A glimpse into a horrific future scenario

A glimpse into a horrific future scenario

2015-02-16 18:27

Cape Town - The unprecedented series of events that occurred before, during and even after Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address have rightfully left South Africans – and perhaps many overseas – just that bit more uneasy about the country’s nascent democracy.

While violence in a parliamentary chamber is hardly unique to South Africa – it has happened in Turkey, Taiwan and the Ukraine among others – the sight of police officers ominously armed and plain-clothed was a flash-forward moment into what the country could become if the dangerous precedents of the now are not vigorously opposed.

From the arrests of senior DA office bearers on Adderley Street just hours before to the jamming of cellphone signals and politically-inspired editing of the broadcast visuals, South Africa witnessed the re-emergence of political intolerance and autocratic tendencies.

It was also not only a glimpse into a horrific future scenario but also a reminder of the same in our not -so-distant past.

When hegemonic nationalistic political parties which conflate state and party and remain in power for extended periods begin to become vulnerable to the loss of that power, they have the unfortunate propensity to use less salubrious methods – chiefly acting with impunity and in an autocratic way - to maintain the status quo.

How ironic that parallels begin to emerge between the ANC of today and the National Party of yesteryear. Even the ‘rooi gevaar’ of old has shifted from the Communists to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) ‘cockroaches’. The misuse of the SABC and increasing ‘capture’ of state institutions for political ends confirms this trend.

Economic malaise

South Africa may rightfully be extremely concerned given the context of the past and the precedents for the future. The real question now is what are the political consequences of what occurred – and it is not only the disruptions and cellphone issues but also the lacklustre content of Jacob Zuma’s speech itself.

In the immediate period following the State of the Nation address, predictable sabre-rattling from the likes of Speaker Baleka Mbete and other cabinet ministers have defended the procedural issues and also the speech itself. However, whatever you might think of the EFF strategy, the combination of heavy-handed (and potentially unconstitutional) actions and a speech bereft of new growth ideas have deeply embarrassed Jacob Zuma.

READ: Pay back the money not strictly about Nkandla

Don’t just assume that this is all dissolved without repercussion within the governing party. Despite his apparent grip on power, President Zuma remains vulnerable. While he might have surrounded himself with yes-men, there is a larger second-tier of the ANC that will question what happened and the shame it has brought the country.

Those who will be critically analysing the events (and the policy-deficient speech itself) run a broad church – not dissimilar to the ANC itself. Financial backers, trade unionists, civil servants, religious leaders, the Treasury, intellectuals alienated by Nkandla, and those who have been sidelined by Zuma himself but remain in the organisation will all be looking at strategic options.

While the allure of being a political insider with Jacob Zuma has been his greatest strength, there are still enough well connected and capable ranking ANC backers who will now be looking for a faster exit strategy for the president.

Chief among  these will be the broader trade union movement – already deeply divided. Although the DA takes a more ethical and moral high-ground approach in practising their politics, the deeply democratic tradition within the broader Alliance is also well practised and nurtured with the unions themselves.

Jacob Zuma represents – within the hegemony – the leader of those that enjoy the benefits of power. No doubt, there is a sub-section of the ANC (and those outsiders like the EFF) who want to get their hands on that power. But, fortunately, there is also a body of ANC insiders who will question the events of last week – and the ongoing political and economic malaise affecting the nation.

Shifting attitudes

It is this group that will be of critical importance in the coming period. Can they make their voice heard over the ringfence that now surrounds the president? Do they have the political stomach for what can be a very uncomfortable battle to restore accountability to the executive?

Ultimately, this group is in itself ideologically divided. The moderate centrists, pragmatic in their commitment to a more social-market ideology, may be pitted against those with workerist tendencies who will look to a movement like the United Front as the next bulwark against the ANC.

READ: Inside Labour: Bulwarks of democracy

Pivotal to this will be the role of a leader of the likes of Zwelinzima Vavi who would have to choose to acquiesce or make a historic break with the party of liberation.

