The disastrous tenure of Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma as ANC president has finally come to an end. He leaves behind a divided, decimated and hollowed out ANC.
The man has been an unmitigated disaster for the ANC and South Africa.
As per tradition the outgoing leader delivered his final report at this weekend’s 54th elective conference.
And in line with how the ANC has behaved towards him throughout the most part of his presidency, the delegates gave him a standing ovation.
He may have thought he’d just made his greatest speech ever.
How unfortunate the applause was for nothing more than a toxic diatribe made by a man apparently blind to the massive carnage in his trail.
He railed against his perceived enemies – at it happens many of them his own comrades. “We need to reaffirm the authority of the organisation over its individual members. There should be consequences for any member who acts and speaks contrarily to the values, principles and political programme of the ANC,” he said.
These words would hold meaning – expected and universally agreed upon meaning – in any organisation. But they came out of the mouth of Jacob Zuma, the man who has used the authority entrusted to him by the ANC to wound the organisation, possibly fatally, and break down its relationship with its alliance partners.
Rather, he applied his authority to building an elaborate network of patronage, while simultaneously deconstructing and neutralising the country’s institutions of law and order – with the sole objective of protecting himself against facing 783 corruption charges. Also to facilitate the wholesale looting of the state by his cronies and family members.
Maybe he meant that the ANC needs to reaffirm its authority over those left trying to pick up the pieces of the splinters that remain in his wake.
Notions of consequence, value, principle and responsibility are apparently beyond the man!
The SACP first deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila minced no words in a response that summed up Zuma’s presidency of the ANC.
“He was the champion of a dominant faction in the ANC. His speech was just an abuse of the platform because during his leadership he failed to rise above factions. There hasn’t been accountability and honesty and he has been at the helm of dishonesty himself,” Mapaila reportedly said.
But what really blew my mind was the response to Zuma’s speech by the ANC delegates at Nasrec. If they deemed it appropriate to give Zuma a standing ovation for surely the worst, most politically disingenuous speech of our times, what are we to expect of these individuals going forward? Is the ANC remotely capable of changing direction?
For an entire decade the ANC has – against the increasingly loud objections of virtually every sector of society – seen it fit to trade off all moral capital to safeguard the incumbency of Jacob Zuma. What, please tell me, will change now?
And what point was the ANC trying to make by sticking to Zuma like a barnacle to the bottom of a ship? That its dominance put it beyond reproach?
While the sins of Zuma may not be forgiven until he answers for his actions in a court of law, the ANC too has a case to answer on why it failed utterly to exercise oversight.
It stood by and not only protected but actually encouraged Zuma as he abused his authority, office and the ANC itself.
This too is unforgivable. For one reason above all else – not only the ANC has been decimated, but the country too. The cost of this period of unreasonable obstinacy by a party apparently convinced of its invincibility has had to be borne by a nation whose fortunes and future prospects have been blitzed to a pulp.
But in its arrogance the ANC may have dealt itself a fatal blow.
After sitting glued to our TV screens on Monday night, hoping and praying for a result that would at least favour us South Africans, we must consider the matter thoroughly.
Are the historical aspirations of the majority still carried by the ANC? Is the ANC still representative of South Africa and the future its people aspire to today? And is it reasonable to imagine that the new leadership can begin to navigate us through the complex and obviously very rough waters ahead – in a rapidly changing global economy?
It’s also necessary that, as citizens, we reflect on our role in setting our country on a sound path. Hopefully we have all learnt that we can never hand over the mandate of leadership and sit back waiting for benefits to fall into our laps from on high.
As citizens it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about the dynamics of our world. We must look at the technological trajectory of the world economy and envision a compatible future, one in which our socioeconomic context will be enhanced.
But first up, the task of the new ANC leadership is to recall Zuma and save South Africa from further disaster.
If it does not, it is no longer relevant!