It’s the 31st of October. Each day brings with it news that brings into question, more and more, the integrity of South African President Jacob Zuma. Before the end of this, the 100th year of its existence, the African National Congress (ANC) will hold a conference in Mangaung at which the party president will be elected, who will almost certainly be voted in as President of the Republic in the 2014 national elections. The notion that this is something that happens by default has to do, in my opinion, with the structure of the South African political establishment, which is a discussion I will leave for another day.
Now, I am one of a number of South Africans who are unhappy with the thought of another 5 years with President Zuma at our country’s helm. There are now far too many unanswered questions about him: How can the state justify a R200m refurbishment of his personal (not official) residence while poverty and inequality still cripples our nation? Is he undermining the law by ignoring a court order to submit tapes about him? Is he guilty of the hundreds of dropped corruption charges to which these tapes relate?
Over and above these questions – even giving the benefit of the doubt, my greatest issue is a simple one: I have lost confidence in our President as well as the ruling party.
Deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe is – I beleive – the only other person who could potentially become head of the ANC and/or Head of State. But in saying very little, he may be saying too much. His silence could be a sign of very tactful and strategic political manoeuvering, or of loyal obedience to the ruling party. To be honest, we cannot be sure. Not right now. Nor can we be truly sure that Motlanthe is the kind of President we want. I refrain from drawing similarities to the ANC’s Polokwane Conference of 2007.
The South African political establishment is not necessarily dysfunctional. It functions, but all too often to the benefit of the people who need it least and the detriment of the people who depend on it most. However, the criteria for democracy are not the execution of the will of the politically opinionated, but government according to the will of the majority of citizens (simply put). And if the majority of citizens votes for the ruling party to stay where it is, so be it.
Our democracy is a liberal one that affords you and me – among many other great things – the opportunity to pursue whatever good vision we have for our country. But democracy is no magic carpet ride. If you want to see Mzansi become a better place, best you get started now. Engage with other citizens – from the community you call home, to the communities you usually wouldn’t set foot in. South Africa has an unthinkable amount of potential to grow, but (like any good thing) it will take a lot of hard work to make it happen.