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Sihle Zikalala’s trashing of the Constitution signals a personal political agenda


Francois Rodgers MPL is the KwaZulu-Natal leader of the Democratic Alliance.

The timing of Sihle Zikalala’s trashing of the Constitution and the judiciary must be seen in the light of 2022 being the year of internal ANC contestation and Zikalala’s fight for relevance and position.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala’s recent comments at a Human Rights Day commemoration in Ixopo are an indication of a leader using his executive position and platform for political party opportunism. A leader who suffers short-term memory loss and remains in a state of denial of failure. A leader who continually blames systems for his failures and those of the ANC.

Zikalala now believes the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the judiciary are responsible for the lack of economic transformation, the ever-growing socioeconomic disparities that continue to beleaguer South Africa after 1994, and the lack of radical economic transformation as his revolutionary mantra echoes through the province. Every statement uttered by Zikalala is prefaced with the words “revolutionary” and/or “radical”.

In this shameless appeal to the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction of the party, Zikalala is not only suggesting that the Constitutional Court be scrapped in favour of a “parliamentary democracy” with no legal checks and balances, but that the governing party of the day be given carte blanche to implement policy according to some current liberation-style performance and justice.

The timing of Zikalala’s trashing of the Constitution and the judiciary should be considered in the light of 2022 being the year of internal ANC contestation and Zikalala’s fight for relevance and position. Aware of his failing support in KZN and his continual political schizophrenia, is he with CR or RET, which appears to change with the wind direction? Zikalala is resorting to cheap politicking with this call to populism.

Zikalala should not use his personal political campaign to drive his confused radical revolutionary socialist agenda. Africa and indeed the world is littered with a history of failures of this political agenda. South Africa does not need an autocratic parliamentary state; we had that before 1994 and look where that got us.

The simple reality of effective governance and policy implementation is not based on emotive rhetoric, but on the ability to formulate and implement policies that are able to address the socioeconomic challenges inherited from the masters and implementers of apartheid.

More importantly, policy needs “buy-in”, not forced by masters of radical economic transformation, and ultimately requires a capable state to implement policy. A failed state, like ours, will never effectively implement policy and will ultimately fail to address the growing challenges of inequality. The reality is that the marginalised in society have grown since 1994. What the ANC has, however, managed to create is an elite and wealthy group who have benefited from patronage and the corrupt state.

Radical and revolutionary rhetoric will just not cut it. Leading by example through the creation of an ethical and capable state will. Lead by example through your words and actions. Ultimately, as a leader, you need to be honest!

“The report from all organs of state that investigated the July 2021 riots indicate that the deep levels of poverty and unemployment are the ticking time bomb that need urgent attention of the government and business community.” These are words uttered by Zikalala, but the reality and the honest truth is that poverty and unemployment are certainly a part of the problem, part of the symptom, but certainly not the cause. Perhaps Zikalala needs to read the report with more intent – to be honest, even the President has been more honest.

The initial spark that set the attempted insurrection in motion was ANC factionalism – radical and revolutionary factionalism.  

In his Human Rights Day address, the premier also had the following to say: “Our Constitution enjoins government to deliver water to the people of this country as it guarantees the right to water. Indeed, water is life.”

Twenty-eight years after 1994 we have areas like Ugu on the South Coast, just one of too many, that for more than eight years has suffered from failed water services under the ANC government. Industries, business and tourism are the hardest hit, negatively affecting the economy and ultimately jobs – all areas required to address existing human rights infringements and inequality. In his address, Zikalala seemed to miss the challenge faced by commerce and industry when it comes to the delivery of water services and the subsequent effects on jobs. It is all about jobs.

There is a complete failure and lack of policy implementation when it comes to water, which has nothing to do with the Constitution or the judiciary.

Perhaps it is time for radical water delivery; a revolutionary mindset for a basic human right.

Let me also remind Zikalala what he had to say at the Human Rights Day Commemoration in 2020, only two years ago: “The South African Constitution is praised the world over because it is one of the few constitutions in the world with the Bill of Rights which is captured in Section 27. We are also one of the few countries with a constitution that is founded on the cornerstone of human dignity as well as the right to dignity. Compatriots, in 1994, we chose the path of constitutional democracy and to uphold the rule of law in addressing our challenges and resolving our conflicts.”

Two years later, suddenly the Constitution, the judiciary and their objectives and efficacy are being trashed by Zikalala. Talk about short-term memory loss, talk about dancing on the graves of those who preceded Zikalala in the fight for freedom and a constitutional democracy. This leaves one wondering if the sentiments he uttered represent the views of the ANC in KZN.

Effective implementation and monitoring of policies are the main keys to addressing our socioeconomic disparities, with an ethical, capable state needed – clearly something the ANC and Zikalala are unable to achieve. 

The problem is neither the Constitution nor the judiciary, the problem is the ANC. DM


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