Jacob Zuma is a Political Genius. Here’s Why.

Barring President Zuma’s untimely demise, there remain only two possible futures for South Africa. From the moment the new cabinet was announced, we’ve been choosing one of the futures without realising it.

Had we been serious about holding government to account — see South Korea, Brazil, and parts of the U.S — we’d have mobilised, occupied, barricaded roads and protested non-stop from yesterday, strategising on our feet. Something like last night’s reshuffle requires a quick show of public strength. You can’t over-plan it.

This future begins at immediate resistance from the moment we see an abuse of power. This the future we have not chosen.

We wouldn’t march and then go home to wait for an answer, nor sign petitions and wait for answers, nor wait for someone else to unseat Zuma. We’d disrupt everything — bearing in mind physical and legal risks — until we’d removed him.

But because we are South Africa, we waited:—

For EFF to defend approaching the Constitutional Court. The chances of anything coming from that are good enough to pursue it, but not enough to rely on it alone. Separation of Powers is real. They really seek to humiliate Zuma for political points. They will achieve spectacle, not change, because spectacle is the most political parties can offer by themselves right now.

We waited for the DA to persuade the Speaker to convene a sitting where the House would pass a motion of no confidence in the President, and for them to stop the swearing in of the new ministers. The latter hasn’t worked nor has the former worked in previous times. As for the anonymous ANC MPs that Mmusi Maimane mentioned, who’ve said they’ll vote for Zuma to go, they don’t exist until the public knows who they are. And not that I have heard any calls for it, but Speaker Baleka Mbethe would never allow a secret ballot because that would be a betrayal of Zuma. We are recycling tired tactics.

No political force that has the power to oust Zuma has the will, nor has any political force that has the will, the power. Zuma alone could theoretically have both, and he is not stepping down (not that there is anywhere lower for him to step down to).

Even Cyril Ramaphosa’s disagreeing with what the President did isn’t the same thing as openly disagreeing with the fact of his Presidency. If the Deputy President is fired, he’ll become a martyr and that has its own ramifications.

We waited, also, for mass resignations from cabinet and for more action from the SACP. We waited for the Top 6 to act. They chose their words so carefully; we called those revelations “damning” and too quickly gave their speakers credit before they had acted on those revelations. They did not act because they were only acting surprised.

We waited ourselves into Zuma’s trap.

What he’s done this time is too big to undo. He can’t reinstate 3 out of the 6 fired ministers, for example, let alone undo the 20-piece reshuffle. Trying to reverse any of it would only embarrass the country further. Had it been one minister, he could be frog-marched to undo it. Who decides where he should start fixing this?

Before this was done, it was too daring to be done. Now that he has done it, no one can dare him to undo it. Those who have the will have not the power; those who have the power have not the will. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” and Zuma knows it.

The shock-and-awe (or “rapid dominance”) military doctrine calls for overwhelming displays of power that demoralise and paralyse opponents. For having used it, Zuma is stronger than he was when he first called then-Minister Pravin Gordhan from London.

“If Zuma can stay in power for another week,” a friend mused, “he would have survived this and emerged stronger.” Another replied, “Every 24 hours that pass with him in power make it more likely he will make it to the end of this week.” In Christopher Nolan’s movie Interstellar, there is a planet whose proximity to a black hole means an hour spent there is the equivalent of seven earth years (this is time dilation).

The gravitational forces on Planet Zuma mean every second he is in power allow him to wreak earth-years’ worth of havoc. He appoints and disappoints his ministers at unheard-of hours, knowing well that ordinary South Africans will confront him for it in the safety and convince of their own time — when we can take time off from our very busy lives.

Opposition parties, civil society, clergy and other entities have made plans for legal challenges, parliamentary moves, marches and the like. These plans may end up diverting legitimate anger into hamster-wheel freneticism that serves only the reputations of the organisations that arrange and parade their speakers, singers and causes at these events. Remember a particular anti-Zuma march. We went. We crossed the Mandela bridge. We crossed back. It was a “success” and we felt great.

But Zuma didn’t fall.

