By Imraan Buccus
The Ramaphosa Spring is in glorious bloom. There is, finally, the beginnings of a real reckoning with the vile corruption of the Guptas and the massive looting at Eskom. For the first time in years South Africans have a sense of hope and possibility.
Zuma and his cronies – people like Lynne Brown, Anoj Singh, Mosebenzi Zwane, Roy Moodley and all the rest – did massive damage to our country. If Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had won the Presidency of the ANC we would have rushed right over the precipice and into catastrophe. But on the brink of disaster the decent people in the ANC held the line and offered us another chance at a decent future.
Of course we are not entirely out of the woods yet. Zuma has to go, and as soon as is possible. It is also not viable to have people like David Mabuza and Ace Magashula, both of whom are deeply implicated in the rot, in such senior positions in the ruling party. But if the integrity of the prosecuting authorities is fully restored it is inevitably that their days will be numbered. The same is true of a host of local players like the Mpisane family here in Durban.
There are credible rumours of massive panic in the ranks of the looters. It has been suggested that Duduzane Zuma has lawyered up and is offering himself as state witness in order to avoid the prospect of prison. If this is true, and the looters beging to turn on each other, all kinds of new details about their depravity will emerge into the public domain. This will, of course, be a very good thing. As new information comes to light the role of the media will be vital.
But ideally there should be some sort of formal public reckoning with the massive looting and descent into a paranoid and authoritarian style of politics, something like a truth commission. Its remit should cover the full extent of the looting but should also extend beyond it to include a full account of the political assassinations and dirty tricks that have marked the Zuma years.
Of course there will be resistance. State capture did not only enrich the Zuma and Gupta families. There are many powerful people who have a lot to lose in terms of money and reputation should there be a full and open reckoning with the catastrophe of the Zuma years. These people will do all they can to protect themselves. The likes of Carl Niehaus, Andile Mngxitama and Kenny Kunene will be wheeled out to give left cover to a brutal kleptocracy. People who have spoken truth to power will continue to be subject to campaigns of wild slander
This is the time for society as a whole to rally behind this new spring and to defend it. If this moment is not seized it may be lost. The critical imperative is to generate as much momentum as is possible to ensure that as much of the muck as is humanely possible is washed out of Zuma’s Augean Stables. Religious organisations, trade unions, social movements, the media and other potentially progressive actors need to move quickly and decisively to thrown their full weight behind this clean up, and to oppose the scurrilous individuals who misrepresent mass theft from the public purse as ‘radical economic transformation’
Of course this moment poses a real challenge to both the DA and the EFF. Both parties saw their fortunes rise along with the massive public contempt for Zuma and his cronies. If Ramaphosa can sustain his momentum and take real action against the rot the opposition parties will loose significant support in the next general election. Many voters who had abandoned the ANC in disgust will return to the party.
If the ANC has entered the next election with the Zuma project in the driving seat they would almost certainly have lost Gauteng, and, if the DA and EFF could have held a coalition, quite possibly the country as a whole
But this is no time for petty politics. This is the time to seize the sort of moment that history seldom offers a society to achieve a genuine renewal.
Of course Ramaphosa offers clean government, not a new social vision, and certainly not a social democratic or socialist vision. But socialism is impossible without a viable and functioning state and his commitment to fix the rot in the state is, therefore, progressive. But if the Ramaphosa spring, wonderful as its heady scent are, is to develop into a long summer we will have to build a left project cam that move beyond clean governance and into governance centered on a real commitment to social justice.
In other words our solidarity with the Ramaphosa spring must be real but critical and the space for progressive ideas and practices to the left of Ramaphosa must be kept open. But, despite these caveats, these remain the most exciting and hopeful days we’ve had in years. These are days to be savoured. And as we savour these days tribute must be paid to the incorruptible and the brave, to people like Nhlanhla Nene, Derek Hanekom and Pravin Gordhan. We are all in their debt.
Imraan Buccus is Al Qalam editor, Research Fellow in the School of Sciences at UKZN and the academic director of a university study abroad program on political transformation.