One day and twenty-five years ago Nelson Mandela walked out of prison a free man to lead South Africa to freedom and democracy. He became the country’s first democratically elected president a few years later. One day and twenty-five years after Madiba was freed, freedom and democracy and all the privileges and rights that come with it, formally began to die a slow death. After the 2015 South African Parliament was declared open, the House’s official opposition, the DA (Democratic Alliance) raised a point of order. Cellphones, media networks and other reporting tools were blocked. Mmusi Maimane reminded the House that this was a vital ingredient of providing feeds of information to the rest of the nation.
What Maimane could have said, but was not obliged to say, was that the country’s national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is controlled by one man.
The speaker of the house, Baleka Mbete, was obliged to “look into the matter.”
The SABC did not show the country’s people what happened in Parliament later. But, no matter, those who could, saw what happened.
The leader of the South African revolution to rid the country of kleptocracy, corruption, abuse of power and incompetence under Jacob Zuma and his, not the country’s African National Congress, is ironically, the Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) commander in chief, Julius Sello Malema. One of the country’s independent op-ed sites, Daily Maverick, named Malema as South Africa’s person of the year in 2014. I disagree. I mentioned this before, standing head and shoulders above many other civic-minded South Africans are the nation’s Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela and Imtiaz Sooliman, the founding leader of one of the world’s most proactive charity organisations, The Gift of the Givers.
It was indeed the current president who prophesied that Malema will be the country’s future leader. Unless Zuma resigns soon, this becomes a possibility. True to his promise to the country, Malema and EFF party members raised various points to address the outstanding business of Jacob Zuma’s misappropriation of the country’s resources and gross manipulation of its fiscus. The leader of the DA (Democratic Alliance & official opposition), Helen Zille remains adamant that over 700 charges of corruption and theft be reinstated against Jacob Zuma.
The ANC’s speaker, Baleka Mbete, ordered Malema and his right hand man, Floyd Shivambu, to “leave the house.” They refused to leave parliament, and at that stage they had not broken any rules. They were swiftly escorted out of the house by “security operatives.” The DA’s parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane, raised this matter with the speaker and was shown the middle finger. He promptly led his party out of the house. Helen Zille followed. It was Nelson Mandela who once told the nation’s people that if they felt the incumbent government was not doing the job that they were elected to do then the people must use their vote to remove the ANC from power. Sadly, this did not happen in 2014, but violent service delivery protests by dissatisfied citizens (or not) continue daily.
This is because the ANC under Jacob Zuma has failed to deliver adequate services and endangered the rights to freedom and dignity of most South Africans who chose to put their faith in the ANC and the legacy left by Madiba. Zuma has stubbornly refused to account to the people that elected him. Those that continue to support him are now on the cliff of the abyss because it is quite clear that he will not aid them, or serve them. He answers only to himself. and BBBEE (Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment, a devious acronym for the successful implementation of the communist Joe Slovo’s Sunset Clause which was implemented before Nelson Mandela took office.
Just before the Democratic Alliance staged their walk out, the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi rose to speak. The House’s elder statesman voiced his disgust at how this once dignified and austere place of political business on behalf of the people of South Africa had degenerated to what it has become today. This old man rarely speaks these days, but when he does, he still offers words of wisdom. And when he rose, out of order, to speak, I believed that the writing was on the wall.
Parliament in South Africa is today nothing more than a house of Lords and Dames who answer to one man only.
It was Buthelezi and his IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party) who objected to the implementation of the Sunset Clause and proposed a fairer, sensible, equitable and democratic federal option similar to those that exist in Germany, Australia and the United States of America today. I was part of that movement then, but left shortly after the country’s historic elections were concluded mainly because I began to sense that nationalism, in this case Zulu nationalism, was beginning to take hold within the IFP. By dint of its very name, nationalism, on an unexpected scale, has planted its roots within the ANC. It is a danger to democracy.
Disgusted, the United Democratic Movement’s Bantu Holomisa also left the house. Chief Gatsha Buthelezi is Prime Minister to the King of the Zulu Nation. He no longer has power over the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelethini who has thrown his lot in with Jacob Zuma who resides not far from the King at Nkandla.Zuma has promised this king riches beyond his wildest regal dreams. Bantu Holomisa was once ousted from the ANC for showing dissent against corrupt practices which started under former president Thabo Mbeki. Holomisa remains a close confidant and friend to the Mandela family.
