18 December 2012

South Africa: Behold, the Zuma Moment!

Photo: Presidency
President Jacob Zuma.


It was no secret going into today's announcement plenary that Zuma's slate would wipe the floor. With National Chaplain Mehana chanting 'Viva God', the Zuma Moment was ushered in. Song, dance and even prayer accompanied Zuma's victory in the ANC.

A different moment is missing - this moment was not in sight or in the air today in the ANC's main plenary tent. The 'other' moment I suspect; lies sheltered in the hearts of millions of South Africans.

Zuma's re-election rings like a hymn gone wrong. The lead chorister has his hands up in the air conducting with gusto, the choir sings along obediently and we, the people sit in the audience observant and disappointed.

But we also hum along to the hymn - subliminally. The ANC remains a dominant player in South African politics. And yes, the usual cliché reasons are true: rich history, a strong base in the SA population etc.

What is never mentioned is our lethargy (wholly or partially) in maintaining the current order. South Africans ought to be tired by the hackneyed swansong of 'active citizenship...blah blah blah' - but perhaps now more than ever this might just be needed.

The ANC is at odds. The party cannot sing in unison because it's hymns are beautiful melodies filled with empty promise; their lead choristers are out of sync too. We shouldn't (and cannot) expect anything from the ANC, the ANC's problems are deep seated and far detached from the concerns of our country.

Perhaps it's time to hum a different tune. One that does not yearn for the 'renewal of the ANC' but one where citizens place their agenda at the forefront of South African politics.

Next time when someone sings the 'active citizenship swansong blah blah blah....' try to do more than just listen. Sing along and do.

From Mangaung and Beyond

Here's the problem. Our obsession with the ANC is endemic, a national obsession if you will. We watch them with hawk- eyes as they throw their toys (and chairs sometimes) in the air. Mangaung is an empty moment from the ANC. The ANC will leave Mangaung deluded regarding their 'unity' and dominance and very little will change for South Africans. My unease has nothing to do with the ANC or their Chorister in Chief, but the next decade for our country.

With the next general election beckoning in 2014, a lot will remain unchanged. Inequality levels will remain entrenched amongst (mainly) poor black South Africans, key priorities: health, education and economic reform will remain embossed in government policy documents and not in our realities.

The question, 'What now?' is an interesting one. The answers are not easy but our problems are visible. The key challenge now is how South Africans shift their focus and will to building a solid civic base that will counter the game of patronage, power and petty politics.

Mangaung preoccupied our public discourse over the past year not because we expected much from it in terms of policy and fundamental change; but simply because we've relinquished so much of our power to a single group in society.

A new hymn is waiting to be sung. This hymn will find it's rhythm in the dusty streets of South African townships and in the leafy South African suburbs. The divide that is so visible will lead to much legitimate anger and strife. The reliance on political will to change our circumstances will plummet.

The Mangaung-twaddle might just be a 'proverbial blessing in disguise.' Like any blessing, gratitude is best expressed by a hymn; you know which hymn to sing.

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