Seeing a nation united

OUTSIDE of major international sporting events like the 2010 Fifa World Cup, it is rare to see South Africans so united as they are in their opposition to President Jacob Zuma, following the firing of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Starting with the #ZumaMustFall protests to “shut down SA” last Friday, which saw ordinary residents take part in politically unaligned demonstrations and marches, to the rolling mass action yesterday by a broad spectrum of political parties, there hasn’t been such a spirit of “rainbow nation” solidarity since the days of Nelson Mandela’s presidency.

Twenty-three years ago, it was about coming together in hope for something positive, now it’s about standing together against a leader who has done great damage to the country through his self-enrichment – with Nkandla the premier example, resisting the findings of the public protector, protecting and reshuffling incompetent government ministers and in turn being protected by them, his allegiances to the “state-capturing” Gupta family and continually stoking the fires of racial hatred and division with his rhetoric.

Zuma already had a lot to answer for before he even became president – 783 corruption charges which the National Prosecuting Authority has shielded him from answering in court.

His refusal to take questions in parliament, particularly about “paying back the money” for Nkandla, steeled the resolve of the EFF to make a point of heckling and haranguing him and the speaker, which saw EFF MPs forcibly ejected a number of times. This spectacle was another blight on South African democracy.

Other opposition parties did not resort to the EFF’s tactics, but there have been several voluntary walkouts by the DA and other parties.

It seems Zuma had to resort to firing Gordhan because using the NPA to threaten and intimidate the resilient finance minister some months ago did not work out

The straw which broke the camel’s back for everyone, however, was Zuma’s decision to sack Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas in the latest cabinet reshuffle, a long-speculated move to remove the last obstacles to full-scale looting of the treasury. The Russian nuclear plant deal seems to have been one motivation, aside from ongoing ANC-speak about “radical economic transformation”.

It seems Zuma had to resort to firing Gordhan because using the NPA to threaten and intimidate the resilient finance minister some months ago did not work out.

Although there were initial murmurs of disapproval within the ruling party over Gordhan’s termination, it was hugely disappointing and hope-crushing to see how quickly the party closed ranks and top leaders back-pedaled and grovelled.

It will be up to the rest of South Africa, who are not utterly beholden to the ANC, to continue to make their voices heard in the national demonstrations of solidarity we have seen over the past week.

– Jon Houzet

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