Opinionista Ian Von Memerty 23 January 2018

The key is to hustle during this waiting game in South Africa

Today’s crises will be resolved more or less satisfactorily – but keep your eye on the big stuff that will determine our future on every front.

There is a Senegalese Proverb: “If you wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes. If you don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes.”

Waiting. It is exhausting. Because waiting for an outcome that you are uncertain of robs you of purpose, vision and energy. Just ask anyone who has waited for a medical diagnosis. And that is where South Africa finds itself politically and economically, in the specialist waiting room to find out whether our tumours are benign or cancerous.

We waited to find out if the ConCourt ruling (and various other court rulings) against Jacob Zuma would amount to anything. The answer is not yet.

We have held our breath since the secret ballot in the parliamentary vote of no confidence where President Zuma came so close to being removed from office to see if he will actually go. The answer is possibly soon.

We put ourselves on political pause in the six months leading up the ANC Elective Conference in December, to see which faction would win. The answer was, neither faction won.

And while we waited, our SoE’s continued to haemorrhage money, more corruption scandals were uncovered weekly, and the economy took a fast turn into a deep ditch.

And now we wait some more. And the list of questions that await answers immediately seems overwhelming.

When, how and will Ramaphosa arrange Zuma’s removal from the Presidency of the South Africa?

What will Zuma do, and what will he not do as part of his exit agreement?

How far will the ANC allow the investigation and criminal charges into the Guptas and the numerous tumours they have spread through the bodies of government, business and politics go?

As Ramaphosa seems to methodically gather power and prioritise disasters, witness Eskom and NWC last week, will he be doing actual cleansing to ensure long term health or just wiping the surfaces and the vigorous dusting of crisis management?

Will Zuma actually ever get his day/week/month in court, after his 10-year battle to stay out of court?

Will he then get his month/year/decade in jail alongside the miraculously long-lived, mortally-ill, golf-clubbing Shabir Shaik, who kind of kick-started the whole “Zuma is a crook who likes crooks” idea?

Who will replace “we are in a bad way and I don’t know how to fix it” Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba after his five-star sales conference in Davos?

Will our economy, which is hinting at an upturn, actually start to benefit the bottom 70% of our country in any significant way?

Will the middle class, who feel increasingly squeezed, get some relief and so start to spend and kick-start a retail revival?

Who will emerge as the public winner in the DA-Patricia de Lille legal contest?

Will Cape Town run out of water?

If so how will they manage that?

Will the rains come this winter?

There is speculation (informed and uninformed), opinion (furious and rational), hope (vengeful and humane), fear (personal and social) – but the truth is none of us knows. And the steady stream of “news” that spouts forth every day drowns out our ability to sift conjecture from factual conclusion.

And the big question to which we await the answer, and which determines our future as a democracy, a society and economy is not what happens this year? It is what happens next year. In post-colonial democracies the liberation party sweeps into power and remains there, establishing what looks like an immortal hold on power. Then between 20 and 30 years after that first heady vote of freedom, the ground shifts politically, massively. Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania (Botswana and Namibia are the exceptions) – around the quarter-of-a-century mark the liberation party loses democratic power.

Worst-case scenario is what happened in Zimbabwe where in 2002 Mugabe lost the parliamentary elections so he simply added 30 loyal tribal chiefs into parliament to keep his majority. Then in 2008, when he lost the presidential vote (in 2014 in a moment of senile truth, he admitted that he had won only 24% of the vote), he blatantly stole the election.

Best case – well we are it! Because there are three major reasons to still be hopeful about the outcome for South Africa:

We are about to get our fifth South African State President, and the fourth leader of the ruling party since 1994 has already assumed office – this is a clear break from the Sub-Saharan trend and it has not happened anywhere else on the continent. Power has been steadily changing hands, with a lot of noise and hype, but the baton has been smoothly passed to each succeeding leader;

The ruling party has shown that as much as they hate losing, when the people vote against them, they are prepared to hand over power. In the Western Cape they fought very hard not lose power, packing poor voters in to try and boost their votes, but when the results were counted in 2009, they handed over power to the DA.

In 2016, Joburg and Tshwane, even though they got more votes than their opponents, as, when the ANC was unable to form government of alliances they allowed the DA to form minority governments. (There have been exceptions, witness the ANC in Oudtshoorn who would not accept they had lost power for almost a year, and in doing so drove the municipality into bankruptcy); and

Our country is more diverse, better educated, has better infrastructure, world-class banking institutions, is richer, than any Sub-Saharan post liberation country and those are all indicators of successful democracies.

Things may come to those wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” That was the advice of the US President who most successfully married practicality and principle – Abe Lincoln.

So what headlines wait enticingly around the corner — “Gigaba Gone?”, “Brown Booted?”, “Jacob Jettisoned?” “Mugabe’s Kids Rent Rolls Royces?” “Cape Provinces sustain massive flooding?”. All of them could be interesting and really affect us in the short term , but they distract us from the big test which comes in 15 months time.

So for the SA political parties who are negotiating this historical tipping point, the advice is: don’t wait around, start hustling now. Cyril, Mmusi, and Julius it’s time to start hustling. And just to be clear – here is the urban dictionary definition

Hustle work. To have the courage, confidence, self-belief, and self-determination to go out there and work it out until you find the opportunities you want in life.”

Today’s crises will be resolved more or less satisfactorily – but keep your eye on the big stuff that will determine our future on every front.

Stuff is going to happen anyway – you can’t wait and see what happens, you need to start hustling! The answer to whether you do that is what is going to determine headlines for the next 10 years. DM

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