The past few weeks have been among the toughest for President Jacob Zuma (pictured). From the allegations of state capture by the Gupta family to the Constitutional Court ruling and the failed attempt to impeach him. For now, one thing is true; Zuma remains the President of South Africa and if he survives the current battles, he is certainly going to break the record of being the longest-serving post-independence President of that country.
Most of the cases that have been thrown at Zuma seem like genuine cases, but when one links them to the seemingly growing calls and callers for him to step down, it cannot be denied that these cases are politically motivated. This is a narrative, which South Africa has resisted and deliberately shied away from, as if these cases are happening organically, even when it is clear that the timing is suspect and has intended objectives. What options South Africans have when integrity is the key word to protect the purported independence of the courts?
The courts in South Africa have a record of feeding into and giving legitimacy to political narratives on leadership choices. Just like the media, the courts in South Africa have made and/or broken potential leaders before. They have been willing parties to political dynamics in the country. There are so many examples, but some of the key highlights include: The rape and corruption charges against Zuma before his campaign for African National Congress (ANC) leadership, the fall of Zuma’s corruption charges, which led to the downfall of Thabo Mbeki and now the Nkandla homestead and the Public Protector’s report, which has led to recent political drama. Julius Malema, the ring leader in the Zuma-must-fall campaign faced charges of tax evasion in the amount of R16-million related to companies that obtained other lucrative contracts from the Limpopo government.
When these and others are put together, certainly there is justifiable reason to think that the courts in South Africa are part of the political machinery, which then questions their purported integrity and independence from political influence. While their rulings have echoed the sound of a thriving democracy, but these decisions raise a lot of stink, further raising the question whose interests are they serving. It is certainly not for leadership change in ANC alone. There could be a bigger scheme considering where the country came from and whose hands control the economy. For example, when Nhlanhla Nene was relieved of his ministerial duties, the rand fell significantly and when Zuma was facing impeachment, the rand gained. Does that mean the economy dislikes Zuma’s decisions to the extent that it celebrates his potential downfall? Whose face is behind these faceless markets?
The Gupta family is another scapegoat used to justify calls for Zuma to step down. It is alleged that Zuma’s close links and allegedly corrupt relationship with the Gupta family has created tensions in the ANC. The opposition has wasted no time on riding on this horse by claiming “State capture” following revelations that it was the Gupta, who influenced State’s decisions such as ministerial appointments. Again, it raises the question on the timing of the revelations and the relevance of the case. A letter purportedly written by the Democratic Alliance thanking the same Gupta family for financially supporting the opposition in the last elections has gone unnoticed because it is not an issue of relevance to leadership change.
Ultimately, it is okay to have the Guptas support any other political party or politician as long as it is not Zuma. Curiously, whoever is financing the Zuma-must-fall campaign must have failed to penetrate the ANC this time, as they did with Mbeki, which explains why those calls are louder outside the ANC, mainly coming from the opposition parties.
A close analysis of the concept of state capture in South Africa may reveal that the state was captured at birth by the economic interests of those who control the economy since the apartheid era. State capture is a form of political corruption where private interests, influences State decisions to their advantage. It is a known fact that the South African constitution divides between the “haves” and the “have nots” and allocates them different forms of guarantees and protection rights. It protects property rights for the “haves” from the “have nots” and gives the “have nots” the freedom of expression without interfering with the property of the “haves”. The State has a stronger responsibility to protect the “haves” from the “have nots” than it should to the “have nots”. Resultantly, it is the “haves” who control and influence State’s decisions to their advantage. The negativity we read about the Guptas is nothing but a polygamous relationship, where the senior spouse feels the heat from the new spouse. There is nothing new that Guptas have done, which has not been done by resident oligarch, in South Africa. This is why some banks, which are controlled by the same oligarchs are in complicit cutting ties with the Guptas, an act which should be seen as racial discrimination.