He, too, was thrown out of the ANC by the country’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa who, thanks to BBBEE, is now one of the country’s wealthiest men. While Malema was disruptive within his own party as leader of the ANC Youth League, the official line is that he was banished for threatening to overthrow the Botswana government. South Africa’s neighbour is one of the most stable nations in the world. While it has its faults, it is a far cry from Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. South Africa is on that path that Mugabe dictated. For as long as Zuma stays in power, and his State of the Nation Speech has given such clues, South Africa has reached that fork in the road. Veteran political journalist, Max du Preez, recently made a big push for Cyril Ramaphosa to become the country’s next president. Given his legendary history with BBBEE and his present reticence towards Jacob Zuma, I no longer believe this is a wise choice
If there are members within the ANC in the half-empty house who would much rather see freedom and democracy, equality and economic opportunities for all South Africans flourish, then this is the time they need to act. They need to recall Zuma tonight. But this will not happen. If Zuma remains in power, the DA will, I repeat, will win at least three of the country’s main metropolitan regions; the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolis (Port Elizabeth), Johannesburg, and the country’s legislative capital, Pretoria, in next year’s municipal elections. The DA already controls Cape Town and is not likely to lose it. Yet.
Elsewhere, because it remains strongholds for the ANC, Bloemfontein and Ethekweni (Durban) will remain in Zuma’s hands. But it is in the rural areas where the revolution will ignite. Julius Malema’s EFF, without doing too much, are likely to win several towns, because as we say in Cape Town, the people are gatvol – they have nothing and they have had enough and have lost patience with Zuma’s regime. His predictably short speech was a vacuous and disrespectful litany of empty promises and lies. This president dared to laugh. Several times. He even excused failure to deliver and used the country’s treasured national soccer team, Bafana Bafana shamelessly to make his point. He has that much power. Or has he?
The country’s state-owned energy network, Eskom, is on the brink of collapse. South Africa is now importing power from its smaller neighbour, Namibia. The country’s electricity grid is hovering dangerously close to Level 3, and closer to a complete Black Out. While Zuma continues to lie to the country, the DA is forced to regroup. They want charges of corruption and theft against Zuma to be reinstated. They will continue to work towards this on behalf of their constituents. What is Malema and the EFF doing? And what will they do next? They have so far met the promises they made to their constituents. Their plan is to usurp all organs of state and nationalise all forms of private enterprise, including banks and mines. They plan to forcibly take over farms and other entrepreneurial and vital businesses currently owned by “white” South Africans. The recent Soweto riots in which Sowetans and policemen looted foreign owned dry goods stores. is but a curtain raiser.
Wise questions have been asked. The EFF are not likely to succeed in delivering their threats, not promises, because, after all, they do not have the power to do this. But how have all revolutions of the past begun? How did Lenin succeed in overthrowing the mighty Tzar? How did Hitler rise to power? How did the American revolution and many other African revolutions begin and end? It started with a rumour and a whisper, then it became a murmur. It erupted into a mass revolt of the people. It did not always begin in Parliament. Here, in South Africa, it has. Jacob Zuma is addressing a house which does not represent the people of South Africa. I firmly believe he has addressed Parliament for the last time. It lost all legitimacy tonight.
I am wondering tonight what the rest of the world makes of the chaos in South Africa’s parliament tonight.
The Wall Street Journal wasted no time in reporting to their readers. Correctly, they reported that South Africa’s Parliament disrupted into chaos, but didn’t link the security forces’ actions to any particular opposition party. They did, however, refer to “Mr Malema’s” polite question to Jacob Zuma;
“We want the president to answer a simple question: when is he paying back the money?”
It was a legitimate question and well within Malema’s right as a Member of Parliament to ask. The matter of Jacob Zuma’s extravagance in regard to his sprawling, but crumbling Nkandla homestead remains outstanding since last August as the ANC proceeded to dither from one session to the next. Millions of South Africans are without adequate housing or shelter. And those who have that luxury pay a hard and high price while Zuma and his cronies allow themselves a long list of unearned and undeserved privileges. In view of former American President Richard Nixon’s paranoia which cost him his job and Bill Clinton’s indiscretions in the Oval Office and elsewhere, Zuma’s crimes against the people of South Africa are heinous by comparison. The Democratic Alliance wants Zuma to be tried in a court of law, never mind merely paying back money. I want this man imprisoned for a lot longer than the minimum sentence for corruption of fifteen years. Simply put, he disgusts me.
But, I ask myself what would the great Nelson Mandela, have done.
While in other functioning democracies, or dictatorships, the state maintains its power over their people through a strong contingent of security networks, police services and armed forces, South Africa does not have this. Twelve year old guerilla soldiers elsewhere in Africa are able to kill South African soldiers without much effort. The South African Police Forces (SAPS) is in disarray. Such insecurity plants the seeds of a revolution. It was in Russia and Germany that the armed forces jumped ship and joined their revolutions. George Washington and his legions defeated the mighty British Empire. When the lessons of history are not learned and observed, it has a nasty habit of repeating itself, it matters not where in the world it happens. And it matters not why.
The South African Revolution has begun.