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Accountability and opportunity may still be possible fo...

Defend Truth

Opinionista

Lost Zuma decade may yet yield accountability and opportunity

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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.

The tenure of the former president has accelerated the moment of our own where the choices we make ‘will determine the course for future generations’.

The accelerated decline and capture of South African institutions continue to be explored through the volumes released by the State Capture Commission. The outcomes of the extensive inquiry over the past four years must not simply result in accountability for a few but must create an opportunity for careful and considerable reform across the machinery of our government and regulatory framework. 

South Africa’s political arena has been consumed with President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation last week, and the debate that has unfolded this week in Parliament. Ramaphosa has outlined a particular vision around collaboration, and a caution that our country is confronted and at a crossroads. A crossroad that is defined by the possibility of “both the prospect of great progress and the risk of reversal”. South Africans are burdened with the triple threat of deepening poverty, debilitating unemployment and worsening inequality coupled with weakened (and in some cases broken) institutions and a lack of trust and faith in our public institutions and elected representatives. 

The crisis that South Africa faces cannot simply be shunted downstream or avoided, but rather it will require that South Africans demand far more from each other and also from the political system that many have abandoned. Political parties in our parliamentary system represent the thousands and in some cases millions of voters that have opted to participate in our electoral system. Those public representatives in accordance with the system of our constitutional democracy have been empowered to not only elect the country’s president and to hold the executive accountable but are bound to respond and confront the multitude of challenges we all face. 

We only need to look at the events surrounding the July 2021 riots and insurrectionist activity and the outcomes made public by the Expert Panel appointed by Ramaphosa. More than 350 people were killed during the events that unfolded across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and yet there has been no meaningful reform nor consequences. Instead, surrounding Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation, we have had to witness the ongoing feud playing out between Police Minister Bheki Cele and National Police Commissioner Khehla John Sithole. The failures of our institutions to respond meaningfully to the events leading up to the events of July 2021, and its refusal to account and reform after such events is another staggering reminder that we are burdened with weakened institutions.

In the aftermath of Ramaphosa’s response to Parliament on Wednesday, South Africans must push themselves to reclaim the public square. We may remain disillusioned with the outcomes of our political representative system, and in fact, the inability of government to confront the very obvious and looming threats to the fabric of our nation. The Expert Panel into the July 2021 riots may have politely framed the challenges in our security and safety cluster as being negatively impacted by “internal contradictions”. It is far worse. The state of our security cluster is in urgent need of overhauling and repurposing if we are going to confront the persistent criminal conduct across the country. 

Julius Sello Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, went so far this past week to remark that “armed individuals operate freely, because they know this country is run by cowards”. This is where we find ourselves, politicians heckling each other in the old Cape Town City Hall whilst persistent and violent degradation is committed each day against citizens and residents. Ramaphosa in his responses to the Sona debate affirmed that he presides “over a Cabinet of ministers in whom I have the greatest confidence”. The new consensus that Ramaphosa has spoken of since his maiden speech before Parliament as President does not encourage much confidence. The compacting required in South Africa will demand far more from our elected representatives, and if that is a non-negotiable, our Cabinet of ministers must be reduced drastically and, in many cases, long-standing ministers must be removed from office. 

The metrics of South Africa that continue to show up in our staggering criminal statistics — staggering unemployment and entrenched inequality — tell a different tale. The election of millions of South Africans to refuse to participate in our electoral system by not registering to vote tells the true story of our own confidence. We should not be surprised that citizens and residents have little faith that the system of governance will change or respond meaningfully to their concerns and suffering. We are indeed a country confronted with the stark reality that “old certainties are unsettled, and new possibilities emerge”. We only need to look to the escalation of xenophobic rhetoric and violence across the country or the recent spate of gender-based violence to be reminded how much the centre has crumbled. 

The country needs meaningful commitment by those entrusted to govern and not to avoid the lived reality of millions of South Africans. Instead, Malema (albeit we would have to suspend our disbelief and shock at this double standard by the EFF) in his response to Ramaphosa’s Sona affirmed that xenophobic and abhorrent conduct is being conducted in the form of “Operation Dudula, who are harassing innocent people, demanding proof of citizenship from them”. 

With the escalation and recent news coverage of at least five womxn being murdered in Cape Town over a period of four days, Cabinet ministers that are responsible for safety and security should instead of bickering with the National Police Commissioner, be confronting thugs and criminals who seek to harass South Africans. There are obvious and pressing issues that confront the people of South Africa, and if we are going to rebuild and chart a different path then we will all demand far more from what we are receiving. DM

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  • The heading “Lost Zuma decade may yet yield accountability and opportunity” piqued my interest.
    Since I am (along with millions of South Africans) a long suffering citizen of the Zuma disaster, continuing corruption and continuing unaccountability, I read the article.

    What a yawn. Just another list of what we know is wrong and what we know should be done. No concrete action or result to report, no little nudge closer to accountability – just lip service. What we need are concrete developments and actions – unfortunately, this article did not articulate either.
    Why is it so difficult to progress if everybody knows what is required?

  • The media is of the very few institutions that still work in this country. It holds up the mirror to those in power. Your article does indeed reiterate what we all know but it needs to be repeated as if speaking to the deaf, until this government not only listens but hears.

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