SA is gone, my coun­try­men

As Zuma rapidly takes SA down­hill, it is time for some­one to say enough is enough. But who is go­ing to stop the rot, asks

CityPress - - Voice & Ca­reers -

We have be­come a rud­der­less coun­try. Our na­tion is ca­reen­ing down­hill in a hand bas­ket be­cause the man at the helm, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, is not qual­i­fied to lead it. Every day he takes us deeper into what racist au­thor Joseph Con­rad called the “heart of dark­ness”. Racist whites cel­e­brate be­cause they could not have been bet­ter vin­di­cated, for­get­ting that this man por­tends all of our de­struc­tion. They in­sult us by his name. “You de­serve Zuma be­cause you are no bet­ter than him, and him no bet­ter than you,” they say. And we are left speech­less in re­sponse be­cause there is a ring of truth to what they’re say­ing.

With black lead­ers like him, who needs white racists? We have be­come the laugh­ing stock of the world. All our protes­ta­tions about Zuma not­with­stand­ing, we seem spell­bound by him, ashamed, but not ashamed enough to say: “Enough!”

Some­times I won­der if we de­serve this democ­racy, or are even wor­thy of it. How can we be wor­thy of democ­racy if one per­son can do as he pleases with our in­sti­tu­tions and re­sources?

The end­less ap­point­ments of un­qual­i­fied peo­ple to lead our strate­gic in­sti­tu­tions and the milk­ing of these in­sti­tu­tions by pri­vate prof­i­teers close to the pres­i­dent give a lie to the no­tion of democ­racy in this coun­try.

We are no dif­fer­ent to any other klep­toc­racy. The sooner we drop the pre­tence the bet­ter, so we might bet­ter un­der­stand the na­ture of the beast that lies at the head of our gov­ern­ment.

The greater shame is that the ANC, the one party that could have stopped him, has be­come like him. Like Zuma, its mem­bers also think the party and the pa­tron­age it brings come be­fore the coun­try. And so the ANC is dead as a liv­ing or­gan­ism. What re­mains is its skele­tal frame.

It is this skele­tal un­der­stand­ing of pub­lic duty that Zuma brings to the pres­i­dency, which also leads his spokesper­sons to ar­gue that he can do what­ever he wants with his Cabi­net. Not so fast, I say. If this was the case, we would be no dif­fer­ent from Robert Mu­gabe’s Zim­babwe.

Well, maybe we are not that dif­fer­ent. We’re a democ­racy only in frame. Each time Zuma trans­gresses our most sa­cred val­ues, I think he can­not pos­si­bly do worse. And then, as if call­ing our bluff, he does the unimag­in­able.

To sack Min­is­ter of Fi­nance Nh­lanhla Nene be­cause he clashed with a woman who has no busi­ness head­ing SAA would be shock­ing if this was not a Zuma gov­ern­ment. This has be­come our re­al­ity, our iden­tity.

To be sure, this sys­tem­atic as­sault on our in­sti­tu­tions started un­der Thabo Mbeki and we have him to thank for pluck­ing Zuma from KwaZulu-Natal into the sec­ond-high­est of­fice in the land, think­ing he would not be a prob­lem be­cause he was not ed­u­cated.

And it was us writ­ers who fool­ishly cheered on as Zuma re­placed Mbeki be­cause we did not know what his ap­point­ment por­tended.

In ar­ti­cle af­ter ar­ti­cle, I asked if these two men were the sum to­tal of our tal­ents in the black com­mu­nity. Now only one of them is left stand­ing and the ques­tion comes into sharper re­lief: Is Zuma the best that we can be?

White peo­ple seem to think so and we seem to con­firm it by our in­ac­tion.

There has been enough fool­ish­ness to go around over the past 20 years. The ques­tion is when and who will stop the fool­ish­ness if we are to give our chil­dren a small chance of in­her­it­ing a work­ing coun­try? The dif­fer­ence be­tween Mbeki and Zuma is that the lat­ter has no shame, none what­so­ever.

Be­cause he is un­qual­i­fied to lead this coun­try, Zuma ap­points un­qual­i­fied peo­ple to lead our pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions.

So we have an in­di­vid­ual with­out ma­tric run­ning our pub­lic broad­caster; a po­lice com­mis­sioner with no back­ground in polic­ing and un­der whose watch 34 mine work­ers were killed in Marikana; end­less heads of the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Author­ity whose names I can­not re­call be­cause of the ra­pid­ity of their re­place­ments; count­less CEOs of SAA, which is now be­ing run by a woman who has no busi­ness be­ing at its helm and whose wrath seems to have cost Nene his job.

Have you ever heard of some­thing like this in the civilised world, other than in places where state de­ci­sions are made to sat­isfy pri­vate in­ter­ests.

Cabi­net ap­point­ments are made in the pri­vate home of for­eign­ers who have mem­bers of the pres­i­dent’s fam­ily on their pay­roll. This is lumpen gov­er­nance of the worst kind.

The ques­tion is who will cor­rect it and when? The worst of­fend­ers are the op­po­si­tion par­ties, who are no dif­fer­ent from Zuma in putting their par­ties be­fore the coun­try. Do they also think their par­ties – and what­ever pa­tron­age comes with their lead­er­ship of them – come be­fore the coun­try? Is it not time they put their heads to­gether and put the coun­try above ev­ery­thing else?

Maybe young peo­ple work­ing across party lines are still our best bet. But it will all start by recog­nis­ing, to para­phrase 19th-cen­tury poet Isaac Wau­chope, that the coun­try is gone, my coun­try­men.

This time it is not gone to the colonis­ers, but to one man and one man only, as we all sit idly by and watch. What a trav­esty.

Mangcu is an au­thor and pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Cape Town

PHOTO: LER­ATO MADUNA

WHAT A LAUGH

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in Par­lia­ment. The writer says Zuma’s ac­tions have made SA the laugh­ing stock of the world

Thabo Mbeki

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