The thief in chief must leave

Andrew Donaldson says Ramaphosa needs to act quickly to shut down the Zupta looting machine


TO Johannesburg, where I have been enjoying languid showers — ten minutes at a time, sometimes even twice a day — in a bid to slough off the rigours of the drought.

It is a novel experience to lift the toilet seats, here in the north, and not be confronted by some yellowing horror-show. 

And it is pleasing to turn on the radio and not hear the mayor, Patricia de Lille, reminding us that she showers with a bucket every day. Such punctiliousness often sparks off a rash of virtue sharing. 

Every day? Try every third day, Patsy. 

Our ears will soon be bent backwards, we fear, by the talk show people telling us they’re down to once a week now, and they’re using sand instead of water. Or some such.

Instead, as we loll about by the pool, we must be subjected to silly jokes about how much water the airlines will allow us as carry-on luggage when we fly home.

On a less droll note, the ruling party’s elective conference has been impossible to ignore. On several occasions this week, I’ve been startled by the appearance of couples proudly waddling about the shopping malls in matching his-and-her ANC regalia.

They do so without shame or fear of rebuke from the public, proud of their association with an organisation that is now a self-destructive, ravening monster. 

That beast remains very much with us, and I have, for health and safety reasons, stayed well away from the squabbling circus at Nasrec, south of the city.

I wasn’t surprised, for example, to hear that reporters there had been roughed up by security guards. The party has since apologised, but as yet has offered no explanation for this behaviour. Perhaps the goons had grown bored with all the hours of nothing happening, and so amused themselves with a bit of sport.

It could also be that they were greatly angered at the material journalists had posted on social media, such as the embarrassing video clips of Jacob Zuma’s reaction to the news that Cyril Ramaphosa was now party president.

As the cheers rose from Ramaphosa’s supporters, Accused Number One appeared to have difficulty breathing. The look on his face said simply: not only am I suddenly and most unexpectedly a lame duck president, but I could be one that is quite dead as well. 

It was a cherished but brief moment. Rest not, merry gentlemen. For Cyril our Saviour was not born this Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan’s power…

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma may have lost, but her faction did well enough to ensure the Zuptas were still very much in business. 

As the philosopher Paul Valéry put it, “Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.” And in Saxonwold, they’ve got that part down pat.

And so the ANC remains our worst nightmare; not just the Zuma factions, but those deluded elements who insist salvage is at hand, and the party will once more be this unified, happy family.

To be fair, though, Ramaphosa did suggest that he had the Zuptas in his sights. In his first speech as ANC president, he dwelt on the corruption in state-owned enterprises with some passion.

“We must confront the reality that critical institutions of our state have been targeted by individuals and families through the exercise of influence and the manipulation of governance processes and public resources,” Ramaphosa said.

“Whether we call this state capture or simply corruption, this has undermined the integrity of our institutions, cost our economy hundreds of billions of rands and contributed to the further impoverishment of our people.”

Fine words. But Ramaphosa will need to take action quickly if he is to shut down the brazen looting. His priorities are clear. Zuma must go. Sooner rather than later. Already there is much chatter about recalling Zuma from office, and what some are terming a “dignified exit strategy” for the thief in chief. 

We may be kidding ourselves, but there is a sense of reckoning in the air. In this respect, ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini has amusingly appealed to our better nature: we should be as forgiving of state capture as we were of apartheid. 

As she told News24, “South Africans, why are they not forgiving? They always want to label people. Why are they not saying, ‘Let’s listen to Carl [Niehaus] for a change and give him an opportunity to change.’”

All very ja, Noël fine. But we think not. Too much water under the bridge. 

Besides, Carl Niehaus? Just thinking about that lying Furby makes me feel dirty. Time for another shower.

A version of this article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.