As We Protest (God Help Us All)

Today, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Party, among other organizations, is leading an  ambitiously-named “national day of action” protest to persuade President Zuma to step down.

For reasons discussed in podcasts, blog posts and videos, the below are the reasons and necessary conditions for removing President Jacob Zuma.

I’ll be very surprised if any group can depose of him without reaching consensus on these.

Reasons:

Being credit-rated as junk will take South Africa’s price of borrowing up, which will affect the price of…everything.

The nuclear energy deal will knock the price of power up, which will affect the price of…everything.

Zuma will also lead the campaign to destroy the ANC’s reputation within the next two years. Following his lead, rude and thuggish ANCYL members will pick the party’s brand equity down to its bones. The more vocally they defend the Zuma who has captured the party, the less ANC top brass will be able to do to curb or discipline this. They have let the fish rot from the head, leaving them with zero credibility when they reprimand their political children for taking after their political father. The ANC is not dead, not by a long shot. But its doom has become certain.

Your most uninformed voter in the country’s most rural outpost will see the flashy cars and rowdy behaviour (or even an attempt at masking it) at campaigns, and know instinctively that something is not right. They already know because they normally only ever see the ANC at election season.

The ANC presidential race is for nought because at this rate, the next president of the ANC will not be the next president of the country. All the contracts, the political and public positions ANC supporters hope to gain by toing the party line will not be the ANC’s to give. Stephen Grootes painted the dilemma in excruciating terms:

“For many ANC MPs now, things may well be coming to the point where they are wondering if they will return as an MP after the 2019 elections. The lower on the parliamentary list they are now, the less chance they have of coming back.”

and

“Which means that for their own self-interest, some of these MPs must surely be thinking that the party needs to change direction.”

“But their problem still remains: do they allow Zuma to stay, or do they try to act against him? Both are perilous. If they do nothing, they could be queuing up outside any McDonald’s with a ‘help wanted’ sign in late 2019. If they act, they could be doing that by December this year.”

Either way, President Zuma is bad news for ANC MPs and other office-bearers. If the party keeps him, it may have no choice but to steal elections in 2019.

The Conditions for Zuma’s Removal:

The first is organized civil disobedience. Recognized organizations like political parties, unions, civil society NPOs and businesses are bound in word and deed by the law. They cannot explicitly lead people into illegal activities, for if they did they would lose the platforms they speak and act from. This loss would implicate other stakeholders these organisations have legitimate commitments towards. Also, no organisation wants to take responsibility for death, injury or loss of whatsoever nature, howsoever arising, that would happen in the course of civil disobedience.

That does not mean they cannot implicitly point the way forward for those without such a platform to lose. In other words, we cannot rely on them to do all the thinking and organising for us.

When Pravin Gordhan said to mobilize, he may have implicitly meant to do whatever it takes to unseat Zuma. But notice he could neither mention a.) Zuma, whom we assumed he meant, nor b.) the need to do a pro-cons analysis as to whether we would act by the letter of the law or its spirit. Again, we assumed he meant we had to act within the law and not just within conscience.

We have to connect the dots. Politics is too important to be left to politicians.

Organised civil disobedience may be something as simple as mobilising people for an immediate march without applying for permits and permission, knowing the risks.

The moment an organisation applies for permission to work within rules, we must heed the expression that “Rules are for the Guidance of the Wise and the Obeisance of Fools.” Zuma probably won’t be deposed by petition, vote of no confidence or a march that has a start date and an end date. He can ignore the petition, win the parliamentary vote (quite easily, too) and cover his hears until after any planned demonstration.  The courts can do little or nothing.

The end of a demonstration should not be when demonstrators want to get back to work; it should be when the goal of the demonstration is accomplished. With days between our marches, there soon will be no work to get back to as Zuma works overtime to sell the economy off.

Any action we take would have to outlast and isolate him (or those who have the resources to oust him) from something they need, be it room to move, food or water. If we worked via a tax revolt, it would have to be broad, deep and last long enough to make his tenure untenable to those who have the legal power (but not yet the moral power) to remove him from presidency.

