It is linked to ongoing attempts to increase the stifling grip of state capture. Our socio-political and economic climate is sinking deeper into murkier territories with each revelation of nefarious activities by people said to be linked to the highest political office in the land.
Not only is the phenomenon of factions beginning to spill out into the broader society but a worrisome, growing number of people I know have taken to speaking in whispers, or to constantly looking over their shoulders during conversations touching on the major topics of our times: state capture, the Guptas, Zuptas, Zuma, ANC succession, Zupta-captured individuals or entities, compromised or exposed individuals, etc..
The lexicon seems to get both richer and, in a disturbing way, more macabre with each passing week. Some people no longer feel comfortable having conversations about any of the topics above in the presence of modern smartphones because, presumably, even they are being used as remote listening devices by the dark forces of our times.
Civil society reawakening
Adding to the shifting, troubled sands of our times has been a growing plethora of civil society formations in seemingly, all the major metropoles of the country, online and offline. There is a palpable and growing gatvolness throughout South Africa that, if current leaders continue focusing only on their bulging belly buttons, will one day explode in our collective face.
Hundreds of near-retirement age men and women who thought their days of marching in the streets against the injustices of government were long over are being reactivated. They now find themselves being called back to meet in community halls, private homes and other venues around the country to draft statements and to organise peaceful marches and pickets against a government they helped put in power; a government they all believed would bring them peace ad vitam aeternam and ensure their children and children’s children would live in a better, more caring, society.
The snake in the room
Zupta/Zuma/state capture has become the three-headed snake that has taken the place of the one-headed apartheid snake. If left to its tricks, it is capable of taking away all the gains of our post-apartheid order and undermining our hard-won freedoms.
It dominates newspaper headlines and social media discussions and, deservedly, it is the leading rallying point for the formation of a growing number of WhatsApp groups by concerned South Africans.
We all have to hold hands and fight it. We should stand behind people like Pravin Gordhan and his team at National Treasury, not because we like the shape of Gordhan’s nose but because he has proven to be the much-needed knight in shining armour.
We need him to keep playing the unmovable sentinel in front of the entrance to our besieged national vault while the new public protector determines her priorities; much is at stake.
Suspicion all over
The current climate is replete with suspicions of all kinds. Those who oppose Zuma easily get branded as agents of the West – whatever that stands for these days – and haters of anything African.
They’re racist if they are white and they’re self-hating African traitors if they’re African/black. No one gets away unscathed. Whispers abound that the loudest Zupta praise singers do so because they’re captured and, in some instances, operating under blackmail.
If they do not defend the Zuptas in public, details of their ill-gotten gains, in some cases stashed away in offshore accounts, might end up on the front pages of prominent newspapers for all the world to see. It is hard to dismiss this as entirely inconceivable when one considers that the president of the ANC Youth League, he who often shouts the loudest in defence of the Zuptas, lives in a mansion whose funding was prominently reported to have been facilitated by the Guptas.
Recently, the man even dared to threaten war in our country in defence of Jacob Zuma. That is how bad things have become.
It should come as no surprise that those who are opposed to the president signing the Financial Intelligence Centre Act Amended Bill form part of this broader community of “people with something to hide.”
Existing defences need to be doubled up
Going by recent indications, it can be argued that the nation has lost institutions such as the Hawks and the NPA to compromise. But all will not be lost so easily if the growing levels of vigilance by the media and other civic formations continue.
The new public protector will not enjoy much of a honeymoon in her new job, and she should not. Her predecessor has raised the bar quite high and expectations are also quite elevated. She cannot afford to miss a step if she understands what is at stake, and if she’s driven by the noble need to protect our country from capture. History will judge her harshly if she allows herself to be owned and controlled by the dark forces of our times.
South Africa is too precious to give up easily to the dark forces. But the reputational losses we’ve suffered over the past few years as a result of bad, emotional, electoral choices can be reversed.
We still have the institutions required to regain the moral high ground and lead in Africa, provided we use more of our heads and less of our hearts when we make electoral choices in the future. We owe it to our children and we owe it to the African diaspora still in need of a good African story to be proud of.