Defend Truth


A time for coalitions: People must unite to defeat the anti-constitutional forces rallying around Jacob Zuma


Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar was born in Cape Town and raised by his determined mother, grandparents, aunt and the rest of his maternal family. He is an admitted attorney (formerly of the corporate hue), with recent exposure in the public sector, and is currently working on transport and infrastructure projects. He is a Mandela Washington Fellow, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, and a WEF Global Shaper. He had a brief stint in the contemporary party politic environment working for Mamphela Ramphele as Agang CEO and chief-of-staff; he found the experience a deeply educational one.

South Africa’s democracy is under attack by a man, and those within his factional alliance, who served in the highest office in the land. However, broad coalitions of South Africans have already begun to form and mobilise to respond to the immediate threat to our constitutional democracy that Jacob Zuma continues to pose.

The interesting thing about constitutional delinquents is that while they are unable to change their stripes or spots, they remain doggedly committed to their tactics and posturing.

Former president Jacob Zuma continues to plague the inner workings of the African National Congress, but even worse, threatens the constitutional fabric and framework of South Africa’s democracy in much the same way that Donald Trump continues to shape the politics of the Republican Party and haunt the union in America.

South Africa’s democracy is under attack by a man, and those within his factional alliance, who served in the highest office in the land — a fact that seems irrelevant to the man at the centre of this delinquent behaviour, regardless of the facts before the country, the Constitutional Court, the State Capture Commission or in the public square.

Zuma continues to represent a real and serious danger to the country, especially since he enables broad coalitions of like-minded delinquents and retrogrades to convene and agitate loudly and disruptively to protect not only the man, but all that he continues to represent for them. 

These are the systemic issues that loom far larger than the deliberations that the Constitutional Court will need to make in its decision on whether to sentence the former president to a two-year jail term.

Zuma has opted to file nothing with the court contesting the position put forward by the State Capture Commission. The systemic issues require a far more coordinated approach, and importantly, the collective efforts of committed coalitions that wish to not simply confront degradation and illegality, but also wish to reshape our country so that it truly serves its people.

Broad coalitions of South Africans have already begun to gather and mobilise their collective networks to respond to the immediate threat that Zuma continues to play. 

A coalition in which I have participated, with 270 others, has endorsed the call to defend South Africa’s democracy. Coalition-building is not unique to the responsive work required as a result of South Africa’s lost decade and the State Capture project, but rather it is hardwired into our communities and our social networks, and importantly it is part of the building blocks on which South Africans should pride ourselves.

Organisational muscle and the ability to build broad coalitions that criss-cross South Africa was enabled through movements such as the Black Consciousness movement as well as the work of the United Democratic Front. Those who remember the collective effort and organisational muscle of these organisations will often dream of replicating their impact to confront the threats to the country.

Critically, large numbers of committed South Africans continue to build networks and implement large-scale projects without any public funding, and sometimes are able to work and move mountains in spite of the government, and the period of coalition-building as a result of Covid-19 is an important reminder that South Africans have not forgotten how to mobilise, connect and act.

The collective efforts of coalitions built in the last few months of the Zuma presidency are reminders of what is possible, but beyond the political activism required to hold elected representatives accountable, South Africans have been able to shift policy and support millions of people. 

We only need to remember the tireless work to confront issues in healthcare, particular around primary care, HIV/Aids and recent efforts to level the playing field and confront injustices in the health sector.

The battles being waged in South Africa are principled, and importantly, the current threat posed by Zuma, and those flocking around a so-called Radical Economic Transformation agenda, will be confronted with the reality that mobilising and waging factional battles in the governing party may be easy.

However, the attempts to undermine South Africa and its constitutional mission will prove less easy, especially as the architects of Radical Economic Transformation are saddled with strategic and ethical deficiencies that cannot simply be wished away. 

However, South Africans will need to plough their collective efforts, resources and networks into confronting the immediate threat and support the creation of necessary infrastructure that not simply responds, but begins to reshape institutions and creates the bedrock for the establishment and reconstruction of enabling institutions.  

The work of the State Capture Commission is crucial to not simply holding those accountable for derailing the South African project in order to enrich and empower themselves, but also the legal implications of the commission may be restricted to the very narrow lens of what the law can achieve. Rather, the collective agency and bridge-building presently under way must be continued in order to ensure groundswell participation and engagement in order to support the hard work of rebuilding South Africa.

The outcome in the Constitutional Court on the delinquency of Zuma will be important, as much as the high court processes related to the alleged gross misconduct and corruption related to his activities around the arms deal, but South Africa will have to contend with far bigger issues in the coming months and years. The structural inequities in our society will continue to unravel amid the pressing need to rebuild our communities and cities.

This work will require much more than action through the courts or the outcomes of the State Capture Commission, and will call on South Africans to continue building coalitions to confront injustice and finally achieve freedom. DM


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  • Miles Japhet says:

    The gravity of the situation we are facing needs to continue to be communicated and your article is right on the button. We cannot let a few delinquent self serving individuals destroy the future of the majority of good human beings that make up our country.

  • Gerhard Pretorius says:

    The more people realise that the king is naked, the quicker the push-back. The irony is that coalitions have to work outside the framework of the three-tier democratic structure as all three are collapsing at an increasing tempo. If ever there was urgency about something, this is it. Keep us posted.

  • Wendy Dewberry says:

    Those people who support Zuma seem to see him as a saviour rather than the manipulater he is. The irony that many of those people are still locked in systemic poverty largely thanks to Zuma is a sad example of what corruption can do to well intended NDPs over decades.

  • Sergio CPT says:

    Hear, hear! It is time for SA to mobilize and neutralize these evil and heartless thieves hiding behind RET etc. Our futures and well being, including those of our children and grandchildren are under huge and pernicious attack. Call these monsters’ bluff and let the law take its course.

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