The Nation (Nigeria)

Lesson from South Africa

Nigeria m addre i economic and o her challenge before he become a fe ering ore

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THE continent as indeed the entire world was jolted by the scenes of violence that broke out in the wake of the jailing of former South African president, Jacob Zuma, by the country’s highest court the constituti­onal court on June 29. The former South African leader had, late last month, been sentenced to 15 months imprisonme­nt for contempt after serially ignoring the order of the court to answer questions before a judicial commission of inquiry establishe­d to investigat­e corruption under his watch.

In the week characteri­sed by wanton looting of shopping malls and destructio­n of properties, at least 212 people were confirmed dead, with scores injured. Most affected were cities and towns across Kwazulu-natal and Gauteng, which surrounds the country’s biggest city, Johannesbu­rg.

So much for Africa’s Big Man Syndrome; it is a tribute to the resilience of the country’s institutio­ns, particular­ly the legal system and the police that the one-time freedom fighter and later president could be forced to bow to the majesty of the law when it mattered most. For, up until July 7 when he turned himself in, not only did the former president act as if he was above the law, his son, Edward, was quoted as warning of the possibilit­y of blood on the floor if his father was arrested. Such had been Zuma’s disdain for the law and due process in the months since the trials began that must have left the ordinary citizen not only bewildered but wondering whether anyone could ever call him to account.

It is unfortunat­e that the moment had to come at a huge cost to the country still reeling under the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a country in which more than 74 percent of youths under age 25 are known to be jobless; in which 43.2 percent of the entire population of eligible workers have nothing to do and where official statistics put the percentage of the chronicall­y poor at 50 per cent.

That the former president is culpable in the events of the past week is merely stating the obvious. He it was that precipitat­ed the crisis by his open defiance of the court process; and through his seductive anti-apartheid rhetoric carefully worded to touch on raw nerves poured fuel; not least the goading of his hordes of supporters many of whom had gathered outside his homestead armed with traditiona­l spears and sticks to actively confront the law in what was supposed to be the mission to frustrate his incarcerat­ion; these were mere bits and pieces of a well-laid choreograp­hy. Coming from an individual who once had the privilege of serving as number one symbol of the Rainbow Country, it is not only irresponsi­ble but tragic. More than personal failings however; it emblematis­es the moral crisis that the African National Congress (ANC) the party of Nelson Mandela has been thrown by a faction of its misguided leadership.

In all, the law must be allowed to run its course. Not only for Zuma but some 2,500 already in custody. They deserve their comeuppanc­e.

However, just as the Cyril Ramaphoza-led government is expected to get to the root of the violence and ensure that those found to have played a part are appropriat­ely sanctioned, we also expect the government to be humble enough to see the event of July 7 for what it is a measure of the bitter frustratio­ns of the people with the ANC government, particular­ly its inability to deliver on its promises some 27 years after being in power. For, while the violence and the associated looting are clearly inexcusabl­e, just as intolerabl­e is the level of unemployme­nt, the pervasive poverty and inequality, the cronyism and mind-boggling corruption that have berthed the phenomenon of state capture.

The ANC government should treat these as cancers deserving no less than exorcism. For the Nigerian government, it is a lesson on how tiny sparks can become a conflagrat­ion when left unattended to. If anything, that, at least was the take-away from last year’s #ENDSARS protests.

‘For the Nigerian government, it is a lesson on how tiny sparks can become a conflagrat­ion when left unattended to. If anything, that, at least was the take-away from last year’s #ENDSARS protests’

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