“T’is the autumn of treason.” Things are heating up in South Africa:
“Twenty-two years into democracy and nearly three years after Mandela’s death, the air is again thick with political paranoia… of high treason … sedition and betrayal, with talk of mysterious foreign… agents who have “infiltrated” the mass media, business, foreign multinationals, NGOs, religious bodies, opposition parties and student movements and who … threaten the state.”
The administration of Jacob Zuma is running scared and has begun to defy democratic institutions. This is new. Previously he was something of a lone gun. Now, he seems to be organizing his government into a fortress of ignominy.
From afar one wonders if a global malaise is sweeping the world. Demonstrations, impeachments and lots of name shouting in South Africa is exactly what’s happening in Brazil.
But the South African story has been building for a longer while, and I think that Jacob Zuma and the ANC party that led the country out of apartheid is sinking fast.
Here’s a quick timeline:
The current president, Jacob Zuma, was pegged a failure from the start and it was remarkable that the ANC actually brought him to power. He was instrumental in the revolution and Mandela originally named him a Deputy President.
But he was sacked from the government in 2005, ostensibly when prosecutors charged him with rape (acquitted by the High Court) but more so because he nearly destroyed a Burundi peace process that was underway at the time.
Two years later in 2007 a high court rules that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute him for a variety of corruption charges, including bribery. Most people thought his story was over.
Then, remarkably, the ANC nominates him into a position to become the third president of the country after the end of apartheid, after Mandela and Mbeki.
Although South Africans were aghast I saw it very much as our first several presidents who all came from the revolutionary movement. Maybe, I thought, he’d now clean up his act.
Anything but. He built himself a gigantic mansion using public funds in broad daylight, flaunted his public duties and appeared like playboys all around the world with a different girl at his elbow every night, sacked and appointed people at will and let cronies siphon off millions of public funds and probably worse of all, ordered in police to massacre mining demonstrators.
To call the man a buffoon is generous. What he is a too typical African potentate dictator, and that doesn’t fit modern South Africa.
Jacob Zuma is now officially on the way to being impeached. Not quite as far along as his colleague in Brazil, but far enough that he’s now lashing out, threatening arrests and implying even more if the opposition continues with its program to get rid of him.
Even more severe, the ANC is considering “recalling” him, which in the arcane and rather old-fashioned communist way forces his resignation. The ANC would do so to avoid the more public impeachment.
Like elsewhere around the world, the ANC as a dominant political party may be in trouble partially due to this global political malaise. It may indeed be “down and out” in the same way the American Republican or Brazilian Worker’s Party seem to be tumbling down. And that is, of course, an incredibly interesting story.
But the main story in South Africa is squarely the story of Jacob Zuma. Whether it’s coincidental that his buffoonery dove-tails with global revolution, or whether he is organically a part of the virus bringing revolution to the world, right now Jacob Zuma is in deep trouble.
And for the good of South Africa and its revolution, he better fall quick.