The year things fell
Dead white men, ministers and heads of security tumbled this year, but the man still standing – Zuma – seems set to follow them
This was the year of falling things. Early in the year, the country was seized with a collective madness as people swarmed out of their homes and started attacking statues. It all began when an eccentric student travelled from the University of Cape Town to Khayelitsha to collect faeces “from Zille’s toilets”, as he put it.
After flinging the excrement at a statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the university and calling for it to be brought down, copycats sprung up all over the country. Before you knew it, dead white men were being attacked everywhere in the most frenzied way. Some attackers threw rubbish at them, others daubed them with paint, some chopped their limbs off and some attempted to physically pull them down.
While the dead white men were falling all over the show, living white men looked on in bemusement as they continued to enjoy the fruits of the reign of their forebears. Little did they realise that the anger was really aimed at them – at their continued dominance of the economic levers and at the inability/unwillingness of the democratic government to change this state of affairs.
This anger was palpable throughout the year as the younger generation launched assault after assault on what they defined as the prevalence of white supremacy in society.
Clarion calls for the fall of white supremacy and for decolonisation of the country became as important as the momentous #FeesMustFall campaign at the end of the year.
Oblivious to this growing anger, the government of the day lurched from one blunder to the next – playing with the country’s future like happy toddlers in a nursery school sandpit. The self-serving power machinations by the country’s leaders saw the fall of Hawks head Anwar Dramat and Gauteng Hawks boss Shadrack Sibiya, Independent Police Investigative Directorate head Robert McBride, police chief Riah Phiyega, prosecutions chief Mxolisi Nxasana and taxman Ivan Pillay.
If Police Minister Nathi Nhleko and the governing party leadership could have had their way as well, 2015 would also have seen the fall of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
ANC leaders and MPs bristled and foamed at the mouth when the name of the lady with the weave was mentioned, and they stopped just short of calling her an agent of the Illuminati.
But at least Nhleko had the grace to make us laugh while sniping at Madonsela. And across the land there were heart seizures, asthma attacks and splitting migraines as people fell over laughing at the police’s minister’s D-grade movie.
The movie, which Nhleko took on a national tour, was aimed at proving that President Jacob Zuma’s cattle and chickens deserved to live in luxury.
Featuring a star-studded cast that included the Nkandla fire department and a bunch of local cops, the blockbuster enriched our lexicon with phrases such as fire pool, cattle culvert, chicken coop, dwarf-stepping walls and soil-retention walls.
South Africans were laughing just as much at the content of the movie as at the director, who had buckets of sweat running down his face throughout the screenings.
While the universities ground to a standstill, townships were in flames over the lack of service delivery, the economy tanked, confidence plummeted, institutions were in turmoil, race relations degenerated and the national mood turned. But there was one man who continued to find this free fall very funny: the head of state.
The president of the republic laughed his head off whenever he was asked difficult questions about the way things were falling in the country he runs. At some point, he even cynically asked: “Does my laughter hurt you?”
He is so confident of his power and control of his party that he believes he can do as he pleases – and get away with it.
Until, that is, he overreached himself and sought to impose the will of his benefactors and of his nonmistress on the Treasury – the heart of the state.
The calamitous fallout from that decision is one that will define the rest of his presidency. The humiliating climb-down that he had to do last Sunday was a turning point in his hitherto unbridled power in the party.
Having lost the confidence of most of the citizenry, who, surveys show, are disapproving of his presidency, Zuma now faces a fall in internal party authority. It is a fall that he precipitated.
The statue of Cecil John Rhodes is removed from the University of Cape Town’s grounds earlier this year