They are cynically exploiting real injustices to present themselves as radical actors, when, in fact, they are engaged in looting and the destruction of our key institutions.
We face the sternest test of our moral fibre since the days of apartheid. This is not just a matter of wholesale looting. As in Trump’s America and Modi’s India, we are also dealing with the development of a dangerous set of ideologies that are being developed to legitimate the destruction of our institutions and the massive looting.
Trump and Modi have developed deeply reactionary ideologies, often termed neo-fascist or fascist, to mask their support for predatory forms of economic exploitation and accumulation.Trump offers the poor whites nationalism. Modi offers Hindu nationalism.
Here in South Africa we see a similar turn to far-right wing ideas. There are regular public attacks on migrants carried out with implicit state support. Zuma himself presents a hyper patriarchal image in which politics is often performed in militaristic terms with critics labelled as "the enemy".
Just as in Modi’s India, there is a growing attraction to some of the most poisonous ideas from European fascism. The difference between Zuma and right wing authoritarians like Modi and Trump is that, as the result of our history, Zuma presents his reactionary politics as left wing while Modi and Trump openly embrace the far right. But this is just at the level of rhetoric. The substantive content of Zuma’s politics is deeply reactionary.
If Zuma, the Guptas and their lackeys get their way, our economy will go over the cliff.
We’ll be in the same mess as Zimbabwe and Venezuela. A tiny elite will become billionaires in the chaos - billionaires with homes and residence permits in Dubai, but the majority of the middle and working class will face ruin.
At the same time the language of friend and enemy will put an end to democracy. We will be in a situation in which you are seen as either being with the Zuma project or opposed to it, and those who are opposed to it will find that while they are citizens on paper, they will not be treated as citizens in practice.
Already political assassinations are routine in poor communities, and rich and poor alike are subject to scurrilous defamation and slander when they are critical of the Zuma project. This defamation either comes from Zuma puppets or, as the Daily Maverick has shown, directly from the Gupta operation itself. The Zuma project is therefore not just about corruption. It is also fundamentally anti-democratic.
It is of the utmost urgency that we must all face up to this crisis and act to stop the anti-democratic project. There are two serious dangers that we face. The first is that between now and the 2019 election, the Zuma project will do irreversible damage to our economy and society. To oppose this we need to do all that we can to support democratic institutions like a free media and an independent judiciary.
The other serious danger is if the predatory forces in the ANC prevail, we have to ensure that they do not, like Mugabe, turn away from democracy - especially if there are fears of losing in 2019.
It is not beyond the realm of possibility that some pretext could be misused to declare a state of emergency and suspend democratic processes. Our greatest protection against this is to make it clear that we, as a society, will not accept any attack on our democratic freedoms. And forces of reason and sound vision in the ANC need to prevail.
If we are to hold the democratic space that was won in the anti-apartheid Struggle, we need to make it absolutely clear to Zuma, the Guptas and their allies that we simply will not accept an attack on our democracy.
History is not always on the side of justice.
One only has to look at India and the US to see just how wrong things can go.
Fortune, as they say, favours the brave. It is time for all of us who love this country, who wish to grow old here and raise our children here, to take up the responsibility for ensuring that our democracy is protected, that the looters are expelled and serious work is done to attain social justice.
The generations before us took up their challenges, and in the end they won. Now the wheel of history has turned and it is our turn to stand up. We must confront a rapacious political class that are willing to ruin our country to make themselves very, very wealthy.
We have reached the point at which silence is complicity.
* Buccus is senior research associate at ASRI, a Research Fellow in the School of Sciences at UKZN and the academic director of a university study abroad programme.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
The Sunday Independent