The pendulum swings between hope and despair in South Africa


When President Ramaphosa delivered his reply to the State of the Nation address, the circus, which is ANC policy, continued to take place on the national stage.

Former President Jacob Zuma is likely not to appear again before the Zondo Commission on Monday, February 15. In its judgment at the end of January, the Constitutional Court requested Zuma to do so. Again he behaved like the constitutional vandal that he is.

For someone who said they wanted to spend their day in court, Zuma will certainly do everything possible to avoid it. This time, his lawyers argued that Zuma could not appear before the commission because he had launched a judicial review of Judge Zondo’s decision not to apologize to himself.

ALSO READ: Zuma: I have no objection to the law, but I do have objection to the Zondo request

It’s all pretty absurd. Zuma himself eventually appointed Deputy Chief Justice Ramond Zondo to head the commission. Judge Zondo has now returned the package to the ConCourt, and the commission is petitioning the Apex court to find Zuma in disregard of the court.

The Commission will argue that a reasonable penalty is imprisonment, not a fine.

Even more predictable, this latest saga would once again highlight Zuma’s many unsavory followers, including Carl Niehaus, a man who was trained in lies. He is the Rudy Giuliani of South African politics, only the army tired to distinguish itself.

Niehaus is a conspiracy as he, along with Zuma’s family and other ANC acolytes, alleges outlandish conspiracies against the former president.

EFF leader Julius Malema usefully adds fuel to this fire for his personal and political gain.

When Ramaphosa submitted his state of the nation address last week, he did not address the rule of law issue as Zuma was full of defiance for the Zondo Commission.

FULL SPEECH: Address by President Ramaphosa on the state of the nation

The president missed the opportunity to put his head over the parapet and speak as head of state in defense of the constitution. This was yet another example of Ramaphosa taking the easy way out, trying not to offend any of his corrupt comrades within the ANC.

In addition to the deliberately staged drama, Police Minister Bheki Cele visited Zuma in Nkandla amid a spate of speculation on social media about another “cup of tea”. No one seems to know what Cele was doing there. He said he had “broad discussions” with Zuma and then made some cryptic comments on “law and order”.

Did Ramaphosa send Cele on this hair-raising mission to appease a former president who is also charged with criminal proceedings? Citizens whose resources were devoted to this visit to a house that was also built with (misused) public funds have the right to know why Cele visited Zuma and on whose instructions? Or was he frolic on his own? This is entirely possible given the poor discipline in Ramaphosa’s cabinet.

ALSO READ: Bheki Cele reports to ANC NEC after visiting Jacob Zuma

Acting Minister of the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said: “The Minister of Police has the responsibility to ensure that the laws of this country are observed and that law and order prevail. We know what is happening outside of Nkandla. There are displays that are not allowed … your military equipment is worn out and all other things … there needs to be a conversation about how to tone this down or how to stop this because we can’t allow the law to land that shouldn’t be respected no matter who you support. You are bound by the constitution of this country and the law must apply without fear or favor. (sic) ”

As for Zuma, he continues to exploit the departments within the ANC to avoid any responsibility for his misdeeds. He and his colorful support crew are threatening to take our constitution building with them again.

It is clear that the Zondo Commission has done its job and the ConCourt now has to do its job again. Despite the histrionics of Malema and Niehaus and the media hype about tea, we are here.

Populists like Zuma, ANC General Secretary Ace Magashule and Malema use the same playbook and the key to that is the distraction. We must be careful not to be distracted, be it by Niehaus’ abuse or by Magashule’s followers rolling around (literally) in hardships outside the courtroom this week.

The law eventually takes its course as it should.

In typically contradictory South African fashion, our pendulum swings between hope and despair. When the first healthcare worker received the J&J COVID-19 vaccine this week, hope was in the air.

It will take a tremendous effort to get more vaccines to get this ambitious program in place to vaccinate 40 million South Africans while avoiding corruption, as far as we know. The ineptitude of our state is well documented.

Yet amidst all the contradictions that South Africa has on any given day, in the middle of Khayelitsha, a place where life is often cheap and the poor suffer daily indignation, Nurse Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi received a life-giving life-changing vaccine.

ALSO READ: Bringing Hope and Babies: Sister Gidi-Dyosi is delighted to be the first to be vaccinated

She then declared herself “happy”. It was an understatement, perhaps, given her big grin, but we got what she meant. We felt it too, and at the same time we felt a surge of collective gratitude for Gidi-Dyosi and all of our brave healthcare workers who are putting their lives at risk every day during this pandemic. They deserve our thanks and care, as do the scientists who continue to strike well beyond the weight of this troubled country.

Nor should we assume that we have a government that believes in science.

Judith February is a lawyer, governance specialist, and visiting fellow at the Wits School of Governance. She is the author of Twist and Turn: Exploring the Complexities of South African Democracy. Follow her on Twitter: @judith_february

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