Don’t blame Jacob Zuma

With the heat and noise of the August 3 election behind us, we need to face a couple of hard truths.

The ANC’s appalling election performance will not result in Jacob Zuma falling, or being pushed onto his sword.

Instead, the craven, lily-livered ANC leadership has opted to accept “collective responsibility” for the ANC’s dismal electoral performance.

While the DA-led opposition has made substantial inroads in the major metros, its penetration of the ANC’s rural support base is disappointingly small by comparison.

Contrary to the many optimistic predictions, the ANC will not poll below 50% in the 2019 national and provincial elections.

It is worth noting that the ANC’s dismal performance was more the result of a determined stay-away by traditional ANC supporters (some estimates put the number at three million), and gains by the EFF, rather than a significant increase in support for the DA from the ANC’s traditional support base.

This does not bode well for the overoptimistic among us, who predict that Mmusi Maimane will be president of South Africa come 2019.

This in no way ought to belittle the performance of the DA.

On the contrary, the DA has most certainly made inroads into the ANC’s traditional support base in the metros, but the numbers are still disappointingly small in percentage terms.

It is inconceivable, that in the ensuing two-and-some-change years before the national and provincial election in 2019, that the DA will be able to winnow its way sufficiently into the ANC’s traditional rural support base, to topple it at the polls.

While our current proportional representation system (argued for so vociferously by the apartheid government and its acolytes during our constitutional negotiations), the electoral system that guaranteed minorities a place in our various legislatures, is now the Achilles’ heel of the opposition in defeating the ANC at national level.

Although the ANC suffered an embarrassing decline in support, it still managed to poll over 54% of the vote nationally, which, although it would not permit the ANC to make changes to our constitution, nevertheless gives it majority control of the National Assembly.

The blatant pillaging of our institutions of state therefore, continues unabated, as we reel like a punchdrunk boxer to the body blows of the Hawks’ pursuit of Pravin Gordhan; the SABC board’s flagrant disregard of court orders pertaining to the Public Protector’s report into the appointment and tenure of chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng; transport minister Dipuo Peters’ flagrant disregard for due process as she derails the forensic probe into the affairs of PRASA; the disgraceful selling off of our strategic oil reserves at well below market rates to allegedly raise money to fund the ANC’s R1 billion election bill; and best of all, Jacob Zuma taking personal control of all state-owned enterprises.

It is easy to want to blame Jacob Zuma for all of the ills that beset our country, because he is the face of the cancer, the disease which afflicts our body politic – but if he were to suddenly no longer be there, what difference would it make?

Who do we blame for the current state of affairs? (Hint: it isn’t Jacob Zuma.)

Although the rot started immediately after Jacob Zuma’s election as ANC president at Polokwane in 2007 – the disbanding of the Scorpions, the bloodless assassination of Thabo Mbeki, and the relentless suborning of state institutions – the watershed in Jacob Zuma’s capturing of the state came when the entire ANC caucus, all 264 of them, voted in favour of the farcical report prepared by police minister Nkosinathi Nhleko which exonerated Jacob Zuma of any wrongdoing in the disgrace that is Nkandla.

The people who we elected to be our lawmakers, took the entire country and threw it under a bus.

Every one of them had the opportunity to vote their conscience, but chose rather to bow to the will of party bosses, either because they feared for their jobs (and for this we must curse the proportional representation system) or because they felt that it was in the interests of the party.

Either way, every one of them betrayed the sacred trust we bestowed upon them, when we elected them to power in 2009. And it’s not as if they didn’t have a second stab at making good.

When the Constitutional Court ruled the Public Protector’s findings and recommendations were binding, and that Jacob Zuma had betrayed his oath of office, the ANC caucus in the National Assembly had the opportunity to vote its conscience.

Once more, it took the entire country and threw it under a bus, by voting in lockstep to accept Jacob Zuma’s mealy-mouthed “apology” – rather than holding him to account and voting for his impeachment.

If, in either of those two instances, there had been a split in the ANC caucus vote, it would have indicated that there exist people of principle in that body, who are prepared to do the right thing.

It would have given us hope that perhaps the country can be pulled back from the brink of the abyss upon which it teeters.

That there are undoubtedly members of the ANC caucus who do not support what has happened since 2007 is axiomatic, but that not one of them has chosen to speak out in nine years while Jacob Zuma progressed his insidious agenda, means they are no better than he, and are therefore complicit in our decline.

Never again, can anything which the ANC caucus says or does be trusted. Never again can it be assumed that what that body proposes, supports, or legislates is in the interests of the country. Rather, there will always be the question: who stands to benefit?

Sadly, there is no magic wand in politics, and although Jacob Zuma will eventually go, the chances are that the majority of what now constitutes the ANC caucus will remain in place after 2019, and even with a new president (and considering what we have on offer, that person is unlikely to be much better than Jacob Zuma), how can we ever trust them again?