Zuma falls! And then what do we do?
Getting rid of Zuma isn’t as cut and dried as many think, writes
When South Africans take to the streets in numbers in support of #ZumaMustFall, what do they actually want? For Zuma to just resign, and then what?
His deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, takes over and all will change for the better? It sounds so neat and automated. But I don’t know if real life works like that.
We ended the year with unprecedented action since 1994: citizens embarking on countrywide marches calling for the serving state president to step down immediately.
There was palpable anger everywhere as people felt betrayed by Zuma’s needless tampering with the finance minister post – tampering that wiped billions from the economy. Those who still stood by him were rare, but the outrage against him was not enough for his political party to push him out.
As he presided over another chess tournament and treated the elderly with goodies this festive season, Zuma would surely have been pondering the close shave he had just encountered.
Shorn of their rhetoric, the far left have legitimate concerns and point out that those who ostensibly march for “change” in effect want the status quo that benefits a few to remain, while the poor remain on the sidelines and the structure of the economy remains untampered with.
All of our finance ministers have followed the same fiscal discipline and kept tight control over the spending and use of limited state resources.
This explains why Zuma thought that removing “an individual” while the economic policies remained unchanged would not be much of an issue.
Our wily president long ago figured out that the only way to remove him from office would be through the ANC’s national executive committee, which he has packed with loyal acolytes.
So those who think the ANC will get rid of him today better think twice. He is here to stay, unless, of course, ordinary South Africans intervene decisively.
The only way to shake the Teflon president would be to punish the ANC at the local government elections by voting for the opposition. But this, of course, would have unintended consequences, as the good guys in the system who are running their cities competently, such as Johannesburg executive mayor Parks Tau and Tshwane executive mayor Sputla Ramokgopa, would also be casualties.
All the same, the truth is that if these metros and other towns were to fall into opposition hands, the governing party would be forced to take a long, hard look at itself.
At the moment, the party still displays complacency and a half-hearted acknowledgment of problems. It is as if owning up to problems would leave it vulnerable to the enemy. But it is also an arrogance that says “our people” will never abandon us.
A true whacking in the local polls could be a gamechanger. It would still not guarantee Zuma’s recall, though, because his supporters in the senior structures would fight tooth and nail to defend him and silence his critics internally.
With Ramaphosa intent on not rocking the boat and not getting his hands dirty, Zuma might be around for longer than many think.
Let’s carefully ponder what we actually want in a post-Zuma era. Let’s define the personality and character of the dispensation we want beyond removing the individual Zuma.