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South Africa: Is the Rainbow fading away?

12 Jul 2021 at 06:36hrs | Views
Geographically, South Africa is another country, apart and distinct from our Zimbabwe. Experientially, South Africa is all Southern African countries, Zimbabwe especially.

A whirlpool of events of the past few days involving South Africa's former President, Jacob Zuma, vis-a-vis that country's apex Constitutional Court, bear lessons for all of us, big or small, old or new, in respect of our days into Independence.

Superficially, this is a story of and for a country to the south of us. A story of and for an ex-President whose rule is past, and which, in any event had little or nothing to do with us. Therein lies the illusion we all must banish instantly.

Interestingly, even if we elect wilful denial, Zimbabweans across the political divide are already emotionally involved, invested. They have been sucked in; taken positions as if this is a conflict at home. If in doubt, check social media. In spite of ourselves, this has been our story from the beginning. As with geography, our experiences continue to twin us.

Some bit of rough background. A President in office faces a groundswell of allegations of capture by some wealthy Indian family the Guptas, with whom he and, ironically, his predecessors too have had close personal and party dealings. As with all things, many sin, but few get charged, with even fewer getting tried and convicted.

Convicted ahead of actual trial, as many in Southern Africa say in respect of Zuma, a struggle icon. At once it is a story of naturalised citizens who never get accepted by host society; it is also a story of corporatised politics in a polity riven by deep cleavages from a colonial history, as is the case with most of our societies in Southern Africa where white settlers had a strong foothold: Zimbabwe and Namibia especially. Therein begins lessons often missed.

By portfolio and assets, the Guptas' worth amount to small beer, vis-a-vis entrenched Afrikaner and global capital which bestride post-apartheid South Africa.

Give the Guptas a thousand more years to live under an equally ageless President Zuma in office, the Guptas will never accumulate enough to re-capture the South African State from Afrikaners, let alone to rival Afrikaner and Multinational worth in the country. Feigning them as pilfers of post-Apartheid South African State and South African national assets, is wilful ignorance or a sinister diversion.

Chomsky and Herman wrote a book they titled "Necessary Illusions". Its basic thesis is that the global rulers in their case Americans legitimise and disguise their iniquitous rule by manufacturing, cultivating and selling illusions that are necessary to the defence of their hegemony. So well wrought are these illusions that they are firmly settled in the everyday as an unchallenged explanatory to the way things are, run and evolve.

Scapegoats are invented and made deserving of all blame. Cutting through those carefully cultivated illusions requires huge intellect, political consciousness, both commodities sparse and scarce in most post-colonies. Scarcer in Africa, south of the Zambezi, it seems!

Seriously, how does a small Indian family which came after 1994 dislodge a Superstate constructed from 1652? Good illusions prey on real failings of the scapegoat.

As a leader and President, Zuma had weaknesses galore. Not that these mattered automatically. They only began to matter when he started espousing a radical agenda for South Africa, thus imperilling an entrenched white status quo. Tragically, South Africa was sold a tall tale of the Guptas, which she gulped greedily.

Zuma found himself in the dock dressed with a neat patina of legalism. It's name was the Zondo Commission. From start, this Commission was riddled with many chinks which should have been apparent to conscious South Africans, if only they would see. They would not see. Zuma's own foibles aggravated this wilful blindness. He defied summons from the Commission, thus walking into a trap wrapped in false legalism. Expectedly, he was found in contempt of a Commission which sat as a court.

The result was a 15-months custodial sentence which he sought another foible to defy using structures of struggle and an anachronistic monarchy. That was fatal. In the end, he submitted, getting speedily committed to prison.

Voices of anxious white capital went into celebratory overdrive, hailing the Ramaphosa dispensation as an era of rule of law. An era where impunity lay prostrated, dying!! Barely a day later, KwaZulu-Natal exploded, its leaping flames threatening an already incendiary Johannesburg and, with it, a combustible country.

Jacob Zuma's supporters block roads in Durban in protest against the former president's jail sentence South Africa reels from the Covid-19 pandemic whose fault line is deep-rooted poverty created by apartheid, not the Guptas or Zuma who fought against it for the greater part of his life. But Zuma played detonator to pent-up, combustible anger that needed a focal point, and a hero. Zuma provided both. That's a story for another day, in case highly localised. What crosses borders and rivers is the role of the Bench-cum-Commission in burning a society already dying.

The judges who decided the Zuma case of contempt quintessentially behaved like legal technicians. They followed the law like its helpless slaves. Law shorn of all values, any socio-political context. The result was a perfect judgment fit for an excellent book, but tragically unfit for a South Africa nursing a baneful apartheid legacy.

The judgment was a sonorous suicide note for all-South Africa. The yell of a society flinging itself into raging flames. Why did South Africa choose to self-immolate? Simply because the Bench forgot it existed and functioned within a specific milieu post-apartheid era where a little less than cosmetic had changed since 1994. Much worse, the Bench forgot it is part of the State, and thus burdened with the State's preservation.

Framers of political set-ups were not foolish to make States a sum of three pillars: the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary, all working in harmony and to mutually reinforce for the stability of the State. Whether out of innocence or out of evil intentions, the Judiciary, itself a third arm of the State, brought danger to the Republic of South Africa.

This is one big lesson for us all, our Benches especially. As post-apartheid South Africa's short history, a precedence once set, has this uncanny tendency to self-oil, self-reproduce at the formulae of an amoeba. As any contentious citizen is ought to know, arms of governance derive their power from the people.

The judiciary is an arm of the State whose existence is steeped and connected with the people it serves, just like the legislator and the executive. All must never be disconnected from the people as if they are incendiary institutions. Broadly speaking and for posterity, institutions of governance must be able to serve and appeal to the majority to prevent them from being potential destabilisers of the State

Source - the herald
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