PAGING through South African print and online media since last week, one would have thought that we live in a real dictatorship, in which any media platform not reporting on even the smallest hand movement by the head of state would be hauled before some political ethics committee.
If media coverage were measured through Advertising Value Equivalents only, Hlaudi Motsoeneng would be a delighted chap, knowing that President Jacob Zuma has been receiving nonstop media attention for ten days and counting – except that the coverage has not been of the nature to feel flattered about.
Under the global spotlight
After my good friend Mikael called from Toronto, Canada over the weekend, and Yogesh did the same all the way from Mumbai, India, both wanting to know what in the world is going on in South Africa, it became clear to me that even the outside world is watching.
I couldn’t help wondering whether President Zuma’s friends Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping also called to check that he was okay, even though Xi would still be too busy celebrating after counting the gains of his recent African safari.
Needless to say, both leaders have a direct interest in Zuma’s well-being and political longevity. Were he to be suddenly recalled by his party, they would suffer the same fate experienced by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, when Thabo Mbeki was recalled mere days before announcing the winning bid for the nuclear new build in September 2008.
At the time, all indications pointed to French firm Areva running ahead of American/Japanese Westinghouse as the preferred supplier.
In an effort to calm me down, Yogesh reminded me that India also went through ten years of bad leadership until the arrival of former president APJ Abdul Kalam, dubbed the best president India has ever had, and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is much loved in India and received like a Bollywood star whenever he address Indian expats in other parts of the world.
Yogesh calmly told me that all the troubles we face in South Africa will also pass. I really hope this happens sooner rather than later.
South Africans are right to demand change
We should keep talking about these worrying developments, of course, and ensure that we all play a role in precipitating an orderly change in the leadership of our beloved country.
The rot is already entrenched. Zuma’s negative impact and the resultant national malaise under his leadership have gone on for far too long and are bad for brand South Africa. It is only a pity that Zuma is not the Rhodes statue at UCT. Reported plans for his ex-wife Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him as president are nauseating.
All indications are that if successful, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma would simply constitute a third presidential term by proxy for Zuma. Under her leadership, the Nkandla matter would remain unresolved and the National Prosecuting Authority under constant watch in case anyone in its employ shows renewed interest in the highly protected file containing unresolved charges against Zuma.
As for the Office of the Public Protector, it is already clear that Advocate Thuli Madonsela stands to be replaced by a pliable backbencher when her term ends next year. There is a risk that her successor will be someone who would be only too happy to have a job and ride the gravy train while dancing to the master’s tune.
I could be wrong, of course; I hope I am.
No healing with remnants of the cancer in the system
The Zuma cancer has been allowed to infiltrate our entire body politics and other public institutions through the likes of his most obvious cronies at the SABC, SAA, and the National Department of Communications.
Feeling protected by his shadow, said cronies have repeatedly shown the middle fingers to our courts, abusing public funds in endless legal battles that cannot be ethically defended, simply because they can. It is hard to imagine how we can recover from the harm and reignite the spark once enjoyed by brand South Africa while these cronies are left to do what they do with impunity.
It is therefore not enough to simply bring back a finance minister the markets have confidence in if he does nothing to reverse the overwhelming negative tide brought about by recent events.
All of this begs the question, how does Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa want to be remembered when the dust settles?
Until then, #ZumaMuthambiMotsoanengMyeni must fall!