Ultimately, what happened on February 12 might still be a watershed moment for the ANC. To assume that the entire party is happy with the current state-of-play would be naïve. Equally though, the window for resistance from within has narrowed as the Zuma laager grows stronger.

Alternatively, events on Thursday may harden the electorate’s shifting attitude towards the ANC. The disruptions might not win the EFF many new adherents, but it will play to a growing urban electorate incrementally shifting from a Zuma-led ANC.

READ: What Zuma should've said

The combination of the deterioration of our institutions of democracy and a questioning electorate may result in us looking back at this moment as a defining week in the future course of South Africa.

In the short term, corrective action will need to come from within the ANC or its broader alliance members. The medium to longer terms will see the electorate shift and realign. Both set the scene for more political combustion in the near future.

*Daniel Silke is director of the Political Futures Consultancy and is a noted keynote speaker and commentator. Views expressed are his own. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielSilke or visit his website.

  • Luke Boshier - 2015-02-16 18:32

    reminiscent of gestapo tactics

      Pack Age - 2015-02-16 18:48

      It's changed for the good, because it opened the eyes of MANY as to how STUPID and callouse Zuma really is and just how low the ANC will stoop to stay in power Im pretty sure it’s not 62% anymore, Rather in the mid to low 50’s%

      Janine Roberts Owen - 2015-02-16 18:55

      there will be war.

      Wouter Swannie ThePirate Swanepoel - 2015-02-16 19:08

      It's all wishful thinking chaps. That 62% will remain static or even grow, but shrink? Don't hold your breath. I have many, many black friends from all walks of life and every single one whom I have spoken to after 12 February said exactly the same thing: "we will fix the ANC from inside".

      Tanya Dixon - 2015-02-16 19:23

      Yip Frazer it's a mix. You know like when toddlers mix all their paints together and it ends up looking like something that belongs in a nappy

      Tanya Dixon - 2015-02-16 19:30

      Actually Daniel I don't give a cr@p who he is, isn't it refreshening to read a grammatically well written article with no spelling mistakes, clearly he is not employed by N24.

      Made Inthe South - 2015-02-16 19:48

      Zuma783 ALREADY captured the state.The dictatorship is ALREADY here. Under Zuma783 there IS NO future.He will take us into the R1 trillion (((RUSSIAN))) NUCLEAR deal which will mean that we are endebted to the Russians for generations and will break this country forever. Under Zuma783 there is NO future.End of story.Good bye

      Leroy Reynolds - 2015-02-17 12:53

      A quick google, 2 seconds, tells me he is South Africa's leading Political Analysts / speaker, with an actual degree that matters I am sure. He also has a website, and other online profiles.

  • Hell Gate - 2015-02-16 18:42

    Anc has lost the trust of the nation.....

      Danny Harris - 2015-02-17 12:11

      If you you look at the vote stats that is not true.

  • Monty Olivier - 2015-02-16 18:43

    Great article but I am afraid you have used far too many BIG words for certain politicians who REALLY need to read this... You can only get so far with a standard four level of education.

  • Derek John Main - 2015-02-16 18:57

    There is every reason to be afraid. The ANC has become just as morally bankrupt as the National Party was and use very similar methods to 'control' us citizens and increase their grip on power. The ANC has become the National Party with PW Zuma at the helm. The DA has said they want to continue challenging c-ANC-er through parliament and the courts but they have been doing this for the last 20 years to no avail. c-ANC-er simply cocks a snook, ignores court rulings or drags them out for years - all at the taxpayer's expense. The saying "Insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result." rings true here. This is why the EFF challenge has struck such a chord with many SAfns - they will not tolerate the status quo and are not prepared to let c-ANC-er continue in their same devious and unaccountable ways. We all want that to end before it destroys us. We need to tell c-ANC-er it's no longer business as usual - we will use whatever means are necessary to put a stop to this. We need a 2nd revolution to free ourselves from our liberators turned oppressors. It's time for a civil disobedience campaign all over again. Phansi c-ANC-er, phansi!!!

