What’s in store for SA in 2017?
George Devenish is an emeritus professor at UKZN and one of the scholars who assisted in drafting the Interim Constitution in 1993
JACOB Zuma has proved par excellence to be a political survivor. Despite being mired in one debilitating scandal after another, he has become a consummate manipulator, employing Fabian tactics to evade political, legal and constitutional accountability.
These dubious tactics will once again be used adroitly to cling to his office, until he is obliged to submit the presidency of the ANC (not the country) at the ANC’s elective conference in December.
The legal cases in which he is involved, such as the spy tapes case and the review of the “State of Capture” report of the former public protector, will start to play themselves out, subject to any artificial delays.
What cannot be delayed is the succession saga, which promises to be a battle royal.
With less than a year remaining, the battle lines are being drawn, with the formidable principal contenders being Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and African Union chairperson Nkosazana DlaminiZuma.
Other possible but less serious contenders include ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize and National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete.
Ramaphosa has enjoyed the limelight as deputy president. Although he has incurred moral controversy because of his involvement in the Marikana tragedy, he has, it is submitted, hardly put a foot wrong in his official capacity. He is a highly intelligent, well-educated and gifted politician. Although he reportedly enjoys support from the Gauteng ANC, Cosatu, the business world and the SACP, he apparently lacks broad internal party political support.
Although Dlamini-Zuma has been out of the country for four years, she is a formidable and respected politician, enjoying wide support from the so-called “Premier League”, the ANC Youth League, the ANC Women’s League and MK Veterans, but also lacks internal political support.
The contest between these two powerful and important contenders is expected to be tense, acrimonious and nail-biting.
While this drawn-out battle takes place, Zuma will be fighting to retain his position and authority in the ANC, racked by dissension, thereby producing a paralysis in government.
Fortunately, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will retain his position and continue his excellent work in keeping the economy afloat and avoiding the dreaded junk status.
He will prove to be the shining light in a problematic political and arduous economic situation.
The condition on the campuses of our tertiary institutions is likely to remain very tense, as the extant funding problems have not been resolved and student protest leaders have not merely an educational agenda, but a wider political one. These are essentially political issues that the universities cannot address.
What these authorities have learnt is that discipline and law and order have to be maintained so that the university programmes can proceed and be completed. As a result they are likely to ensure increased and indeed draconian state and private security to maintain peace and stability, thereby allowing students to register and proceed with their courses.
The intense securitisation of the campuses is obviously not an ideal situation, but will be seen as the lesser of two evils. There is a cogent viewpoint that the kind of disruption that occurred during 2016 could do immeasurable harm to or even destroy tertiary institutions, and university management will endeavour to outmanoeuvre radical student leadership and engage them in more fruitful negotiations, rather than dealing with or condoning violent demonstrations.
South Africa is emerging as a maturing democracy. This state of affairs is apparent from the fact that prior to the local government elections on August 3, South Africa could have been described accurately as a dominant party state democracy.
The reason for this is that the ANC secured 63 percent of the support in the 2011 local government elections. In elections last year, its support diminished to 53.91 percent.
Indeed, it is submitted, that a fundamental change in the political paradigm has emerged. The days of the ANC’s political hegemony are over and what is now manifesting is a system of strong multi-party democracy and coalition local government.
The positive manifestation of a strong multi-party system in place of ANC dominance is likely to continue this year.
Our judicial system has also played a seminal role in maintaining democracy in South Africa. The Constitutional Court’s landmark decision in upholding the public protector’s finding in the Nkandla saga in relation to upgrades at President Zuma’s private residence prevented a massive abuse of executive power in the highest office in the land and has created a cogent precedent in relation to executive government.
Also the recent decision of the Constitutional Court in relation to racial quotas and the use of regional and national demographics by the Department of Correctional Services, in its judgment dealing with the failure to appoint Coloured warders in the Western Cape, was a singular victory for non-racism, which is a fundamental premise of our democracy.
This requirement of a non-racial democracy will have important administrative consequence in other state departments in 2017.
Democracy has taken root in the native soil of South Africa. We as a nation have made and continue to make progress in relation to democratic governance, despite the problematic nature of the body politic and the fractious nature of party politics, particularly in the ANC, which will continue in 2017.
The ANC, after more than 20 years in office, is in a process of inexorable electoral decline, which is likely to continue.
Our country will continue on the path of a maturing democracy that has inordinate political potential with its significant human and natural resources. With its manifold problems, South Africa will remain intensely interesting and fascinating and will weather the political storms that are likely to occur in 2017.
TOOTHAND-NAIL: Jacob Zuma is expected to continue to fight to stay on as leader of the ANC, which is beset with dissension and facing electoral decline. This is expected to lead to a paralysis in the state body, according to the writer.