A protest march ends when marchers leave. An #Occupy ends when the target (Zuma) leaves. Any politicians that could have fought Zuma now knows that South Africans will march and leave before Zuma has been forced to leave. We show up, but never stay up, long enough to ensure that Zuma falls to never do to a Gordhan what he did to a Nene. We have used up all our good guys. Would you trust us to back you?

In this future Zuma, will cash in what remains of the ANC’s brand equity and the country’s economy. He and his political generation will have no need of those burdens after 2019. Whoever wins the ANC Presidential race may become opposition leader in 2019 not because of anything the ANC has done, but because of what the last 24 hours have enabled Zuma to do in the next 24 months.

If he shock-and-awe nuked us yesterday, watch him go nuclear.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

 

 

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Judgment Day: ANC Politicians Must Unseat Zuma or Leave the Party

Today, struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada was laid to rest. Former President Kgalema Motlanthe took this opportunity to read out Kathrada’s unanswered letter to President Jacob Zuma, in which the President is challenged to resign.

This got me thinking about a tendency amongst the “good” ANC politicians to throw Jacob Zuma under the bus, subtly or otherwise. I also thought of how our usual response is to applaud and cheer.

Can we please not laud those politicians who have Damascus Road revelations or challenge the NEC to resign, until they themselves leave?

I fear by the time the ANC’s “good cops” rescue us from the ANC’s “bad cops” there will be nothing left to rescue. We are those frogs in that pot in that boiling water, acclimatising to a temperature that’s killing us when we should be leaping out.

We can’t separate the ANC from the situation our country is in, both the good and bad. This implicates everyone in the ANC for all of it.

No South African can legitimately opt out of falling under laws the ANC uses its majority to pass in parliament. To support the ANC is to agree that the party should have the greatest say in the way parliament passes laws and scrutinises the actions of the Executive. So the argument that the ANC isn’t wholly responsible serves no one except the ANC.

The dollar doesn’t discriminate between citizens who said, “yes” to the President’s financially risky decisions from those who said, “no” to them. When we go nuclear, the bill isn’t going to land with those citizens who agreed to nuclear power. We may be near Passover, but no lamb’s blood on any doorpost is going to exempt any of us from whatever happens in Lootuli House (sorry, Chief Albert Luthuli).

Therefore, distinguishing the ANC from the decisions made by its leadership gives the party protections no human being in this country has, and that, at the citizen’s expense. People would be left with no choice but to join the ANC in order to enjoy the rights taken from people and given to the party. I submit everyone in the ANC knows this; that is why they remain in there. Life is easier for those who love the party more than the country that the party abuses.

Another example is crime. Criminals don’t knowingly pick victims who said, “yes” to the ANC’s crime-fighting leadership, or lack thereof, over those who said, “no” to it: we’re all victims and victors of the consequences of the ANC’s leadership in this regard. Once again, separating the ANC from the consequences of decisions made by its deployees, when citizens can’t be separated from those consequences, gives the ANC rights no human being can enjoy — at cost to human rights.

Those people in the ANC who “see the light” and speak up are only in a position where their voices count for more because we’ve let the citizens’ count for less. We did this each time we centred their denouncements of Zuma without demanding their exit from the party Zuma leads. They’re not heroes; they’ve thieves, albeit indirectly, benefiting from the mess they’re criticising.

They seem more exposed to harm for speaking out, but that’s why they’re safer — their publicity shields them and puts a higher premium on their blood while the blood of ordinary South Africans outside the ANC can be bought and sold for 30 pieces of silver. Remember Marikana.

They are not heroes. There’s no risk for them. We need to stop applauding them for saying what others are saying (but go unheard, because they are voiceless) and demand they exit the party.

Thank you.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

That book is almost done working on me. 

Why We’re Not Singapore

Assuming Singapore is perfect (a discussion for another day) and where we’d like to go, why are we taking so long get there?  Is it that we’re not drawing on the gifts that colonialism bestowed upon us?  As Western Cape Premier Helen Zille tweeted:

“Would we have had a transition into specialised health care and medication without colonial influence?”

and,

“For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”

The previous blog post answered — at the risk of making it sound as though whose ancestors built what toys is the measure of civilisation — that Africa had specialised health care, medication, impressive (if not “independent”) judicial systems, as well as transport and water systems that were on par with or ahead of anyone else’s, before colonialism.

