To march to Pretoria or pack for Perth?
Winston Churchill’s quote, “Never let a good crisis go to waste” is apt here. If South African citizens en masse, including its Jews, can look beyond their narrow circles and insist unrelentingly on a new leadership and direction from Pretoria – the seat of government – they may yet recapture their country from President Jacob Zuma’s ruinous grip and rebuild it.
Gordhan’s charges are clearly politically motivated to discredit him and remove him as finance minister, to open the state feeding trough for corruption-tainted Zuma and his friends.
Shabbat table talk in the Jewish community is increasingly about the country’s uncertain future, and by extension that of its Jews. The community has halved since its 1970s heyday, to 70 000 souls today, because of emigration motivated by fear and pessimism.
Many left during apartheid, feeling they were sitting on a volcano. But then, during Nelson Mandela’s era, fresh optimism soared, emigration slowed and a proud “South Africanness” took hold.
Now the Zuma gang is destroying everything it touches for its own benefit. The economy is sliding downhill, the ANC is tearing itself apart, universities are burning, anti-white racism is expressed in slogans on students’ placards saying “F..k the Whites!”, while the EFF insists “white monopoly capital” is the chief problem.
Families worry about their children’s future, and are increasingly sending their offspring to study at schools and universities overseas, where they will build new lives. Many people are losing faith and feel unwelcome here.
This country is incredibly resilient, however, and has the capacity to turn around. It has done it before. But most likely, it faces at least a decade of political confusion. Optimists believe it will regain its place as Mandela’s miracle country – a successful multi-ethnic, nonracial African democracy; Afro-pessimists, however, predict it will become another “failed African state”.
Businessmen do not usually venture into overtly political territory; their primary objective is to grow their businesses within the government’s policy framework. But the 81 CEOs are unequivocal about protesting against “the damage [Gordhan’s prosecution] has caused to our economy and to the people of South Africa, especially the poor,” according to their press statement.
The CEO of the National Employers Association of South Africa, Gerhard Papenfus, has also pointed at massive wider dissatisfaction: “…we ran the issue of support [for Gordhan] past our circle of influence”, he said, and within days “over 15 000 businesses and individuals” expressed anger about the pursuit of the finance minister.
The Gordhan issue is a symptom of a much wider problem. Another leading businessman, AngloGold Ashanti Chairman Sipho Pityana, is promoting a citizens’ movement called “Save South Africa”, which plans to host a “People’s Assembly Against State Capture” outside the Pretoria court where Gordhan is set to appear on November 2.
It wants masses of people to arrive at 08:00, wearing clothing bearing the South African flag. Organisations such as Corruption Watch, Lawyers for Human Rights and church groups have endorsed it.
In the face of the political battles between the Zuma camp and others, nervous minority communities such as the Jews have hunkered down, hoping things will settle. But perhaps it is time for such communities to come out of their bunkers, assert their rights as citizens and take on the fight for their country’s future. Joining the people’s assembly in Pretoria on November 2 might be a good start.
Read Geoff Sifrin’s regular columns on his blog sifrintakingissue.wordpress.com