The Jacob Zuma years took South Africa to the very depths of depravity and despair. His 10 years at the head of the ANC have been disastrous.
His nine years as head of South Africa have been ruinous.
Zuma is incapable of running his own household’s piggy bank – handing him the national Treasury keys in 2009 was set to be nothing but the nightmare that has unfolded before our eyes.
Never, never, and never again must we make such a mistake. Never again must so many be fooled by one so patently incapable of walking in the shoes of Nelson Mandela. We are the lucky ones, though. South Africa has managed to stand up against the assault on its institutions and its poorest.
It is a limping South Africa, but still able to take small steps into a different and even prosperous future.
For now the legal and political processes will unfold.
Liars and thieves like “ministers” Des van Rooyen, Lynne Brown, Faith Muthambi and Mosebenzi Zwane (I regard them as flunkies of the Gupta family, not worthy of being referred to as ministers) will get their comeuppance. Zuma is history. We can now take lighthearted bets whether he will go this week, on February 8 or in a month.
But this embarrassing small-time version of a Bantustan leader is history now.
His voluble support base is shrinking by the day. We shall see him in court.
What now for South Africa?
As I have said before, South Africa can be turned around quickly.
The past three weeks of Cyril Ramaphosa’s ascendancy in the ANC have shown that indeed a determined, principled leader can have an incredible impact on the psyche of his own party, his country and, crucially, on domestic and international investors.
Ramaphosa came to power with the slimmest of margins – a mere 179 votes ahead of the dour and perennially uninspiring Nkosazana DlaminiZuma – and a leadership corp made up of dodgy individuals like Ace Magashule and David Mabuza.
His 80-member national executive committee includes the disgusting woman batterer Mduduzi Manana, the incompetent Bathabile Dlamini, the intellectually challenged Kebby Maphatsoe and of course even thieves like Mosebenzi Zwane.
Yet in just a matter of two weeks Ramaphosa is beginning to underline that a good leader, with a clear strategic focus and the ability to lead by example, can turn an organisation around very quickly and have an influence on others around that same organisation.
The fish rots from the head, the old saying goes. Well, an energetic and principled leader can make for a very healthy and active fish, too.
Now Ramaphosa must accelerate the process of rebuilding our country.
First, Zuma must be removed within the next six weeks.
A “cabinet of the capable” must be installed – dead wood like Muthambi must be kicked out immediately.
Third, institutions of state and accountability must be restored and their independence guaranteed – this means firing the likes of Tom Moyane at the SA Revenue Service, Shaun Abrahams at the National Prosecuting Authority, and others.
The civil service must be fixed.
It cannot be a jobs-forpals scheme, which is what Muthambi has made it. State-owned enterprises must be fixed, starting with the booting out of Lynne Brown. All this is nothing new. The ANC has spoken of a capable state before.
Let South Africa become one – clinics must work, police must be allowed to investigate and arrest, roads must be tarred. Here too there is a beginning. Ramaphosa arrives on time. Schools must start on time, too, unlike in the Zuma years. Then we must fix this economy. The inequality, poverty and unemployment that have ratcheted up so embarrassingly in the Zuma years must and can be reversed.
There is absolutely no need for a “new plan”.
The National Development Plan has been gathering dust for years. Let us now implement it with vigour.
I am encouraged by the words of Stefaans Brummer, co-head of the investigative unit amaBhungane (they uncovered every major scandal in South Africa, from the Gupta Leaks to the Vrede dairy farm), who wrote this weekend: “For so long our politics were a blocked sewer. Now the flush. “How long the lavender spring will linger is moot, but it sure smells refreshing now.“
It sure does. Let’s use this spring to build for the future.