That post also said the anthropologist jury is still out on whether a civilisation’s development is dependent on the duration for which its people are settled and their infrastructure maintained, or dependent on cycles of conflict, displacement and resettling.  Either way, bearing in mind that it had just been settled by Bantu people from further up north (not forgetting the Khoi-San), the region we now call Southern Africa was, by Eurocentric standards, relatively “civilised” by the early 17th century.

Zille’s view not only passively says to take advantage of what colonialism left behind; it actively says we’d have to have gone through colonialism to advance as Singapore did.  That undermines everyone except the colonialist while failing to judge said colonialist for his crimes against humanity.  That smacks of white supremacy.

There’s a reason Helen Zille felt the need to tweet that at this discursive moment.  South Africans are under a lot of pressure, especially economically.  Politically, we’re feeling helpless.  When something is squeezed like we’re being, what’s on the inside starts coming out.  If you squeezed something you’d thought was an orange but its juice was sour, you’d start wondering whether it was a lemon or a grapefruit instead.  Likewise, if you squeeze our Rainbow Nation, and white supremacist thoughts start flowing out, then perhaps our economic and political issues are symptoms of that identity crisis.  Misidentifying South Africa as “new” when its thinking is fundamentally old is akin to getting your name wrong at the start of a test.  In the unlikely event that you could still remember the correct answers after that, your mark would still be misallocated.

The reason our strengths don’t match Singapore’s is that one party that could arguably take us there — the DA that Helen Zille is a member of — insists on being a victim of its own success.  When it explains its governance successes, in none of its statements, articles, or other communication does it say, “A significant number of our core members and network of service providers achieved these results because they got major head-starts under apartheid, which the party therefore benefits from.”  For then, restitutions would be unavoidable.

We can describe the DA as non-racial and non-racist until we’re blue in the face (to match the flag), but it would be more responsible of us to admit that a significant number of South Africans believe the DA exists to protect white interests, despite having heard arguments to the contrary.  We’d logically extend that responsibility into the way we explain the DA’s successes, conceding that the DA started out with a structurally unfair advantage.  These wouldn’t be concessions to empty populism; they’d be giving others’ views the benefit of the doubt.  What happens if we don’t take this approach?

The DA’s Penny Sparrows, Dianne Kohler Barnards and Helen Zilles still unconsciously believe corruption and incompetence are inherent to majorly black political parties, whereas good governance and ethics are inherent to majorly white ones (or colonialists) — and they’ll say that on social media.

We could have had an ANC that was as corruption-free as the DA, or we could have had both parties’ members start off on similar economic bases in their private capacities and their respective networks.  But we’re being dangerously naïve if we tell ourselves we could have transitioned into healthy democracy without reparations, and have nothing go terribly wrong.  There are no free lunches in the universe.

At dog-whistle politics’ pitch, we’re explaining “black corruption” and “incompetence” without reference to this initial disparity or the presence of racial bias in the way we ruminate on, say, state capture by persons of varying skin colours — and then we’re shocked to discover that people like Helen Zille think colonialism was beneficial.

The intellectual white supremacy Zille openly tweets of is a natural flowering of the moral white superiority that’s been assumed all along.  This is why black people would rather countenance the ANC get away with murder than vote the DA into power.  They can hear the dog-whistle messaging.  (And yes, I know I have said a lot of this before.  Do I at least get marks for consistency?)

We’re not Singapore because the impulse that causes us to look to colonialism to make us a Singapore is indistinguishable from the impulse that divides us into coloniser and colonised, undermining the latter to justify the former — while we delude ourselves into thinking our identity is Rainbow Nation.  The juice that comes out when you squeeze is racism.

We’re not going to be Singapore until we figure out how to be who we say we are first.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

I’m nearing the final stages of that book working on me.

The Case for Letting Helen Zille Stay in the DA (and Keep Her Twitter Account)

Zille asked,

“Would we have had a transition into specialised health care and medication without colonial influence?”

and said,

“For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”

At the risk of making it sound as though whose ancestors built what toys is the measure of which race group is more civilised, I answer in two parts.

