The Democratic Alliance loves trying to use ANC symbolism to shame the ruling party and President Zuma. On Monday, Mmusi Maimane was outside Chancellor House, the offices of Mandela & Tambo Attorneys. GREG NICOLSON was there to see what the DA parliamentary leader said about the upcoming State of the Nation Address.
There are few places as good as Chancellor House for the DA to pump its “ANC Ayisafani” slogan without having to dodge bricks. On Fox Street, Johannesburg, the offices of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo’s legal practice features a timeline of the historic building. Across the road, outside the Joburg Magistrate’s Court, towers a statue of Mandela, modelled on Bob Gosani’s 1953 photograph of the leader.
On Monday, days before President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address, DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane told 200-300 supporters the ANC had betrayed everything Chancellor House represented. After all, it was a firm that helped black people cope in the racist court across the road. Now Chancellor House is the name of the ANC’s investment arm, and it has a stake in Hitachi Power Africa, which has been working on the delayed power projects at Medupi and Kusile, Maimane pointed out.
“Many people say if you vote for the DA, Apartheid will come back. Let me help you understand… Apartheid was a policy of the National Party. Where is the National Party now? In the ANC,” screamed Maimane – more Julius Malema on Monday, with witty, but passionate, quips, than in the Barack Obama mould.
Much of his speech focused on linking the ANC to Eskom, power shortages and the cost to the economy. “You know why President Zuma likes load-shedding? Because he can do a lot of things in the dark; that’s why he likes load-shedding,” said Maimane. “The ANC has taken the legacy of Mandela and used it to fund Luthuli House, to fund President Zuma, to fund Gwede Mantashe. That is corruption,” he accused, claiming the party wants to “eat the meat and leave South Africa the carcass”.
With Zuma to address the country on Thursday for the second SONA address of his second term as president, the DA parliamentary leader said Zuma should be nervous (on Sunday the president said he’d never been nervous in his life). Maimane said Zuma had to “agree and admit” his government has failed to create jobs, improve the electricity problems, and provide sufficient safeguards against corruption.
Most of the run-up to SONA, however, has been dominated by Julius Malema and the Economic Freedom Fighters’ second-by-second countdown to their plan to disrupt the event and ask Zuma when he will pay back the money spent on the Nkandla upgrades. Even while Maimane was speaking, Twitter was dominated by a disgruntled group of EFF members, led by Lufuno Gogoro, who gathered across town.
Maimane said while he has been touring the country ahead of SONA, people say they want Zuma to talk on specific issues. “[The potential of EFF disrupting the event] is a fear and I think that in fact the collapse of institutions, the collapse of Parliament, only serves one person, it serves President Zuma. I am really worried about that particular situation because if the EFF disrupts Parliament all they’ll serve is themselves and both these parties, the EFF and the ANC, will ignore South Africa,” he said after finishing his official address. “I think what we have to put on the forefront is [that] this is not the state of the Nkandla address, this is the State of the Nation Address. So let the president speak, let the nation hear so we can hold Zuma to account.”
Asked whether it’s too much to expect Zuma to honestly address problems with certain institutions he is criticised as having divided and weakened, Maimane said, “Clearly we’ll be listening to a lot of hypocrisy, but we must never take away from the fact that he still leads the highest office in the land and we still need to be able to produce a plan.”
Maimane said Zuma should stop giving the country a “nonsense story” focusing only on positives. “We’ve had a number of years of that. We’re seeing downgrades anyway. South Africa is in crisis. That he puts up a façade of successes isn’t going to help because I think people are running out of patience. Our investor confidence is low. Even domestic investment is low. It doesn’t help him.
“He has adopted that strategy before. If I were in his shoes I would certainly be honest with the nation, put the facts before [South Africa], but equally so, put a coherent plan. He has failed to deliver a plan around Eskom; we are getting intermittent information. He has failed to deliver a plan around the NPA. He laid this commission of inquiry in June last year and when you read through the terms of reference they are really ridiculous.”
DA leaders will hold a rally outside Parliament on Wednesday to offer the party’s own vision for South Africa. It’s unlikely, however, to take the focus off Malema and the EFF, who have for months said this SONA will be like no other. DM
Photo by Greg Nicolson.