South Africans are deeply concerned about where this all ends, and when will it end. Three words capture the current state of mind of many South Africans. Those three words are, “We don’t know”. We just don’t know how this will end. We don’t know the extent of the state capture. We don’t know how to end the reign of Jacob Zuma. This uncertainty and general feeling of hopelessness creates a vacuum.
The events of the past couple of months highlight the urgent need for South Africans to rush into that void before it is consumed by the type of leadership that we have encountered under the Presidency of Jacob Zuma. We are in a very odd place in our collective history. Pravin Jamnadas Gordhan is our Finance Minister, a position he was returned to on 14 December 2015, after the disastrous appointment and thereafter removal of David Des “Weekend Special” van Rooyen. Mr Gordhan has a long history steeped in service for the people of South Africa and to the governing party’s fight for liberation and freedom.
This is not just a fight against an honourable man with 45 years of public service with a deep commitment to our fight for freedom and to our constitutional democracy. This fight extends far beyond just Mr Gordhan. It is truly a fight for the soul of our constitutional democracy. We should all be distressed as much as Mr Gordhan is. This fight is a vicious game being played out against the people of this country. But being worried will not be enough.
This week, Mr Gordhan has appealed “to all South Africans to protect the National Treasury staff, who have diligently, honestly and skilfully served the national interest to the best of their ability”.
South Africans will need to do a great deal more to protect Mr Gordhan, but how exactly remains elusive. Many South Africans are wondering how best to challenge the status quo, and asking themselves whether involvement in their communities, in party politics, in religious organisations, in civic organisations or in our classrooms and lecture venues will be enough to save him (and our constitutional democracy). Obviously, involvement on its own will not be enough, but it is essential.
However, it is unlikely that our involvement alone is going to stop those individuals who are manipulating and corrupting our law enforcement agencies for the agenda of protecting one man and his network of patronage and deceit. It is easy to become jaded, despondent and overwhelmed. We should all be worried. The only thing that is really clear is that political interference and manipulation are at the root of our problem, which not only threatens leaders like Mr Gordhan, but the very foundations of our constitutional democracy.
Alex Mashilo, the spokesperson of the South African Communist Party, which forms part of the governing party’s tripartite alliance, spoke to Joanne Joseph of eNCA on Wednesday evening, when he confirmed that an SACP member overheard a conversation involving Mthandazo Ntlemeza, the head of the Hawks, in which Mr Ntlemeza indicated quite clearly that the Hawks had a mandate to “harass communists”.
We cannot simply dismiss this as idle gossip or innuendo but rather a pattern of abuse that threatens our constitutional democracy. What is crystal clear is that the current mandate of law enforcement agencies against Mr Gordhan is not isolated but rather strongly implies that our law enforcement agencies have been captured to embrace an ulterior political motive.
That motive seeks to protect Mr Zuma and the private interest that dominates our politics and country today. We need no reminding of what happened to people like Anwa Dramat, Mxolisi Nxasana and Robert McBride.
We have to stand up and correct this ulterior motive of the very people who were mandated by South Africans to act in the best interests of the country. South Africans serving in Mr Zuma’s Cabinet cannot sit by while their Cabinet colleague pleads for South Africans to help him and the staff of the National Treasury.
However, Mr Gordhan’s statement earlier this week, pleading with South Africans to help, implies that Mr Gordhan and the National Treasury do not have the support of the ANC, Mr Zuma or the leadership of our country.
We must be outraged into action. Mr Gordhan cannot only rely on South Africans but those serving in leadership across the country must stop procrastinating and act in the interests of South Africa and not in their own narrow interest.