Justice Malala: Civil society can rescue us

Justice Malala File picture: Russell Roberts

South Africa is entering a long period of political darkness with, perhaps, a glimmer of sunshine and hope at the end.

What we do next, as citizens and leaders of society, will determine whether we crash into a basket case of the order of Zimbabwe or we begin a new ascent into a great country.

It is not easy to speak of these things. Speak up and be called an agent of the West, as heroines like Thuli Madonsela have been called.

Speak up and get fired, as Mcebisi Jonas has been. Speak up and have your life threatened, as some ANC leaders now fear.

It is not easy to speak of the rot that eats away at our society. However, many great South Africans have done so despite the risks they face. They are our hope.

The truth of their words is evidenced by where we are now – downgraded to junk status by two ratings agencies while the likes of Brian Molefe of Eskom fame are elevated to be representatives of the people.

The truth of those who speak truth to power is evidenced by the fact that an expensive, illogical nuclear deal process is under way with friends and family of the president likely to be the main beneficiaries.

The darkness we have entered now emanates from the fact that, as some have predicted for more than 10 years, everything that Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma touches turns to junk.

The economy is in the doldrums. Joblessness is at record levels. Race relations are at an all-time low. Higher education is on fire. Rampant crime has become so commonplace we don’t even talk about it. Inequality widens.

The darkness we enter is because an elephant is dying before us. The ANC, long an institution of our lives, is going through its death throes.

Forget the ANC of Mandela and of Luthuli. That noble animal is now being swallowed by the python that is the ANC of Zuma, Nomvula Mokonyane, Jessie Duarte, Kebby Maphatsoe and Bathabile Dlamini.

This new ANC cares nothing for the people of South Africa. It cares nothing for their suffering or their progress.

This new ANC is all about the lining of the pockets, big cars for ministers and the tenders for their wives and cronies. This new ANC is about bribery and corruption.

Over the next few years – and it will not end in December when the ANC chooses a new leader – this titanic battle will unfold right before our eyes. The old is dying or dead, and the new is struggling to emerge.

There are a few good men and women in the ANC finding their voices. They should be bold enough to walk away from their home. But it is not easy to walk away from home.

If they stay they will be disappointed and hurt because Zuma is winning and will continue to win. He will win because he has hijacked the ANC and abuses its processes to entrench himself and his cronies.

Last week’s ANC national working committee meeting was an example of his cunning – he packed the body with his yes-men and cronies and easily outplayed and outwitted the Gwede Mantashe, Cyril Ramaphosa and Zweli Mkhize triumvirate.

So it is clear that these ANC “good men and women” won’t go. They won’t join the opposition in a motion of no confidence in Zuma on April 18. They still believe the ANC can be saved from within.

They don’t realise that the ANC is dead and has now become a criminal enterprise led by Zuma, who is controlled by the Gupta family.

But I have always believed that the future is in our hands. Our hope now lies in the institutions that Zuma has tried repeatedly to quash and has failed. Opposition parties are growing and are becoming more confident.

I cannot underline enough what a great thing it is that our opposition parties are in motion, peacefully and democratically, and are taking Zuma to task. If you see Julius Malema or Mmusi Maimane or Mosiuoa Lekota or any of the others give them a hug. They stand between us and a dictatorship. The Constitutional Court and the judiciary have been stunning in their fidelity to the constitution. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has been stellar.

Our NGOs have been fantastic in holding Zuma and his cronies to account.

From Section 27 to the Black Sash to the Treatment Action Campaign, our NGOs have showed us that ours is still a living, pro-poor constitution. Long may they thrive.

But as we saw last Friday and as we will see on Wednesday, it is you, dear reader, who will save this country from the thieves trying to loot it.

The thousands of people who took on the streets on Friday and the hundreds of thousands who will do it on Wednesday remind all of us that we are not apathetic, that we have not given up, that we will continue to demand accountability and truth from our leaders.

That is why I, even as I wail with despair at our current crisis, I still believe that we will come through all this because our civil society is awake.

Justice Malala.