The Most Important Condition:

The most important condition to mobilizing the greatest number of people has to do with the “what’s in it for me” factor.

I’ve been to enough Zuma marches and read enough social media complaints about them to tell you the reason they don’t have enough support is racial. White people have a clear understanding of what Zuma represents — simply, a big problem — but in many black people’s lives, he’s the cause and the symptom (and therefore, the cause and the cure) of a more dynamic dilemma. The unintended but foreseeable effect of removing him is an exacerbation in systemic racism. Zuma may be lying when he says (anything at all) that he’s fighting for the economic upliftment of black people. But by virtue of how he’s positioned himself and how he operates, he does negotiate the factors that exclude black people from the economy much better than his predecessors did, even if he also steals from those black people to unfairly enrich while bribing and blackmailing those who keep him in power.

This is how he holds scores of black ANC voters consciences’ ransom. Worse still, he keeps black people convinced that it is white people slowing down transformation, and white people convinced that black people actively support him out of ignorance. The reality is, Zuma does not need that much support from the black person on the ground to stay in power. His patronage network is more important for that purpose. The ANC, in turn, is protected by the liberation legacy but also its position. Pure populism sans capitalism does not hold as much appeal to black people as we’d expect it to, but neither does sheer neoliberalism. The ANC can get away with murder because it ideologically negotiates around Zuma’s negotiating within politics.

The moment someone explains hair-raising moves through “radical economic transformation,” we should get those who work in the transformation space weighing in, just as we would expect doctors or some medical practitioners’ society to weigh in on the words of a politician who gives an unsound medical rationale for his decisions. Professionals defend their fields. In this regard, a Black Economic Empowerment consultancy called BEE Novation has shared the view that if, for example, “the new entrant” threshold on BEE were dropped from R50 million to say, R10 million, it would be a step towards empowering black South Africans on the ground while curbing crony capitalism. The alternative to BEE, now or later, is “expropriation without compensation” or ongoing inequality. So Zuma’s rhetoric is in direct contradiction to his actions’ trajectory.

As I have pointed out on this blog, Daily Maverick, Biznews and PowerFM, the solution to the Zuma stand-off is a Zuma trade-off. If white people want him gone, they need to lobby and march for economic transformation. It is then that black people would be “unshackled” to march for politicians who would ensure we have an economy in the first place.

Apart from socially and economically empowered white people lobbying for better transformation in exchange for more black people supporting Zuma protests, the bulk of black people have very little reason to get rid of Zuma or the ANC. This is crunch time, the greatest test the New South Africa has faced. If we get rid of Zuma or the ANC, the economy will remain inaccessible to black people. Zuma knows this. If we don’t get rid of him, black people will have access to a junk-rated economy. It’s lose-lose.

I’m happy to draw up and plan as much as I can around the #ZumaTradeOff, but honestly speaking this ball is in white people’s court. Nobody is better positioned to make it happen.

The #ZumaTradeOff would have to be explicit and deliberate. It is not enough for the races to march and sing together here and there, now and then; they have to cultivate the discipline of working for one another’s and, by extension, everyone’s best interests.

A lot of white people think if we solve the political problem, black people’s economic problems will be solved as well. But the deal we signed up for in 1994 left economic power in white hands — setting us up for the very moment we facing now. White people have yet to show serious interest in solving black people’s economic problems beyond where their political interests coincide with those economic problems.

The alternative to the #ZumaTradeOff is more of Zuma, and with him, untold misery. I cannot see this play out any other way.

If you agree, publicize the #ZumaTradeOff hashtag to help push the conversation to a fruitful end. If we fail to, what happens next is on us.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

The book is almost done, and I am well-done.

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “As We Protest (God Help Us All)

  1. Hi Siya. I often struggle to make sense of it all so I want to thank you for making sense of it for me. That’s all. Thank you.

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