  • Ursula Haasbroek - 2015-02-16 20:01

    A radio station in Rwanda called the Tutsis cockroaches and it led to the worst genocide imaginable. How can a speaker get away with saying that?

      Johan Hammes - 2015-02-17 08:10

      Mabe it is the Pot calling the Kettle ........

  • Henk Els - 2015-02-16 20:21

    If I may, what a pleasure to read an article that is clearly superior to the normal drivel that is dished up as journalism. Thank you Mr Silke!

  • Isaac Peter - 2015-02-16 21:10

    SA Why r we bickering ?????????????????/ Its very simple Zuma is not concerned about our county, if he was a MAN HE would have stood up and said something about the chaos in Parliament ( a house he is so called in charge off) We the whole of SA must stand together as request his removal........................... so he is only puppeteering as president, when all he should be doing is parking off................... he is not fit for office. Be a man and step down as Nelson did................. SA dares for the good of our country.

  • Thomas Pringle - 2015-02-16 21:15

    What are you thinking? Only the minority criticises. Zuma's actions were a show of strength to his loyal ANC voters. He strong armed the opposition out of parliament and laughed about it. His voters would would have been cheering in every shebeen from north to south, east to west

  • Human Fly - 2015-02-16 22:47

    I think the vote is mostly hot air - semantics, blah , blah in the SA context, the real power is money and as tax payers we should stop paying tax to a corrupt government, that is the only way we can tell them to serve the people not themselves and fix and properly govern - not rule, there is a difference that the government does not quite understand, the EFF more so...

  • catcha.wakeup - 2015-02-16 22:48

    If this goes on much longer, then only an uprising will make change.

  • Landile Dano - 2015-02-17 01:05

    The State of the Nation address is like the state of affairs at Nedbank Greenacres Port Elizabeth for being charged R144 for a bank statement.with a bank manager who cant keep any think she says.after 20 years its quite sad to see that the treatment you receive from a bank is directly related to the color of your skin.

      Johan Hammes - 2015-02-17 07:52

      Landile, please "translate" your comment into something that somebody can understand! Is your comment related to this article? By the way, a new sentence should start with a capital letter. That alone will help with readability!

  • Andrew Grieveson - 2015-02-17 06:34

    Beware those ANC supporters you will also be suppressed by Zuma and his 40 thieves when you feel a need for change . Remember that absolute power suppresses abosolutely !

  • Brad Smith - 2015-02-17 08:32

    "have deeply embarrassed Jacob Zuma." Psychopaths cannot be embarrassed.

  • Ian Trenor - 2015-02-17 09:46

    The big difference is the NATS were proud and had no intention of running SA into the ground.

  • NotBlackEnough - 2015-02-17 10:20

    R700 Billion in 20 years of Graft & Corruption! The ZAR Rand lost 6% of it's value per annum / for each & every year for 20 years! The ANC LOST a Full Generation .... After 20 Years they delivered CHAOS! And they dance and tell their electorate : "We have a Good Story to Tell!" I Rest My Case!

      Wayne Lavarinhas - 2015-02-17 12:44

      a good story to tell of HOW MUCH money they stole over the years from the very mouths that have fed them.... the voters.....

  • Grump White - 2015-02-18 12:20

    The problem is not with zuma, but rather with the upper echelons of the ANC, for it is the top of this pile (the Gwede's of this world) that keep zuma in place so that they can pillage ALL the coffers before the crunch happens (and it will happen). The citizens of South Africa HAVE to ensure that substantial change takes place soon, for if it takes place in 10 years, there will be no foundations left to rebuild this economy, and those that are currently plundering the coffers will be sitting high and dry. It should be remembered that the fist objective of ANY political party is to get into power, and once there, its top priority is to STAY IN POWER, no matter the cost to the economy and the country's people. When considering the future of the country, the current cost of the ANC's policies to South Africa and its people is simply too high a price to pay. It is time for a substantial change in governance to ensure a better chance of sustainability than currently on offer by the ruling party....

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