corporate and individual tax morale was at its lowest since the dawn of our democracy, or even that our economy had been downgraded to almost total junk status because of Zuma’s kleptocratic rule, meant nothing to them.
If the confusing, joyous celebrations of the ANC’s conference delegates is representative of the attitudes of the so-called ordinary South Africans, our country is still in trouble.
Ramaphosa must keep going
So far, Ramaphosa has embarked on a journey that, if consistently followed, should help us undo much of the damage done under the leadership of his predecessor.
His appointment of Pravin Gordhan and Nhlanhla Nene as, respectively, Ministers of State Enterprises and Finance, would have effectively snatched back control of SOEs, National Treasury and the PIC from the toxic hands of Zupta state capture enablers.
Added to this, his removal of the highly problematic Tom Moyane from the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is laudable and no small act. Its long-term effect should be the gradual restoration of lost credibility to SARS and the return of tax morality. Our country’s development programme cannot do without it.
But Ramaphosa – whether the party he leads wins, loses, or comes out massively weakened from the 2019 general elections – will not be there forever. And no one can guarantee that the taste of power will not turn him into a monster in the future, and cause him to go rogue on us, or that another hot-headed leader with extreme views might win elections. There is at least one such waiting in the wings.
South Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men/women
The only thing that can protect us from too much reliance on the goodwill of politicians is the assurance that our democratic institutions are strengthened to withstand a political tendency for destructive grandiloquence.
What should we be asking for from parties aiming to contest the 2019 general elections to ensure that the interests of our country, its Constitution and us, its people, are placed way above those of political formations?