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.

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