Amid the chaos, SA is resetting and self-correcting
It will, tomorrow, be exactly 27 years since Nelson Mandela raised his right hand on the forecourt of the Union Buildings as he was inaugurated, telling us that the time to rebuild our country had arrived. “The time for the healing of the wounds has come,” said Mandela. “The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.” In spite of the chaos, murder and mayhem in the months leading to his inauguration, May 10 represented renewal amid the chaos. The inauguration symbolised a departure from an orgy of violence and difference. It was a time to rebuild.
The past seven days may not have been as dramatic. The right-wing AWB, responsible for much chaos in the early 1990s, is dead. Well, for all intents and purposes. Thank God. But, even as our nation seemed a magnet for chaos this week, a level of renewal was under way.
To start at the periphery, the nation was on tenterhooks as the Zulu royal family unravelled on Friday evening, with the would-be-king Misuzulu Zulu making an unscheduled early retreat from a tense family gathering at which his mother’s will was read. The royals, around the world, are a bloodthirsty lot. Even Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu was in hiding before taking over. But this weekend’s drama notwithstanding, the Zulu people now have a king. Out of the chaos something new was born.
In the ANC, a three-year power stalemate was broken.
Secretary-general Ace Magashule has always behaved as though nobody understood the ANC better than he, and nobody but he had power in the party. He would publicly contradict a sheepish, power-shy ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa without attracting any consequences.
But as the week started, Magashule was shown the door and silenced, the bravado stripped. He is now like a solitary wet chicken on a farm. He imagined his badly conceived letter suspending the president would unleash chaos. He didn’t see the ridicule coming his way. When the mighty fall, they fall hard.
Playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht’s words in his work titled In Praise of Doubt have more resonance: “Wherever you look, impregnable strongholds collapse ...” Yesterday’s strong men are today’s weaklings. As power slips away, a court date for his criminal trial draws ever nearer for Magashule.
His fall from grace is a reminder for him, and all of us, to be humble because we could easily be replaced, as Jessie Duarte, his deputy, demonstrated with the speed with which she served him his suspension letter.
Brecht further tells us that “the most beautiful of all doubts is when the downtrodden and despondent raise their heads and stop believing in the strength of their oppressors”.
As the nation held its collective breath, defence force personnel set up camp not far from the nation’s most famous resort with a bespoke fire pool in Nkandla. Will the Constitutional Court decide this week or the next?
What message will they send if Jacob Zuma is not jailed? Surely he must be jailed. Will he?
In the judiciary, Western Cape judge president John Hlophe, a political player who tried to campaign for Zuma’s cases to go away, has been rebuked and now faces censure.
Zuma’s controversial decision to appoint Mogoeng Mogoeng as chief justice after he — twice — overlooked deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke for the top post, has run its course.
Mogoeng decided to abandon ship this week, taking long leave until his retirement, as the Constitutional Court mulls over whether or not to jail our constitutional-delinquent former president who controversially appointed him chief justice.
From a distance, it looks like chaos. Looked at closely, our country is resetting and self-correcting. Strongholds are falling apart. Pretenders are making their way away from the stage, in the judiciary and elsewhere.
Out of the ruins of the nine wasted years there is a silver lining. The good guys, however hard it may be to determine who these are in the chaos before us, are clearly fighting a war that all democracy-loving South Africans who believe, as Mandela did, in rebuilding this great nation, must support. “The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to [re]build is upon us.”
In a way, there is a healing of the wounds among some in the ANC. Those who felt that the ANC’s character and the ideals that drove many to risk their life and limb fighting apartheid had been lost must, this week, be feeling that a time to rebuild the people’s congress has arrived. The putrid stench of corruption that was becoming synonymous with the ruling party is, slowly but surely, being removed.
Magashule’s howling from the sidelines and Zuma’s increasing irrelevance attest to Ramaphosa’s dogged, even if slow, attempts to return the ANC to itself. It is early days, but the signs of renewal in the midst of chaos are visible.
Elsewhere, some can’t wait to see the eyesore that is Hlophe removed from our courts. That he was found guilty represents a seed of positive movement forward.
Further, even though I may not yet have the facts, I have reason to hope that if we look closely at the manifest chaos of the punch-up Gauteng DA leader Solly Msimanga was involved in, something there, too, was being straightened, renewed somewhat. I can only hope.
The bad guys, generally, are under siege, getting a pummelling. Long may the siege last. Importantly, may it result in a victory not for a faction, but a victory that will stop the looting, a victory that will ensure the poor’s dignity, impaired by their poverty, is restored.
Rebuilding our democracy requires not just the stopping of the plunder and pillaging of scarce resources — it behoves all of us to prioritise the infirm and the poor, understanding that leadership is about service to those without a voice, without access.
The putrid stench of corruption that was becoming synonymous with the ruling party is, slowly but surely, being removed