During the last six months, as a smog-filled, dirty autumn sunk into the depressing dust of winter, politically we had the shivering fits.
So what kept us awake about South Africa six months ago?
Elections 2016. Would they happen? Would they happen peacefully? Would they happen fairly? Would it be more of the same afterwards? Would the ANC respect the results if they suffered losses? Would the Red Berets sweep all before them? Would the DA be all talk and no headway?
Well, the elections did happen – freely, fairly and successfully. The ANC did behave like a party of democratic principles and stepped aside where they had lost the majority, albeit with tears and occasional tantrums.
The EFF grew minimally and in a move of real political maturity did not grab for actual power, but rather leveraged their power by not tying themselves into coalitions.
And the DA negotiatied, strategised and capitalised on their wins to ensure that they now have five times the administrative power that they had before the election.
(And so the first green shoots appear.)
Nkandla. Six months ago it seemed that man who never intended to retire would get away scot-free for building the most expensive holiday home in existence. And then came the ConCourt ruling; and the whole country suddenly felt safer. The Public Protector was backed by the court, and now JZ has to find a fairly hefty R8-million in the near future; and his aura of authority has lost a little of its glow.
(The early spring flowers send out their first tentative buds.)
Thuli Madonsela – who would replace her? The woman who had become our Joan of Arc, wielding the sword of justice, was going soon. All cry woe! And then, despite a chaotic and magnificently incompetent selection and interview process, the ANC’s safe bet Judge Siraj Desai drifted into the sand traps, and it seems that everyone is feeling pretty okay with Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
(Look, the grass is starting to grow as well.)
Jacob, Guptas and Gordhan. Would Jolly Jacob be the dancer-in-chief for ever? Would the Guptas continue to appoint Cabinet ministers, and make clever deals earning billions playing political chess? Would Pravin Ghordan stay the course and (desperate wailing all around) please help save us? It just seemed an endless downward spiral.
But Look Around.
Jacob is no longer wearing a shower head, but rather he is carrying a large stop watch on top of his head which is counting down. The Guptas are planning to “withdraw” from South Africa which is good news in every way, even if it means that the billions they have managed to siphon off from ordinary South Africans goes with them. And Pravin Ghordan seems to have the nerve to outstare the Hawks, and the guts to short-circuit Eskom’s rotten business dealings, and the political conviction to actually do what he says.
(And so the flowers begin to blossom, and young couples canoodle and cuddle in the sun.)
And internationally? Six months ago Brexit loomed large. Would they, wouldn’t they? And if they did, “oh my world, the meltdown that would follow”. Doomsday predictions and much head shaking. “No one would be able to ever shop again.”
Well it did happen, the world wobbled for three days (and lost trillions of dollars, but I am not smart enough to understand how that happens); and then came along Theresa May. With crisp, calm efficiency she confronted the hysteria, took control and led the UK from a seemingly chaotic and catastrophic future onto a path of planning, policies and pragmatism (as well as doing a pretty good job for feminism without trumpeting it). And everyone in the UK went back to shopping.
(Is that the first purple bloom of wisteria that we see draped becomingly through the trees, and what are those dogs doing in the bush?)
The USA and Donald Trump. The Orange Man of Straw was on a seemingly unstoppable ascent to the most powerful position on Earth. But the endless presidential race in the US actually works. The candidates go through two completely different processes. Fighting among themselves to get their party’s nomination, and then fighting the other side to win the election. And it seems bluster, bragging and bullying might win you the first fight but not the second. Every week, Trump slides further down the polls, more Republicans distance themselves from him, members of his team are fired and hired like contestants on The Apprentice.
And now, the horror story seems likely to fade into a sad memory. And whether you like Clinton or not, if we look at Merkel and May, giving competent, experienced women a chance at leading seems a pretty sensible thing to do.
(I can hear birds chirping merrily as they sun themselves after the first bath of the year, and lambs are leaping, frogs are spawning, and summer sales are being prepared.)