Crucial, hard-learnt lesson of JZ years

South Africans are a truly resilient bunch. That resilience, I suspect stems from their fiercely optimistic attitude towards life. How else can you explain the massive jolt of hope brought about by the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as new ANC president?

JACOB ZUMA Picture: ALON SKUY

Maybe Jacob Zuma’s presidency of the ANC and the country has been so disastrous that any candidate who exuded some degree of separation from Zuma would have had the same effect?

One thing is clear, South Africa is yearning for a breath of fresh air. It’s as if we’ve been cooped up with corrupt thieves who carry an unbearable stench of arrogance, in a dark windowless room for far too long.

I have long expressed my misgivings about the ANC’s capability of renewing itself, particularly as a result of its December 2017 elective conference.

However, being South African, I was glued to the TV watching the whole ANC elective conference unfold.

The tension amidst a desperate desire for change was almost unbearable. There I was hoping Cyril might win; hoping that such an event might usher in a new era, even if only inside the ANC.

However, I realise that hope is healthy. In fact, it’s a sign of life. For if we did not hope against the odds, and sometimes against what seems to be irrefutable evidence of pending disaster, we would not strive for anything and would not attain anything.

And so, Cyril is now ANC president, and as such, well placed to become the president of the country. His team in the top six as well as the national executive committee is widely viewed as a mixed bag of characters from both sides of the two main factions in the ANC.

So the main question in every South African’s mind is, what is Cyril going to do about Jacob? It’s a question that seems to point to one conclusion. Amazingly it seems to unify South Africans around one point of view – Jacob must go!

“A starting point and a clear message to the country, would be for our country’s president to voluntarily step down in the interests of country and the ANC. If the president really loves the ANC and wants it to remain in power by 2019 he would assist it by handing over the leadership of the country to the newly elected president of the ANC to better prepare for the 2019 elections.”

These words are ascribed to the stalwarts and veterans of the ANC as part of their 2018 New Year statement.

“If Mr [Cyril] Ramaphosa wants the ANC to get a new lease of life, he and the new leadership will need to cut the umbilical cord which ties them to the Zuma era, quickly and decisively,” said Archbishop Thabo Mokgoba at Christmas Mass in St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.

“Ramaphosa’s first act as ANC president must be to recall Jacob Zuma as president of South Africa, prosecuting him on his corruption charges and jailing him if he is found guilty,” said DA leader Musi Maimane.

“If [Ramaphosa] fails to recall JZ and other state capture culprits then we must throw him in the dustbin,” said UDM leader Bantu Holomisa.

While the leaders of opposition parties are sceptical about Cyril’s ability to recall Jacob, they still hope that he might.

Their sceptism is based on the fact that Cyril has been there all along, unable to stop Zuma or even reprimand him.

There is also the fact that some of the characters implicated in “state capture”, corruption and other impropriety are part, not only of the ANC NEC, but the top six itself. Characters like Ace Magashule and Jesse Duarte have not really covered themselves in glory in the past decade or so. While David Mabuza has never been associated with the Guptas, he has not managed to shake dodgy corruption allegations.

So as we march into 2018, it remains extremely important for all South Africans to step up the pressure on the ANC to do the right thing. In this instance, recalling Jacob Zuma would hugely boost our collective morale as a nation and return to us some sense of hope for the future as well as some confidence in the notion that ours is a democratic country underpinned by values of sound governance, which include justice and equality before the law.

At the same time that there has been a shift in the dynamics of power, citizens have also started to recognise and exercise their power beyond simply regular democratic elections.

In a nutshell South Africans are making the shift from being party members first, to being citizens first and taking ownership of their country.

This is a massive and highly desirable shift which will help to ensure that whichever political formation eventually takes over from the ANC, will always be clear that South Africans will never again lie down and tolerate nonsense and abuse from a party in government.

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