11:46 pm
03 December 2016

South Africa Should Not Become Another Zimbawe

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South Africa’s ruling ANC has welcomed the release of the “State Capture” report. It is a victory for democracy, writes Claus Stäcker, head of DW’s Africa service.

Once again Zuma loyalists are trying to rally the ANC rank and file. “The president isn’t going anywhere,” claims the ANC Youth League. “There will be no meeting of the ANC to remove Zuma as long as we are around”, said a local youth group secretary. His name is Thanduxolo Sabelo. But one does not have to remember it. This is because the young comrade is on the the wrong side of history and it is likely that he will be quickly forgotten.

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When Zuma counts up his allies, they seem to be getting fewer by the day. There is the ANC Youth League, founded by Nelson Mandela, which since the spectacular departure of ex-youth leader Julius Malema is now just a shadow of its former self. There are still a few ANC provincial leaders who are dependent on Zuma’s patronage in order to surivive. There is also the powerful ANC Women’s League, once a pillar of feminism and progress but now a semi-serious, motley political organization with a strange taste in men. Not only is their role model Jacob Zuma is corrupt, he is also a polygamist and an adulterer. He can also be described as macho, as sexist and as a lawbreaker. This is a rather tragic group, which, facing uncertain times is digging itself in and still rely on Zuma .

Until now every ANC president since Nelson Mandela could rely on the widespread support of party members, trade unions and the business community. This came to an end in 2016 with what one could describe as the “South African spring.” This was when organized labor started deserting Zuma, business leaders began abandoning their embarrassing brand of opportunism and adopting more ethical postions. Increasing numbers of ANC party members openly distanced themselves from Zuma and even ministers could be heard criticzing him.

The dream of a rainbow nation flickered briefly into life again as protesters took to the streets in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban. Black, white, rich and poor South Africans, adorned their faces with the six colors of the national flag. Under the banner, “Save South Africa” they claimed their right to unity, self-determination and nationhood, as they did back in 1994 during the first days of democracy on the Cape of Good Hope.

Such demonstrations of people power are known as civil society. Jacob Zuma will have realized that it is a force to be reckoned with. He will also have felt the full impact of South Africa’s indepedent judiciary, which is heartily fed up with his legal trickery. The most recent allegation of corruption – among hundreds of previous ones – seems to be the most brazen of all. The Gupta family are alleged to have “captured” – to have taken control – of the state. The accusations revolve around briefcases stashed with cash and the bribery of ministers and state-run firms. Hardly a day goes by without a new scandal coming to light. South Africans can now read how fearlessly former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela questioned the president. Her 355-page report has elements of high drama. Zuma was unable to prevent the release of the report, nor the media from publishing it. South Africa is stronger than its president. Three cheers for South African democracy!

But Zuma is still in office. The agony persists. One only has to peer across into neighboring Zimbabwe to see how long such transitions can take. It appears almost impossible that the ANC will find the inner strength necessary for reform and renewal so that it can regain the trust of ordinary South Africans. As long as Zuma is in power, corruption will continue to corrode the once proud liberation movement. But for Zuma and his cronies, the choice is a simple one. Hang on to power or languish in prison. Zuma will therefore fight on until the bitter end. And when he does leave, a brand new battle will begin.

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