Citizens have lost faith in ‘Number One’

The ANC provincial policy conferences, held in various provinces including the Eastern Cape over the weekend, overshadowed an important incident which seems to have flown under the radar in the general coverage of the weekend’s events.

Not because it was insignificant. On the contrary it was quite a weighty event. A presidential visit at that.

Everyone knows that by nature presidents are busy people generally, although it is debatable as to what exactly consumes most of their time.

But with Jacob Zuma all of us pretty much have an idea.

Presidential visits to provinces and towns are few and far between.

Unless if you live in KwaZulu-Natal of course – where the president spends most of his time, be it at home in Nkandla or every other obscure political event in the province.

Anyway that’s beside the point of this column.

Although Zuma’s monitoring visit to Lusikisiki on Saturday was in the news – both television and newspapers, including this one – it is what happened at the event that should be the major talking point.

Fortunately our Mthatha bureau chief Lulamile Feni, was there to record the event.

The community of Lusikisiki told Zuma to his face that they had lost faith in the police, and that they would hunt down criminals and carry out acts of vigilantism.

Community leader Sinathi Mkhumbuzi was quoted as saying: “We are fed up with being terrorised by these criminals. We have now organised ourselves and we will protect ourselves, our children and wives from them.

“We will fight fire with fire and we will teach them a lesson. We will continue to burn and kill all of them. We will sweep Lusikisiki clean of their criminal activities which have destroyed peace in our community”.

This was not an empty threat either as two men were doused in petrol and set alight in the area in March.

Quite correctly Zuma, as president, condemned the threats of violence and urged the communities not to take the law into their own hands. While he sympathised with the community, buckling under a travail of violence and gangsterism, he said, the government “cannot promote lawlessness”.

Right message. But it was the wrong man talking. No wonder Zuma’s declaration that the police would deal with the gangsters was met with murmurs of discontent.

Herein lies the problem. No one believes him anymore. He has no credibility. It was no accident that Mkhumbuzi was so bold as to declare in front of the president and senior government officials, including Police Minister Fikile Mbalula , that they would take the law into their own hand. Basically the community of Lusikisiki – like many others across the country – do not regard the government as capable of dealing with criminals, let alone punishing crime.

This is a dangerous situation and should be treated with the seriousness it deserves. When the state loses legitimacy, anarchy prevails. History is replete with such examples. I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I say we have slowly reached that point.

Basically Zuma has taught South Africans that in this country you can basically get away with murder. Frankly, under his leadership, there are no consequences for criminal behaviour.

The president has allowed the corrupt Gupta brothers and his equally corrupt son Duduzane to not only flout the laws of this country but to also write their own. Basically the Guptas and Duduzane are not subject to the country’s laws. They are the law.

Were it not so tragic, it would have been laughable that Zuma, without any sense of irony, would ask the community of Lusikisiki to respect the laws of the country.

Anyone would be foolish to think that Zuma is not aware of what the Guptas are doing. But in true Zuma fashion he merely denies knowledge of all the corrupt schemes designed for his illicit benefit. He claimed to not know about the extent of the upgrades at his Nkandla residence. Again he pleaded ignorance when emails emerged showing that Duduzane and the Guptas had drafted a letter to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahya on Zuma’s behalf – requesting citizenship.

The skeletons tumbling out of the Gupta closet, through the emails that have been in the public domain, are enough evidence for law-enforcement agencies to take action. Even a novice detective could crack this case. The evidence is already out in the open and it is piling up by the day.

Yet not a single law-enforcement agency has shown interest in the Gupta case. Why is that so?

The answer perhaps lies in the fact that even the most honest policeman understands that the corruption trail will eventually lead to “Number One”. Add to the mix, the polluted political environment where any action against the Guptas is seen as an attack on Zuma. Through their stooges – in Jimmy Manyi and Andile Mngxitama – the Guptas have dressed up their looting in the robes of a righteous fight against so-called “white monopoly capital”. But fortunately South Africans are not fooled by that ruse.

Greed and corruption are two sides of the same coin. Basically the same desire – to amass wealth at all costs – animates both attitudes. And the Guptas and Duduzane are guilty of same. They have scored, not millions, but billions of rands in kickbacks. That is not just stealing, it is looting on steroids.

If this country is to restore the citizens’ faith in the state and its institutions, then Zuma and the Guptas should go to jail. At the very least, they should be charged.

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