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  • on 25.02.2018
  • at 09:40 AM
  • by Staff

A New Dawn for South Africa 0

Doha – In the post-Apartheid era, it is safe to say that Jacob Zuma has become the most reviled public figure in South Africa. Zuma was essentially discredited even before he became president in 2009 by his two essential weaknesses: his relationship with money and his lack of personal integrity.

The 2006 rape trial tainted him irrevocably as a man who was insensitive to the values the new South Africa was founded on. I remember South Africans commenting upon his election as president that he might be president but that “he will not be MY president.”

Zuma’s inability to manage his finances has also characterized his relationship with public money. Under Zuma, corruption became endemic and deeply tainted the African National Congress (ANC), a once illustrious organization that is turning 106 this year.

It is in this deeply troubled political context that Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his maiden State of the Nation (SONA) address last week. He opened his speech with the words, “It’s a new dawn.” Interestingly, Jacob Zuma similarly proclaimed, “It’s a new dawn” during his own first State of the Nation address in 2009.

Although there was a measure of disillusionment with outgoing President Thabo Mbeki at the time, Zuma’s reference to a new dawn was not as timely as Ramaphosa’s use of the expression. This time around, the words fell on more receptive ears. The disillusionment with government now is almost complete. If Ramaphosa fails to offer something new, he is dead in the water.

African politicians are not typically as prone to political clichés as their counterparts in the Western world. But the idea of a new dawn has been repeatedly used, most recently by those commenting on the change in leadership in Ethiopia. The rhetoric of “a new dawn,” then, is not new and does not in itself bring anything new.

In order to bring real change, Ramaphosa needs to do three things—all of which are essentially about money.

First, he needs to take prompt and concrete action to prosecute Zuma for corruption as well as each person that assisted Zuma in creating a corrupt state. Similarly, Zuma should not receive a presidential pardon if he does get convicted for corruption. The prosecution should extend not only beyond Zuma and beyond the Gupta brothers who facilitated the “state capture.”

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By Mia Swart

Mia Swart is visiting professor at the Brookings Doha Center

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi