It sits with a powerful president – although some observers claim that he’s now weakened – who is like a cancerous lump that has metastasised over time. It is hard to see how they could extract the lump without hurting, as it has already affected other crucial body parts to which it has grown attached.
To extract the lump at this stage, a few months before the 2016 local government elections, the ANC would need to take some very strong painkillers as the operation could never be performed successfully without cutting into other body parts, some already equally cancerous and others indirectly affected through proximity and dependency on them.
It’s probably safer to assume that the whole body has itself become the cancer. There is no longer any guarantee that getting rid of the cancerous lump would save the rest of the body. The lump is in the body and the body has increasingly taken on the characteristics of the lump, having invested resources and much energy for more than two years in defending it – in defence of the indefensible.
It is too late; the cancer has metastasised. Those who believe that South Africa will do better without Zuma are wrong. They are wrong to assume that Zuma has been standing alone at the great South African feeding trough. He has not been alone. He is not alone. We now sit with powerful political interests whose agendas stand to be threatened by a sudden Zuma exit, were this to happen.
We know that but we would like to fool ourselves and pretend otherwise. They too have become little cancerous lumps that, on the whole, are harder to identify but, like smelly little maggots, they’re slowly eating away at our shared dream of a South Africa that was described to us just prior to and after the dawn of our democracy.
They’re politicians who are there to serve their own material interests, and they’re officials occupying high public office in state-owned entities.
Sitting pretty in high places, all over
They sit in the National Prosecuting Authority; they sit at the South African Broadcasting Corporation; they continue to sit tight at the helm of South African Airways despite Nenegate and its much-publicised ramifications; they sit in the crime-fighting Hawks; they’re everywhere.
They have been deployed in those positions to ensure that even if the cancerous lump were to be extracted at any time, it would remain protected ad infinitum from the long arm of the law, never having to be punished for the pain it has wrought on our now-fragile democracy.
Things will therefore not get better if the main cancerous lump gets successfully extracted while its smaller, yet equally harmful, offshoots remain in the system. No one will dare start the clean-up that we so much need, that South Africa so much needs, without fearing for his or her own political longevity, to which is attached his or her material comfort. So, we’re stuck in an uncomfortable political rut.
What South Africa needs more than ever before is change; we need change in the framing of our individual and collective thinking about the country as we have dreamed it. If we fail to look in the mirror and admit that what is being presented to us no longer corresponds to what we signed up for in the early 1990s, our collective dream will remain deferred.
Be scared – very scared
One by one, the independent institutions of democracy that we have relied on for protection are being eaten away by the cancer in the system. Before the year ends, there will be a change of heads at the Office of the Public Protector. Our collective nakedness will be exposed if we fail to insist that Advocate Thuli Madonsela’s successor be someone of unquestionable integrity and political neutrality, chosen with public participation and whose only guide will be our constitution and the rule of law.
However, given what happened to the erstwhile Scorpions after they started going after other cancers in our recent past, I am scared; I am very scared. Our lower courts and the Constitutional Court at their apex cannot be the only guards we rely on for protection against the cancers, present and future, in our system.
We need to claw back, to look into our collective mirror, and to renew our collective dream. This cannot be done on the basis of yesterday alone, remaining captive to archaic political, religious and ethnic allegiances that no longer mirror the South Africa that Nelson Mandela would be proud of – a South Africa that our children should take over from us and share.
BrandSA will not reclaim its lustre for as long as we remain captive to the cancers in our system.