Africa 2008 – Zuma long and dangerous walk to the statehouse

Long Walk to Freedom is an autobiographical work written by former President Mandela, and published in 1995 by Little Brown & Co.

Long Walk to Freedom is an autobiographical work written by former President Mandela, and published in 1995 by Little Brown & Co.

The book is a story of the audacity of hope that describes his early life, coming of age, education, 27 years in prison, his political ascension, and his belief that the struggle against poverty and political inclusivity continues in the post apartheid order.

The road to freedom was closed to persons of color during the colonial/apartheid eras and yet for many would be candidates for political office in post colonial Africa, the road remains closed with the state increasingly  being manipulated to be the biggest and most lethal enemy of democracy. 

In trying to better understand the construction of post -colonial Africa, one is often reminded that the values, principles and beliefs that informed the creation of an exclusive colonial race-based constitutional democratic order are no different from those that drive the post- colonial system.

In a constitutional democracy, any citizen as defined in the constitution should be eligible to qualify for the office of President.  Such a citizen must come from the people through a credible and transparent system. 

After 52 years of uhuru, Africa’s youngest child, South Africa, at 14 years of age is already exhibiting classic symptoms of the African political and succession disease. 

The transition from the apartheid state to the Mandela regime was seamless and inclusive. 

The transformation of the atmosphere of fear that characterized the transition to a hopeful one was instrumental in building confidence that has allowed whites to continue to earn income a portion of which has been used to help in the alleviation of poverty through taxes.

Mbeki, an intellectual, took over from Mandela having been his deputy and it was widely hoped that the baton of power would also be seamlessly passed on to his deputy. 

His deputy, Zuma, occupied the number two spot in both the government and the party until things went fundamentally wrong in 2005.

What was expected to be a smooth and pleasant walk to statehouse has been a tortuous and dangerous one. 

He has navigated carefully and purposefully through the landmines of corruption and rape charges since his dismissal as deputy to Mbeki in the state. 

Against all odds, he was elected in December 2007 as President of the ANC and the next in line to be the State President. 

Who would have thought that while Mandela is still alive, the ANC would be found wanting on the leadership, values and principles debate? 

Zuma genuinely believes that he has been unfairly treated by a state whose legitimacy derives from the party that he now leads and yet he finds himself helpless. 

Instead of relying on the state to advance the interests of the party as is customary in post colonial Africa, Zuma finds himself at the receiving end of a system that emerged from the womb of oppression.

If Mandela by describing his journey from apartheid/colonialism to post apartheid as a freedom journey then he obviously had no idea that a party that has given him a home is capable of doing worse things than apartheid to those like Zuma who have the audacity to seek residency in the statehouse.  

The ANC under Zuma’s leadership has been reduced to resorting to mass action rather than using the organs of state to correct what they feel to be abuses of state power by their own product, Mbeki.

Since June 2005, Zuma through his lawyers has thrown everything into ensuring he does not stand trial or that, if he does, the amount of evidence against him is limited.  He has been put on the defensive while claiming to be a victim of conspiracy.  

Rightly or wrongly he has claimed all manner of dirty tricks on the part of the state — from political persecution to seizing privileged documents to obtain an inside track into his defence — while failing to expose the “conspiracy” against him.

As expected, last week, the Constitutional Court (CC) rejected his appeal against the Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision to allow the state to use 93000 documents it had seized in the August 2005 raids on his homes and offices and those of his lawyer, Michael Hulley.

The CC also rejected his appeal against the SCA’s ratification of a Durban High Court decision to allow the state to secure evidence against him from Mauritius, including the encrypted fax allegedly soliciting a bribe of R1-million for him from co-accused Thint.

What the CC has managed to do is to put pressure on Zuma to use the courts to challenge the corruption allegations rather than giving the impression that he has something to hide. 

By carefully managing Zuma, Mbeki may achieve what he could not at Polokwane to ensure that Zuma will never call the statehouse his home.

Mbeki’s opinion on Zuma’s presidency is already known and yet the party that gives both of them legitimacy is of the opinion that Zuma should be the next resident of the statehouse. 

While Mbeki’s view may have legal substance, an absurd outcome seems to be emerging where the general consensus in the party and possibly in the country if ANC were to be returned to power as expected is that notwithstanding the corruption allegations, Zuma must be the head of state. 

The manner in which Zuma has been treated by the state raises key constitutional and legal questions that will continue to haunt the Republic. 

The role of the courts particularly the CC in the contestation for power will continue to be a subject of debate in years to come but what is significant is that the ultimate jury and fountain of political power, the people, hold different views from their servants in the state.

The ruling by the CC opens the way for the state to present nearly all the evidence it has amassed against Zuma in an unprecedented five years of investigation which has split the ruling party and led to the country’s biggest political crisis since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The ANC has already voted to disband the police unit that headed the investigation. 

The mixed message from Zuma that he wants his day in court while using all instruments within the law to ensure that the day will never arrive while Mbeki is at the helm of the state may serve to undermine the position of the party regarding his innocence.

Zuma’s walk to statehouse is pregnant with lessons about much more work needs to be done to realise the objectives of the liberation struggle. 

Mbeki and Zuma have succeeded in exposing how fragile and perishable the constitutional democratic order is. 

A better understanding of the role of the state and the responsibility of citizens to invest in the kind of society they want to see is critically important in driving the transformation and nation building agendas. 

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