Win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to change our course

Pretoria News - - OPINION - Buc­cus is se­nior re­search as­so­ciate at ASRI, re­search fel­low in the School of So­cial Sciences at UKZN and aca­demic di­rec­tor of a univer­sity study abroad pro­gramme on po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion. Im­raan Buc­cus

JUDGE Jerome Mn­guni’s rul­ing that the KwaZulu-Natal ANC’s 2015 elec­tive con­fer­ence is null and void is a ma­jor event in the pol­i­tics of this prov­ince, and the coun­try as a whole.

It raises se­ri­ous ques­tions about the le­git­i­macy and ethics of the cur­rent lead­er­ship and is po­ten­tially a huge set back for the pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. How­ever, there are also se­ri­ous risks of fur­ther vi­o­lence and au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism. Within min­utes of the judg­ment, grass roots ac­tivists were warn­ing it could re­sult in more vi­o­lence.

It is vi­tal that wis­dom pre­vails and that there are calm heads all around as we nav­i­gate a way for­ward. Any at­tempt to ig­nore the judg­ment must be re­sisted by all role play­ers, in­clud­ing faith-based com­mu­ni­ties, civil so­ci­ety and trade unions. As with the court judg­ment re­gard­ing the re­cent elec­tion in Kenya, the KZN judg­ment is po­ten­tially a wa­ter­shed mo­ment.

In both Kenya and in KZN our im­me­di­ate fu­ture will be de­ter­mined by the re­sponses to the judg­ments. Any at­tempt to ig­nore the court, or to un­der­mine it, will set both so­ci­eties on a clear path to an en­trenched au­thor­i­tar­ian sys­tem. And once a so­ci­ety has gone down that route, it is, as the dic­ta­tor­ship to the north of us shows, dif­fi­cult to get out of it.

If these judg­ments can be an op­por­tu­nity for demo­cratic re­newal, it will be pos­si­ble to set a new course.

The ur­gent task that con­fronts us now is twofold:

First, we must be vig­i­lant against any at­tempts to re­spond to the judg­ment with il­le­gal­ity, threats or vi­o­lence. Our sec­ond ur­gent task is to be­gin to use this mo­ment to achieve gen­uine demo­cratic re­newal.

If this mo­ment is lost it may well not re­turn. It is vi­tal that the broad­est pos­si­ble con­sen­sus be built around these two ur­gent tasks.

At the end of apartheid, South Africans came to­gether, with a clear sense that it was nec­es­sary to ne­go­ti­ate a new fu­ture. Against all odds, a mas­sive break­through was achieved. There is no rea­son why we can’t do this again. It is sim­ply a mat­ter of shared po­lit­i­cal will and com­mit­ment.

If we are not able to use this op­por­tu­nity for demo­cratic re­newal our fu­ture will be char­ac­terised by mas­sive loot­ing, a steady degra­da­tion of our democ­racy and, more than likely, an es­ca­la­tion of what is al­ready a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion with re­gard to po­lit­i­cal as­sas­si­na­tions.

The frog in boil­ing wa­ter cliché is use­ful to make the point be­cause if the frog doesn’t sense the steady es­ca­la­tion of tem­per­a­ture, it will die be­fore it re­alises it’s in se­ri­ous dan­ger. The steady degra­da­tion of our democ­racy has of­ten been de­scribed in these terms.

Un­der such con­di­tions, a sud­den shock, a cri­sis of some sort, can be a wel­come de­vel­op­ment if it makes the na­ture of a slow col­lapse into cri­sis very clear.

The Marikana Mas­sacre and the fir­ing of for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han were two mo­ments that woke many South Africans up to the es­ca­lat­ing cri­sis of life un­der Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

The KZN ANC will play an out­size role in de­ter­min­ing the fu­ture leader of the party, and there­fore, the coun­try. If the in­ter­nal democ­racy in the ANC in this prov­ince is cor­rupt, and if this cor­rup­tion is not chal­lenged, there is a real risk that the same virus will af­fect the party’s na­tional pol­i­tics. How­ever, if we can hold the line on demo­cratic prac­tices in the ANC in KZN, the risk of a na­tional de­gen­er­a­tion will be much re­duced.

There is a sense in which it is now an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that, in the short term, the fu­ture of South Africa will be de­cided in KZN, and specif­i­cally with ref­er­ence to how this judg­ment is dealt with.

It is, per­haps, a pity that the two fac­tions in the ANC in this prov­ince are so clearly di­vided by their po­si­tion on Ja­cob Zuma. One fac­tion, a fac­tion that em­braces the pol­i­tics of loot­ing, sup­ports Zuma to the hilt and would like to see him re­placed with Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

The other fac­tion, which has come to have se­ri­ous con­cerns about the stag­ger­ing scale of the loot­ing, wants Zuma out and Cyril Ramaphosa in.

The di­vi­sions be­tween the two groups are bit­ter.

In this sit­u­a­tion, many will be tempted to take a po­si­tion on Judge Mn­guni’s find­ing on the ba­sis of whether or not they are pro or anti-Zuma.

This temp­ta­tion must be avoided at all costs. The re­course to po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency in 2008 and 2009 did se­ri­ous dam­age to our democ­racy. We can­not go down that road again.

This is a time for a prin­ci­pled po­si­tion in sup­port of democ­racy. All democrats, ir­re­spec­tive of their po­si­tion on the ANC’s fac­tional pol­i­tics, must take a clear po­si­tion in sup­port of the rule of law and democ­racy within the rul­ing party and in the coun­try.

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