President Jacob Zuma  File picture: Masi Losi
President Jacob Zuma File picture: Masi Losi

Zuma and co treading on the dreams of the poor

By OPINION Time of article published Nov 6, 2016

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The State Capture report is not just another public protector report. Rather, it is the beating drum that beckons, writes Tinyiko Maluleke.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, the short poem by celebrated Irish poet WB Yeats, was published a century and two decades ago.

It is a beguilingly heart-rending prayer directed at the powerful in society and at those in whom the poor have invested their hopes and dreams.

Such is the situation in which the poor find themselves that, other than the hearts pumping in their battered bodies, their dreams constitute their only bargaining chip in life - the thin line between living and dying.

In similar ways, the poor of South Africa have invested their hopes and dreams heavily in the ANC.

Such has been the faith of ordinary South Africans in the ANC that they have donated several of their choicest tools of survival, including their own lives, in order to galvanise and fortify their glorious movement and make liberation a lived reality.

In deference to the ANC, African Christians have auctioned their sacred beliefs and proceeded to substitute the ANC for God and heroic ANC leaders for Jesus, in several songs of freedom, stolen from the churches.

At the break of dawn they gather atop the holy local mountain singing “there is no one like Jesus”, in the afternoon at the political rally of uKhongolese, to the same tune and rhythm, they croon, “Nelson Mandela ga o yo a tswhanang le yena”, meaning there is no one like Nelson Mandela.

Resplendent in their flowing white, purple and green church uniforms, they sing “ha Modimo a le teng ha ayo mathata” (as long as God is here there will be no problems) by day, while by night they chant “ha ANC e le teng ha ayo mathata” (as long as the ANC is here there will be no problems).

In their effort to eulogise their beloved ANC and its leaders, ordinary South Africans have dug deep into the great rhetorical traditions of iimbongi and izithakazelo. For the ANC, South Africans have invoked their most revered warrior traditions and roused their most sluggish ancestors. For their leaders in the ANC, ordinary South Africans have heaped the most colourful praises and performed the most dazzling dances of deference, reverence and loyalty.

Remember how the supporters of then ANC Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who was at the time facing rape charges, summoned the ancestors to bring blessings on their leader through the burning of impepho outside the Johannesburg High Court in 2006? Which is why it is remarkable that in the last chapter of her book The kanga and the kangaroo court: Reflections on the rape trial of Jacob Zuma, Mmatshilo Motsei dared to swim against the tide of blind praise when she wrote in 2007: “I’m interested in knowing that when Zuma is not in the company of his legal team and his loyal supporters, when he is alone in his spirit, what does his inner voice say to him? Can he hold my hand, look me in the eye as my leader and elder, and tell me the truth?”

In contrast to Motsei’s questioning, loyal supporters of Zuma and those who continue to refuse to distinguish between him and the ANC have been singing “inhliziyo ka Zuma imnene se ngi zo casha ku yona” (the heart of Zuma is pure, I will now take refuge in it).

Until recently, that is. If the massive and hugely successful protest marches of this past Wednesday are anything to go by, few will continue to sing about the purity of Zuma’s heart with the zest and gusto of yesteryear. Fewer still will rush towards the heart of Zuma for solace and refuge.

In light of the damning observat-ions in the State of Capture report, deeply implicating President Zuma and some of his closest allies, his heart should be deeply troubled.

Jolted by the haughtiness with which National Director for Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams went about announcing his decision to press and subsequently drop charges and the shamelessness with which three members of cabinet, the president included, approached the courts in a bid to block the publication of the State of Capture report, South Africans - across several divides - joined forces.

The gangster-like assault on the Treasury, and frequent raids on the coffers of state-owned enterprises, drawing the SA Revenue Service into state capture politics, the possible manipulation of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Hawks, and the apparent domestication of the ANC have finally shocked us into action.

At a time when the economy has slowed to a near halt in one of the most unequal countries in the world, if the observations contained in the State of Capture report are anything to go by, it would seem the president and his friends have been mainly preoccupied with how to capture more of the state and its resources for themselves.

Yet the Wednesday marches did not provide us with a perfect show of citizens united in purpose, vision and discipline.

They were united only in their growing consensus that President Jacob Zuma should resign and that state capture must be halted.

Were the president to resign, which I urge him to do, the problems of the country would not be instant-ly solved. But his resignation would signal a crucial first step towards the recovery of our inner spirit as a nation.

And yet, as a nation, we must deliberate further as what we wish to save South Africa for and not merely what we wish to save it from.

State of Capture will go down in history as one of the most remarkable reports ever written by the office of the public protector. This is a truly phenomenal report. Not because it is so well argued that it is unchallengeable.

We can safely assume that this report will be taken on review, not least by President Jacob Zuma on the the principle of the separation of powers seemingly jeopardised in the provisions for the establishment of the proposed judicial commission of inquiry. Be that as it may, this report will achieve more for our national conversations on state capture than any Luthuli House initiative ever has or ever will.

This is a report written in the most difficult and adverse set of circumstances. The budget afforded the Public Protector for the investigation was on the level of shoestring.

To say that some of the accused were hostile and unco-operative is a huge understatement. Nor was time on the side of former public protector Thuli Madonsela.

In short, this is a report that was not supposed to see the light of day. And yet, it has been written. Thank God it has been written!

Though cautious in tone and statement of observation, this report launches South Africa into a set of crucial conversations about the nature of our democratic state, the ethical conduct of leaders, a growing culture of disregard for the constitution, and rampant corruption.

The process and methods that will be used to investigate, gather evidence and encourage public participation are as important as the final outcomes of the judicial commission of inquiry envisaged in the report’s remedial actions.

This public protector’s report is special because it plots the broad contours of the disturbing picture of corruption and the capture of the state by a familial oligarchy.

This report is the best attempt to help us understand why the likes of NPA head Shaun Abrahams, Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza and Police Minister Nathi Nhleko behave the way they do and say the kinds of things they say.

State of Capture provides a map illustrating some of the ways and places in which the poor are ripped off, the means through which our country is systematically being looted and the evil tactics used constantly to postpone the dreams of the poor.

No Joe, State of Capture is not just another public protector report. We have had those and many more are still to come. Rather, it is the beating drum that beckons.

It is the loud cry of an African griot calling out from the hill into the village, summoning an imbizo of the dead and the living, calling on all South Africans, enjoining them to converge at that place where their president and his cronies are treading mercilessly upon the dreams of the poor.

* Maluleke is a professor at the University of Pretoria and an extraordinary professor at Unisa. He writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent

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