The first is that Africa had these things before colonialism.

The second is that the anthropologist jury is still out on whether a civilisation’s development is dependent on the duration for which its people are settled, undisturbed, and their infrastructure maintained — or dependent on cycles of conflict, displacement and resettling.

By either measure, bearing in mind that it had just been settled by the Bantu from further up north (not forgetting the Khoi-San), the region we now call Southern Africa was, by Eurocentric standards, relatively “civilised” in the early 17th century.  So saying colonialism wasn’t all negative is a bit like beating a child bloody, and then attributing the subsequent recovery to the medicinal effects of blood-letting.  It is colonial-age thinking.

If Zille is acquainted with these basics of history, why is she asking what she’s asking?  If she isn’t, what does she gain from wilful ignorance?  Would she tweet of the positives of the holocaust her relatives escaped?  Did she stick her neck out for the Steve Biko story so she could leverage the admiration of liberals for political prominence in this dispensation, only to use it to spew the antithesis of everything Biko died for?  Her remaining role is as a mirror for many white South Africans to look into.

I’ve described why, to the extent the DA explains its governance successes without reference to the post-apartheid gains its mostly-white network got to keep, to that extent, its supporters unconsciously believe corruption and incompetence are inherent to majorly black political parties, good governance and ethics to majorly white ones.  The white intellectual supremacy Zille openly tweets is a natural flowering of this white moral superiority.  This is why black people would rather countenance the ANC get away with murder than vote the DA into power.

The DA cannot denounce those who celebrate apartheid and colonialism without likewise denouncing the blatant economic disparity that resulted from these crimes, and from which many of their members currently benefit.  To hold Zille to account properly, the DA would have to challenge much of the thinking that makes it a popular choice amongst its current constituency.  If the DA is unwilling to go that far, I’d rather they keep Helen Zille and not discipline her at all.  Their feigning a purge would be worse than their not having one at all.

Zille subsequently asked,

“How much does our freedom rating actually mean” when “we cannot even get the rudimentary criminal justice pipeline functioning?”

and,

“What does freedom mean without the rule of law?”

She’s playing God — playing freedom and the law against each other — so as to undermine the equality, freedoms and rights she claims to stand for from the other fork of her tongue.  Yet even she knows that law and order were divorced from justice in 1994, after which apartheid’s beneficiaries used its spoils to dazzle us with their “better” governance and, therefore, white supremacy.

The DA knows that justice isn’t the same thing as order.  But to let white South Africans get away with acting as though they’re more entitled to comfort, law and order than black people are to justice, reparations and redress, it’s conflated justice with law and silently passed them off as conjoined twins, hoping nobody would notice the hidden (and false) premise of white blamelessness, but would call into question black consciousness-style questioning of the structurally racist status quo.  But it seems Biko’s ghost has said, “over my dead body” to Zille’s using the platform he built for her (because the black man has been building shit for white people way too long) to silence the kinds of questions and thoughts he would have us voice today.

Zille’s individual martyrdom would prove inconsistent (and therefore illegitimate) all resistances to white minority rule that pick on some racists, but not on all systemic racism.  She would have “taken one for the team,” and with her expulsion, the DA would have staged a purge, only to re-broadcast its old message — now aired with more apparent credibility than ever before — that it alone can carry the “reconciliation” project forward.  Without redress or the elimination of systemic racism, of course.

Do you see why calling for Zille’s head could be like chopping off the Lernaean Hydra’s?  Other heads, perhaps less coiffured, perhaps less blond and botoxed, would replace it.

Having fought apartheid not because it was evil but because the form it had could not sustain exclusive white interests forever, she’d have triggered the salvation of the colonial project at a level deeper than we can imagine.  Her crucifixion would be the DA’s salvation.  But what DA would emerge, and what would that mean for the rest of us?

Let’s hope the party treats this not just as a PR disaster but as a much-needed identity crisis.  The identity it arrives at isn’t as important as the integrity of the process it follows.

It might be better if they just keep Helen Zille.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

I’m nearing the final stages of that book working on me.