This article first appeared on Daily Maverick.
How did we end up with MPs who’d “suicide bomb” the Constitution on President Zuma’s behalf? If Simon Sinek (author of bestseller Start with Why) followed South African politics, he’d probably say the explanation is biological.
We each have a rational brain (hopefully) that functions as our “press secretary”: think Sean Spicer, Zizi Kodwa, Anthony Scaramucci or Gwede Mantashe explaining the irrational decisions we’ve made at the more animal level of our limbic brain that houses and responds to our Donald Trump shadow. Each lie Zuma tells is limbic-brain talk intended to resonate with his own. It’s “true”, or rather, compelling and effective at the felt level.
Likewise, pro-Zuma MPs did not ooze into the National Assembly by osmosis. They were directly and indirectly voted in by South Africans whose basic Maslow Hierarchy concerns don’t and can’t involve upper Maslow issues like the currency exchange rate, the Constitutional Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, JSE-listed company share prices and credit rating statuses. Those things can’t take top-of-mind priority until you’ve visibly got skin in the game. Do you know by how much the walkable square footage at the poles of this planet has changed in the past decade? You’re probably too busy dealing with what’s in front of you right now to develop a direct line of sight on climate change; it’s “the scientists’ problem”.
In 1994, the system designed to exclude black people from economic participation was altered to include them in voting. Nothing was designed to give those voters direct line of sight right now on financial indicators, or put their skin in the macroeconomic discourse. They live in a commercial wilderness colder than the melting poles, but not as cold as outside the ANC and its campaign-season blankets, rhetoric and free food.
Sustainable economic growth will require that those at the periphery of this economic wasteland be pulled in a bit at a time until a critical mass has been included and a tipping point has been reached. Even if we exorcised the Guptas and the Bell Pottingers tomorrow morning, their replacements would slide right in and carry right on. We need for enough South Africans to know what’s at stake.
Until then, at a limbic level, the people will only vote only for the kinds of people they can trust. That’s not a race thing; it’s a human thing — as human as not knowing how much ice melted at the poles of the only planet most of us have ever live on. At a limbic level those trusted and voted in will, like them, see the Constitution as a fence, a high suburban wall that keeps the status quo’s beneficiaries’ in and poor people out. These are people who’ll agree it’s “full of demons” for making it easier to access gay rights (on paper, at least) than basic amenities. My point is that the Rainbow Nation, gay people included, was not a stillborn; it was and is a breech birth. Or as DA MP, Zakhele Mbele, says,
“When people lack jobs, opportunity and ownership of property, they have little or no stake in their communities”
“Economic inclusion is the foundation for social inclusion.”
We tried to make social inclusion the foundation for economic inclusion, and it hasn’t entirely worked. As an indirect result, our options for president may whittle down to prejudiced rape apologist, Julius Malema, whose
“analysis of the [South African] situation is accurate, but whose calls for ‘radical economic transformation’ ignore that Broad-Based Black Economic Transformation already makes the provisions he invokes as political rhetoric to whip up populism,”
as says BEE Novation MD, Lee du Preez. “The economic message of BEE was never politicised because to politicise economic policy while it’s barely christened by the business world is to break the gentleman’s agreement, an unspoken code of etiquette,” he further points out. “Not troubled by those niceties, Julius punted nationalisation and expropriation as though BEE had never existed, let alone been christened, let alone achieved equality and equity when it was used properly.”
Malema’s faction previously occupied the niche the Zuma faction does now. The only difference is the Zuma faction privatized nationalisation (read: captured) for the benefit of an elite and politically-connected few; Malema took that Molotov cocktail of limbic entitlement and hurled it from the rooftops to the masses who caught it.
But Karma, bless her soul, may have delivered a coup the grace. The Gospel According to Juju is that Baleka Mbete was promised Deputy Presidency, but Zuma used her and dumped the baby (Parliament) on her lap. If she poisons that child against its daddy by making the vote of no confidence a secret ballot and it passes against Zuma, he and his cabinet (possibly including the Deputy President he appointed, Cyril Ramaphosa), must resign. Chapter 5, 90(1)d of the Constitution indicates she could then run the country for Woman’s Month as Acting President.
Who knows whether she’d use that time to pull some levers, like bribes (she learned from the best!), to manoeuvre conditions in the country in her favour for the ANC presidential race?
If I could just endure her yelling, “Order! Order!” for what would feel like eternity, I’d consider giving my immortal soul to be the demon at her shoulder telling her to stick it back at Zuma. Hell hath no fury and all that.
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Siya Khumalo speaks and writes about religion, politics and sex. Next year April, he will release a book.