South Africans have been holding on to hope, a promise of something different, and we now look at democratic South Africa’s sixth administration with some disappointment and disillusionment. The factional battles within the ANC and to a lesser extent within the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters have kept the news cycle busy since the May elections, but with very little real result.
The hope and promise of a new dawn have been snuffed out to a large extent as we have not seen a real realignment in our politics. The usual suspects have been retained in the executive, as well as parliamentary chairs, while the slow process of justice has frustrated and sullied the new dawn of President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.
In large part, after 10 long and brutalising years, South Africans have been yearning for a different narrative that must be rooted in actual change, real consequences for State Capture, and a real realignment in how the people’s government functions.
Instead, South Africans have seen a string of resignations within the parastatal sector, ongoing noise from the “God-appointed” Public Protector about the so-called SARS “rogue” (or perhaps it’s “rouge”) unit, and ongoing battles within Luthuli House.
Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, former president of the republic, is currently participating in the Zondo Commission, but his participation highlights his own thinking, dissonance and his preference for conspiracy and intrigue, which reflects how convenient his own thinking is about State Capture. He has allowed us all an opportunity to consider how the Zuma administration functioned, and particularly how conspiracies, intrigue, shifting accountability and decision-making took place.
The battle lines continue to be drawn between those wanting to protect their fiefdoms of self-interest, greed and corruption against those within the political arena who want to reverse the consequences of State Capture and the shadow state. The Public Protector’s obsession with the SARS “rogue” unit and the Bosasa donation to the CR17-campaign dog our headlines. We should rather be focusing on the ability of the sixth administration to conduct the important work of rationalising the Cabinet, and the work required to ensure the state is able to commit to serving its citizens.
Zuma’s demeanour at the Zondo Commission demonstrates an unwillingness to account, which is not unique to the former president but rather reflective of all former ministers (and some of them current holders of office), officials and former and current executives who refused to serve the republic, but rather their own agenda.
South Africans will not receive an apology or witness any regret or remorse. Instead, they will be privy to a long, drawn-out “Stalingrad” legal defence of the type that Zuma is best known for. The work of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) will be exacerbated by the dissonance of implicated individuals, who will continue to use our legal system to their advantage, which again frustrates the ability of any new narrative taking hold in South Africa.
The unravelling of South Africa’s new dawn under Ramaphosa is rooted in the factional nature of our party political landscape and an electoral system that has always favoured party bosses, and the machinery that supports that exclusionary system. South Africa requires real and transformative reform as to how government functions and executes its functions. And it needs that reform now.
The electoral system must be critically reassessed and reimagined to restore power to the people of this country where a blended system of constituency and proportional representative politics is reflected in our national Parliament, with the intention that our legislature will begin to hold our executive to account properly and effectively.
South Africa urgently requires Ramaphosa’s sixth administration to do a great deal more to confront the underlying issues that created an ecosystem in which State Capture and corruption flourished. This work will not simply be about supporting the reform and capacitation of the NPA and SARS, or the multitude of other government entities that were purposefully emptied out and corrupted in order to support the shadow state.
The alarming truth is that over the past 15 years, our government and parastatals have ballooned at the expense of the public purse, while performance and delivery have declined, or in some instances collapsed. We have not just seen ill-fitting and disinterested persons appointed, but also individuals who were hell-bent on destroying institutions to serve their own greed, self-interest and an overarching commitment to the shadow state.
South Africa requires a great deal from Ramaphosa, his administration, and Parliament. The country was served by a robust judiciary as well as by the Fourth Estate during the lost decade that generations of South Africans will continue paying for beyond the outcomes and findings of the Zondo Commission.
South Africa requires its elected officials to begin making bold and real decisions. Decisions that take accountability for their constitutional mandate and imperative to serve the country and its people. This is not the time for convening conversations or providing ideas about bullet trains.
South Africans need to know what the plans of the sixth administration are and how the ideas and principles outlined by Ramaphosa in his last State of the Nation Address will be realised and enacted. DM
"There isn't a Monday that would not cede its place to Tuesday." ~ Anton Chekhov