With all of the fuss and bother over the resignation of Thabo Mbeki, I am starting to hear those conversations again. The ones that involve packing your bags, or procuring arms – depending on the militancy of your position and your access to overseas flight tickets. It is part of what makes a crisis so crisislike that people must panic in the face of deep and unanticipated change. Which is most certainly what we are dealing with here. That said, however, we would do well in keeping track of some important truths of the current situation before we leap into assuming that the riders of the apocalypse will shortly touch down in the Parliament buildings.
Jacob Zuma is not actually guilty of anything
If you claim to respect the constitution and the laws of the land, then you have to accept that Jacob Zuma is, insofar as the legal process has moved since the Schaik trial, an innocent man. He was not found guilty of rape, and the corruption allegations have yet to be resolved. The rule of law and right to be presumed innocent would therefore demand of you that you should at least accord the man some freedom from being called corrupt or criminal. That his comments during the rape trial were downright stupid is indeed disconcerting. But by that same logic, if his retrogressive views on HIV and women were to be a reason for not wanting him in the Union Buildings, then Mbeki really shouldn’t be there either – lest we forget his own remarks about women. Do I really need to link to bring back his HIV ghosts?
If anyone is guilty of anything, insofar as the legal process goes, it is Mbeki
In sharp contrast to Mr Zuma’s current legal innocence is Mbeki’s current status as being implicated in interfering with bringing the Jacob Zuma trial to the courts. So if anyone is guilty of anything, it is Mbeki. yes, this may change on appeal, and Mr Zuma’s own legal fate is far from resolved, but as far as I can see, the legal process does not appear to have been strongarmed to anyone’s particular preference thus far. If it hasn’t done what you think it should have with regards to blocking Jacob Zuma’s presidency, then sorry for you. It is not the court’s role to enact revenge for politically upset folk, you or the ANCYL alike.
It is not clear that Zuma will sound the death knell for South Africa
Yes Mr Zuma has some idiotic close supporters (take your pick from COSATU, ANCYL and SACP), but neither is Mr Mbeki free from radical or blundering idiocy (A health minister who promotes beetroot for HIV, a trade and industry minister who let the country descend into a power crisis over ten years on his watch and a vice president who uses the presidential jet for shopping in Dubai). I am not convinced that the pick of the clever part of Zuma’s circle (people like Julius Malema obviously excluded) would be much worse than those who work for Mbeki. So our country may quite possibly just move on socially and economically much as it did before – with the exception that far more citizens think the president is on their side than was before. Yes, there may be other outcomes, better or worse, but I can see no factual reason to swing hard into the tides of doom and gloom that might shape public opinion.
But you should still be upset
I am. And for a while, I have struggled to work out why. Discounting the reasons above, I was wondering why the prospect of Zuma yet becoming president still causes me some disquiet. As far as I can tell it is down to three major concerns.
Firstly – the whole process has just been so damnably infantile and personal. The continual mudslinging, then denying it, the fools from the Youth League prancing around and threatening to kill and now what appears to be a final nudge to kick the fallen lion into obscurity. I expect more from the leaders of this country, and have not gotten it.
Secondly, Zuma has not yet had his charges squashed. His trial is deferred, and may yet happen and return a guilty verdict, in which case all of the things that the people who presume him to be guilty of corruption harp on about would begin to apply. I also worry that if he were to become president, it would be too tempting to abuse that power to try and stop the trial proceeding or proceeding fairly. I want Jacob Zuma to see a fair trial and then (if the electorate so chooses) be president, not the other way around.
Finally, I mostly just feel angry that I am disenfranchised and powerless. The biggest political event since CODESA or the 1994 elections is taking place, and I have no vote, no say, no right to be formally involved at all. The entire country is sitting by in the sidelines while the National Executive Committee of the ANC is redrawing our government to their whims. I am deeply uncomfortable with the party being able to reach into the functioning of the nation and perform the political surgery that they are undertaking. Ifeel, on an emotional level, that a democratic country with democratic processes should involve me in something this large. And I have been left on the sidelines.