Author and Activist
Young South Africans this is your moment. This President can be impeached.
In any reasonable democracy, after this weeks events had led to the exposure of their heinous conspiracy, President Zuma and Dudu Myeni would have resigned In South Africa they will stand firm unless you fire them, and only young black South Africans have the will or the power to force this.
mAfrika, I am really excited for you and our future lies in your hands. If you do not act then South Africa will surely continue to slide and you will pay the brunt of this decline. You will pay with your future. You stand now where young white South Africans stood 30 years ago. If young whites had failed to act in 1986, South Africa could easily have become Rwanda. Scarily, such is the unpredictable spiralling events that accompany imploding poverty, that if you fail to act, that fate could still await us. We were able to bring pressure to fire our President and positively change the course of our history, can you do the same?
In 1986, PW Botha controlled the National Government with a similar power to Zuma today. He could make the most outrageous statements, appoint his cronies to political positions, conscript his soldiers, make massive state purchases without tenders and arrest any dissidents with impunity. Parliament was hapless and all power rested in the executive. Yet white people voted for his Government without questioning Botha's actions, because he had convinced them that there was no alternative. There was no challenge to Botha. The ANC, no matter how they try to up sell it today, was in 1986 a spent force. At best it was a stalemate situation. Botha had the unassailable military advantage and was protected by US and UK business interests.
Everything seemed hopeless, resistance was stamped on the moment you raised your voice. We were at the mercy of Botha and his ever increasing madness. As James Philips of the Cherry Faced Lurchers used to sing, “Our Captain, he has lost his mind, we are adrift at sea.”
In the 80s, the cost of dictatorship to the average South African was horrific. Aside from the draconian laws of Apartheid, the country was gripped in stagflation. Stagflation is that most unfortunate disposition, where an economy stagnates (in recession) and yet still experiences high levels of inflation. You can't increase your income, but your costs keep rising. If you have never experienced this unfortunate state of affairs, stay on the line. South Africa entered stagflation last week!
Then PW Botha made his famous Rubicon speech in 1986, delivered with the same arrogance that Zuma delivered his firing of Nene. On his own, with disdain even for his own supporters, Botha bit-his-thumb at the world and send our financial markets plummeting. I can remember that night as if it was yesterday. That afternoon I was a naïve software publisher peddling TurboCASH Accounting Software in the UK, but 8 O'Clock I was embarrassed to have a South African accent. The Rubicon speech did more to alter South African history than any speech by an ANC politician. It was the turning point. Ordinary young white South Africans who had been oblivious to politics (and their privilege), rose up and tipped the balance against Botha. From that day on, Apartheid was doomed.
Fast forward to this week. Jacob Zuma, who has always been happy to put the good of the ANC above the country, this week crossed the Rubicon and put his personal interests above the Country. The mental state of someone able to pull a move like unilaterally firing a standing Finance minister cannot be far from a mind mulling a third term. Yet unless young South Africans stop him, Zuma will march on. How is this possible?
Where The Presidents power comes from? In 1986 PW Botha controlled us with the “Swart Gevaar”and the “Total Onslaught on South Africa”. Unbelievably 30 years later Zuma uses the same tactic, “Wit Gevaar” and the “ANC liberator of South Africa”. Using these racist scare tactics and a well organised circle of patronage, Zuma is able to build an unflinching wall of support that is impervious to his actions. It is scary that our democracy is still driven by racist thinking. The reality is that in 2015, 90% of black South African voters vote for the ANC (90% of whites vote for the DA). As a 25 year long PAC member I still have to blink every time I contemplate our racist democracy. This massive turn out is no mistake. Like whites in the 80s, The President knows that Black voters will always make a excuse, turn a blind eye, even ignore that the conspirators plotted to steal Billions from SAA.
Young South Africans, you can accept the situation, do nothing and consign your generation to economic poverty or you can make a move and change history. Should you do nothing, then every tick of rising rates of interest or inflation will plot this moment of inaction in your history.
You cannot expect the President to change. He is unrepentant. In his mind he has done nothing wrong. He will continue on this path until he is stopped.
You will get no help from the ANC. Like the whites of 1980s they are driving in the blue cavalcade of privilege. Zuma has convinced them that he is their source of wealth. As it stands - he is. It is an incredibly brave man who goes home to Mrs Nene and explains that the reason he lost his job and has no future prospects is that he stood up for principle. Such is the dog eats dog world of patronage, that any dissent will quickly be swooped up and turned against you.
You will get no help from old White South Africans. They didn't have the stomach for it in the 1980's they don't have the stomach for it today. Like your parents, they are part of the modern stalemate that gives Zuma his power. Like our parents under PW Botha, they are also indirectly beneficiaries of Zuma's patronage.
Any dissident comment by a white person is quickly turned to Zuma's advantage, where his core supporters still shudder from the memory of our parents abusing them. Dissent will quickly be converted, demonized and turned to Zuma's advantage. I am not kidding, in the 1980s our parents were absolutely convinced that undermining Botha would bring blacks storming into the living room to “tear up the floorboards for firewood”. Trying to use whites to help you against the President, will simply have the opposite effect. ANC supporters believe that any criticism of the ruling party is criticism of black people themselves. This is the invisible prison of our own democratic making. Only black people can help us escape.
You may even harbour your own racist ideas and have yourself thought about driving whites into the sea. Don't bother - they left last week, taking R 24Bn with them. Put that into context. #FeesMustFall is a R 2,4 Bn problem. By the end of last week 10 times that, or R24 Bn of our reserves had left the country. This money has already been deployed into bursaries and projects in America, Europe and Asia. More will follow. Expect South African fees to rise next year.
Capital will simply continue to leave. The money has left and will not come back unless you can convince it to do so. While in this weekend it seems that nothing has happened, in fact economic events are now beyond our control. Soon your bond or rent payments are going to double or your purchasing power is going to halve! Your transport costs are going to double. You food prices will follow. It is already too late to get out of this unscathed, for even if you remove Zuma today, a massive austerity campaign will be required to convince Capital to return.
You will get no help from old black South Africans either. They are stuck in the past, caught like deer-in-the-lights. It matters not to them what current events transpire. They have long been convinced that the “Wit gevaar” is waiting at the door ready to pounce, clap them into irons, issue them a pass book and set them to work digging trenches.
Even your own parents will not help you. In the 1980's our parents turned us in to the Apartheid authorities, forced us into conscription because they were convinced that to oppose PW Botha was to be unpatriotic. Your parents support Zuma without qualification, because they believe that he gives them preference and they deserve to be given preference even if it risks the rest of the country sliding into ever greater chaos and poverty. ANC is the deliverer and Zuma is their leader. David van Rooyen's brother-in-law hit the nail on the head when hearing of his swaar's appointment he said,
“David deserves his new job because he played his part in the struggle”.
The whole ANC have convinced themselves of their deserved right to rule without restraint. For them to revolt against Zuma in a open no confidence debate can only happen if there is massive pressure from an outside force. Such pressure can only come from South Africa's youth.
“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, We're finally on our own . Four dead in Ohio”, heed the words of Niel Young after 4 anti war protester were gunned down by the US Government in 1968. You are on your own and our fate rests in your action or surely interest rates will go to 24% and you will still be living at home on pocket money when you have your 30th birthday.
This is your moment in history – make the most of it.
Philip Copeman is a member of the Pan Africanist Congress and Project Leader of TurboCASH Accounting. He writes here in his personal capacity.